“96 Tears” was written by Rudy Martinez, aka “Que”, in 1962 in his manager’s living room and recorded by the American garage rock band ? and the Mysterians, in 1966. Known for its signature organ licks and bare-bones lyrics, “96 Tears” is recognized as one of the first garage band hits and has even been attributed to starting the punk rock movement.
In October 1966 it was #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US and on the RPM 100 in Canada. Billboard ranked the record as the #5 song for the year 1966. It is ranked #213 on the Rolling Stone list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. On November 11, 1966, the single was certified as gold by the RIAA.
In 2016, The Wildlife Conservation Society used the song in the third phase of its 96 Elephants campaign focused on fighting wildlife crime that continues to slaughter 96 elephants every day in Africa.
Rudy’s songs have been covered by many artists including Big Maybelle, Jack White, Smash Mouth, The Stranglers, Iggy Pop and Aretha Franklin. They have also been featured in television shows including The Wire and The Preacher.