The past six months have been a thrilling one for the singer, Al Contrera, a founding member of the popular doo-wop group, The Mystics, who rose to fame in the late 1950’s with their hit song, “Hushabye.”
“I knew the minute I heard “Hushabye” that it was going to be a hit,” Contrera remembers. “I had no idea that it would become, “The Lullaby of the ’50s.”
The Mystics’ journey began in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, New York, and took the five teenage singers to places they never in their wildest dreams, imagined. At first, they struggled, took some hard knocks but never wavered in their determination to stick together and reach for the stars. Their strong belief in themselves and their friendship allowed them to stay focused and achieve their dreams.
The Mystics performed at the most popular concerts and performed with music superstars including Chuck Berry, Jackie Wilson, The Platters, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, Beach Boys, Frankie Valli and the 4 Seasons, Jay and The Americans, Temptations, Four Tops, Dick Clark and Alan Freed, to name but a few.
They also dealt with hundreds of unforgettable individuals. Some with good intentions and others of questionable means. As the group’s career evolved and skyrocketed, they use to joke that one day one of them should write a book because no one would ever believe their story. Well, that day has come. “Everyone said they wanted to write a book, I actually did,” says Contrera.
In the decades since that balmy June day in 1959, when Hushabye played on the radio for the first time, Contrera has performed thousands of times, raised a family, has five grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and has never slowed down.
“I always knew I was going to do it. It was just a matter of time,” he adds.
After years of taking notes and doing research, Contrera’s book was published. Hushabye: The Mystics, the Music, and the Mob centers on the five Mystics – Al Contrera, Phil Cracolici, Albee Cracolici, Bob Ferrante and George Galfo.
Contrera admits that the Mystics were misguided teenagers “heading in the wrong direction” who were ultimately saved by their friendship and a shared passion for music.
Since the book’s release this past summer, Contrera embarked on a national book tour speaking to standing room only crowds at leading books stores in New York, Florida and New Jersey. “I had no idea what to expect,” Contrera confides. “The response from fans has exceeded my expectations,” he added.
The book tour for Hushabye: The Mystics, the Music, and the Mob was launched in September 2018, at The Bookmark Shoppe, a beloved book store in the heart of Bensonhurst. “It made sense to start my book journey in Brooklyn because that’s where we were from and where it all began,” Contrera said.
A highlight of the event was receiving an official proclamation from the Borough President of Brooklyn, Eric Adams, honoring Contrera and commending him for his outstanding achievements. “I was stunned. That was one of the proudest moments in my life,” Contrera states.
Contrera remembers that it was raining hard that night and he was concerned that people would not show up for the book signing. He was wrong! Every chair was filled with people anxious to hear never before shared anecdotes and recollections.
“I saw people that I haven’t seen since I was in high school,” Contrera says. “Talk about this is your life! One of the attendees at the Brooklyn book signing turned out to be the grandson of a friend of mine, Jimmy Hudson, who sang lead in the first group I sang with in 1958,” Contrera remembers. “His grandson had heard stories about the music scene in the fifties, read my book and wanted to meet me. I was so impressed that a 20-year-old was interested in what happened over 60 years ago.”
This year also happens to be the Diamond Jubilee of Hushabye, and fans love the music now as much as they did growing up.
Wherever Contrera goes to talk about the book there are always people wanting to share Mystic memorabilia and photos with him. Today, nearly six decades later, Hushabye still evokes powerful memories. “People tell me that they can remember events in their lives that are connected to the song.”
The next stop on Contreras’s book tour was The Villages, located in Central Florida. The packed crowd was in for a treat that afternoon.
Joining Contrera were Phil Cracolici and George Galfo, both original members of The Mystics.
Following his talk, Contrera, Cracolici and Galfo were surrounded by fans who had scrapbooks and souvenirs that they had saved since the early ’60s.
Contrera still marvels how strong The Mystics’ fans feel about the group’s music. “To have accomplished something I have been thinking about doing for over 50 years feels really good. And to have met so many people who really care about the Mystics is really special.”
Contrera hopes readers interested in the nostalgic period from the 1950’s and 1960’s will find Hushabye: The Mystics, the Music, and the Mob especially fascinating, as it offers insights into the music industry during that era and shares a timeless message.
“What does this all mean? It means that there are thousands of readers who like to read about the fifties music and are sincerely interested in what happened to that group who had a big hit with Hushabye. Their connection to The Mystics is as strong as fans of The Four Seasons, Elvis or The Beatles,” Contrera states.
Contrera is enjoying the journey and loving every minute. He just finished recording the audio version of Hushabye: The Mystics, the Music, and the Mob. “I’m thinking that I have no idea where this is going to take me next. I’m amazed at the reaction so far. I have had some inquiries about making a movie but I’m realistic and know it’s a long shot. It sure would be great, though. I haven’t done anything like that yet!”
Hushabye: The Mystics, the Music, and the Mob”
By Al Contrera
Hardcover | 6 x 9 in | 234 pages | ISBN 9781982200299
Softcover | 6 x 9 in | 234 pages | ISBN 9781982200275
E-Book | 234 pages | ISBN 9781982200282
Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble
Hushabye: The Mystics, the Music, and the Mob is available at: https://www.amazon.com/Hushabye-Mystics-Music-Al-Contrera/dp/1982200294.