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The Marcels made their indelible mark on the history of rock ’n’ roll with the signature “bomp baba bomp…” that opened their 1961 hit “Blue Moon.”
Ronald “Bingo” Mundy didn’t sing that bass part, but he was one of the angelic tenor voices that quickly came in on the harmonies: “moon-moon- moon-moon-moon, dip-da-dip-da-dip.”
Mr. Mundy, of the North Side, died Friday at age 76 of pneumonia at Allegheny General Hospital.
He and his friends formed the Marcels, named after a stylist haircut, in 1959 while students at Allegheny High School on the North Side, inspired by groups like the Harptones, the Cadillacs and the Spaniels.
A demo tape sent to Colpix Records landed them at New York’s RCA Studios in February 1961 to record, among other things, a rockin’ doo-wop version of the Rodgers and Hart classic "Blue Moon" with an intro they’d been using on their take of The Cadillacs’ “Zoom.”
As legend has it, the day he heard it, New York DJ Murray the K played "Blue Moon" 26 times in a four-hour show. In March 1961, the song knocked Elvis Presley off the top of the Billboard chart, becoming the first No. 1 rock ’n’ roll hit out of Pittsburgh. The million-seller went top 10 hit all over the world, as far as Israel and South Africa, and that summer the Marcels sang it in the Hollywood movie "Twist Around the Clock.”
They released a number of other singles that year, hitting No. 7 with “Heartaches” and No. 24 with the “Porgy and Bess” classic “Summertime.” The group’s 1961 debut album also included The Chantels’ song “Goodbye to Love.”
That year, Bingo, as he was known to friends and family -- “I didn’t even know my uncle’s name was Ron,” said Sarah Huny Young -- met Janet Brandon, who recalled first real date was a Marcels gig at an East Liberty club.
She was unimpressed by stardom, but she said, “My sister and I were waiting, all dressed up in front of The [Pittsburgh] Courier and this big white limo pulled up. Jules [Kruspir, their manager] was driving. We went to the show, where they were presented with a plaque by Porky Chedwick.”
That year, 1961, was a whirlwind for the Marcels -- with the tours, the TV shows, the movie, the recording sessions - but the jet-set life was fleeting for Mr. Mundy.
“The fact that they were racially mixed caused a lot of problems,” said oldies promoter Henry DeLuca. “They couldn’t tour down South that way, and had to go with an all-black lineup.”
That shook up some of the chemistry of the group.
“It got to be hard,” Mrs. Mundy said. “He called me and said, ‘I’m going home and getting a job.’ ”
He left by the end of 1961, the last year the Marcels charted on Billboard. They got married in March 1962, and Mr. Mundy, after a few different jobs, became a bus driver for Port Authority of Allegheny County, where he retired after 25 years.
But, in one way or another, he was always a Marcel. He and two other original members would perform as the Marcels, creating a legal dispute with the trademark group led by Walt Maddox, who had joined in the middle of ‘61. Mr. Mundy sang in oldies throwback group the Memories, which sure enough did Marcels songs, and he sang in the Wesley Center AME Zion Church. Mr. DeLuca and T.J. Lubinsky reunited the original Marcels in 1999 for the PBS special “Doo-Wop 50.”
“He always had singing in his blood,” said Ms. Mundy. “He loved the oldies and my kids were all raised on them.”
Ms. Young said she will remember him for his distinctive drawl, his love for biking and swimming, gadgets, fresh haircuts, and his generosity.
“The most awesome to me as a kid: he owned a candy store on The North Side for a short while. That store may not have made it because he just gave us, his nieces and nephews, all the candy.”
He is survived by wife Janet, of North Side; daughter Sharon, of the Hill District; son Ronnie, of the North Side; brothers William, of Sheraden, and Ramon, of North Side; grandchildren Todd and Tre.
Visitation will be at Odell Robinson Jr. Funeral Home, 2025 Perrysville Ave., Perry South, from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday. Funeral arrangements are pending.
Scott Mervis: email@example.com; 412-263-2576.