Originally the Young Rascals
, a nod to the old Our Gang
and Little Rascals
comedies. Some of them were members of the Starlighters (Joey Dee
's backing band, of "Peppermint Twist
" fame) at one time or another before forming the Rascals.
Signed to Atlantic Records, they had an early #1 hit with "Good Lovin'" (1966); other big hits were "Groovin'" ("...on a Sunday afternoon") and "I've Been Lonely Too Long". The Rascals were probably the New York City area's first great rock band (a shout-out to all my peeps on Strong Island!), and America's foremost proponents of blue-eyed soul in the mid/late 60s - guitarist Gene Cornish would jokingly point out that he was the only one in the group with blue eyes.
Then they got a little trippier - "A Beautiful Morning" and "It's Wonderful" were still cool and soulful. "How Can I Be Sure?" was a classic ballad (if you like that sort of stuff); "People Got to Be Free" was a Top 40 anthem. The hits kept on coming.
The real change came around the time of See (1969), complete with Yogananda references, jazz-muso guests, and such, though the title track was still high-energy stuff. The original group would eventually disband, and leader Felix Cavaliere formed a new jazzier Rascals.
The band's stylistically-varied output over the years is All Good, but it's the hits that got them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and deservedly so. Their late-period co-producer, Arif Mardin, would later do a makeover on the Bee Gees, transforming them from ethereal pop warblers into ethereal rhythm and blues warblers; it was his idea to have Barry (it was Barry, wasn't it?) sing in falsetto.
So that's how the Peppermint Twist led to Tony Manero.