The Hallmarks came from the towns of Oceanport and Long Branch, New Jersey. An article from the Ashbury Park Press of September 26, 1967 gives the full membership of the group:
The Hallmarks are Russ Scalzo, the composer who plays rhythm guitar; his brother, Joseph, drums, and cousin, Anthony Scalzo, rhythm guitar; Ricky Gager, lead guitar, and Jim Bova, bass guitar.
At the time of the article, Russ was the oldest, at 19, Tony Scalzo was 18, Joe Scalzo was 16, and Ricky and Jim were 15.
The article continues, “The record was produced by Thomas Falcone, who was instrumental in bringing the group together through a contest and for promoting the record with Mercury.”
The band cut Russ Scalzo’s original “I Know Why” as early as 1966. With a new title and lyric changes, plus layers of echo and effects to the recording, the Hallmarks released the song as “Soul Shakin’ Psychedelic Sally” on Smash in the summer of 1967. Many listeners prefer the original version without all the echo and effects, but the single does have a zany power that’s made it a classic.
The flip, “Girl of My Dreams” is more conventional. A demo acetate from Bedminster Sound Corp. in West Orange has one unreleased song produced by Tommy Falcone, “Baby We Can Make It Together”, the band trading off with a girl group chorus.
Unfortunately this was the only release the band had. I’m not sure how or why the group broke up.
A few years ago Russ Scalzo produced a musical based on his experiences with the group, “Running Through the Fire” written with daughter Rachel, and is now an author of Christian books. His website is www.russscalzo.com.
Producer Tommy Falcone has an interesting history. In 1963 he and Gino Viscione started the Cleopatra label, famous for labels featuring a reclining woman, often mistaken for Elizabeth Taylor but actually Tommy’s wife in costume. Cleopatra had at least eight releases, ranging from the Tabbys’ bizarre “Hong Kong Baby” to the Centuries great instrumentals “The Outer Limits” and “Jack 23”.
After Cleopatra folded, Falcone had his hand in producing, including the Inmates’ excellent “You Tell Lies” on Columbia and the Shoestring’s “Candy Andy”. Unfortunately Tommy Falcone passed away around the age of 40 in the late ’60s, supposedly from a heart attack after playing an accordion concert.