Published: January 3, 2012
Fred Milano, one of the original members of Dion and the Belmonts, who wove his backup tenor tones into the musically seamless harmonies of 1950s and ’60s hits like “A Teenager in Love” and “Where or When,” died on Sunday at a hospital on Long Island. He was 72 and lived in Massapequa, N.Y.
The cause was complications of lung cancer, his brother-in-law Mark Alter said.
Freddie Milano, as he was known, along with Angelo D’Aleo and Carlo Mastrangelo, were teenage buddies from the largely Italian neighborhood bordering Arthur Avenue in the Bronx when they began blending their doo-wop sounds on street corners and apartment stoops. Originally calling themselves the Belmonts (after the avenue on which Mr. Milano lived), they became Dion and the Belmonts in 1957 when Dion DiMucci joined as lead tenor.
As “The Billboard Book of American Singing Groups” (1992) has stated, they went on to become “one of the best of the late ’50s early ’60s vocal groups.”
Among more than a dozen singles released by the group, five made it into the Top 30 of the Billboard charts. Their first hit, “I Wonder Why,” rose to No. 22 in 1958 and propelled them to appearances on Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand.” They hit No. 5 in 1959 with “A Teenager in Love,” and No. 3 later that year with “Where or When.” A year after Mr. DiMucci left the group for a solo career in 1960, the Belmonts reached No. 18 on the charts with “Tell Me Why” and No. 28 in 1962 with “Come On Little Angel.”
“Freddie’s harmony kept everything together, made it very tight,” Warren Gradus, who joined the Belmonts in 1963, said in an interview on Tuesday.
For one night in 1972, Dion and the Belmonts reunited, in a sold-out concert at Madison Square Garden that was recorded for an album by Warner Brothers. Billy Vera, a rock ’n’ roll historian (and the leader of the accompanying band that night), recalled, “When they announced, ‘For the first time in years, Dion and the Belmonts!’ the place went wild and you could feel the building shake.”
Born in the Bronx on Aug. 26, 1939, Mr. Milano was one of three children of Betty and Rocco Milano. He is survived by his wife of 43 years, the former Lynn Heitzner; a daughter, Tara Lesak; a son, Cal; and 10 grandchildren.
Although Mr. Milano went on to become a paralegal and in recent years was a legal coordinator working with inmates at the Rikers Island jail in New York, he and other members of the Belmonts continued to perform at casinos and concert halls.
He couldn’t resist going back to his street-corner roots. After a show at the Beacon Theater in New York in the 1970s, Mr. Gradus recalled, “I went out to get the car, and as I pull up at the stage door, Freddie’s out there singing with four guys — strangers he met at the door.”