The group originated in Ozone Park, Queens in 1954 when they were teenagers. The original members were Rosario Morice (aka Sonny Boy, Lead), though he left the group before recording he has always been recognized by the group when attending a performance. Nick Santamaria (aka Nick Santo, lead), Mike Mincieli (first tenor), Frank Reina (second tenor), Vinnie Naccarato,(baritone), and John Cassese (bass). They were all around 15 years of age at the time and still in school. Rosario, Vinnie, Mike, Tony, and John all went to John Adams High School, while Nick was a student at Woodrow Wilson and Frank attended Franklin K. Lane. Mike Mincieli, started the group and recruited the members. In the spring/summer of 1958 the final member was recruited and really got things together. They originally called themselves "the Supremes" but soon changed to "The Capris." It is often thought their name came from the island of Capri, since the boys were all Italian, but Nick confirmed in a 1993 interview with Greg Milewski, that they named themselves after the 1957 Lincoln Capri.
By 1958 the group had started gaining experience and popularity by performing at local venues, school dances and churches. They attracted the attention of independent record producers. Soon they would record their first single.
Their break came when they responded to an ad placed in a local paper by two wanna-be producers. At the audition, they sang a ballad, "There's A Moon Out Tonight" (words and music by Joseph Luccisano, Anthony Gentile & Alfred Striano) and soon they found themselves at Bell Sound Studios New York cutting the song, along with an uptempo number, "Indian Girl." Released on Planet Records in the autumn of 1958, the record became an almost instant obscurity. (An original Planet pressing of the single can now fetch up to $1500 in collectors circles.) After they released it on Planet Records they had it released on Lost Nite Records in 1961. Months later (in the same year) they had it released on Old Town Records, which took the song to the top of the charts the next year. "There's A Moon Out Tonight" has a unique ending, chiming down from falsetto to bass instead of the other way around. Each Capri sings the tune's title in turn, but slightly lower (and slower) than the preceding member. Along with that song, they only recorded one other song, entitled “Indian Girl,” on the flip side.
An obsessive record collector named Jerry Greene (later the owner of the reissue label Collectables) was working at Times Square Record Shop (a legendary purveyor of records located in the heart of Times Square, Broadway and 42nd Street), not for money, but in exchange for hard-to-get records. Under the wise ownership of Irving "Slim" Rose, the subway arcade shop influenced radio play and record sales nationwide in the early sixties. Since the doo-wop sound was still current in New York City in the early sixties, it was possible for some 45s specifically reissued at Slim's behest to receive much wider airplay, as new singles, since they were not national hits (or, in many cases, even known) on first release. "There's a Moon Out Tonight," The Shells' "Baby Oh Baby," the Chanters' "No, No, No," and, notably, the Edsels' doo wop classic, "Rama Lama Ding Dong," all began their long ascent of the national charts from that lowly subway arcade.
In 1960 a customer brought in a copy of "There's a Moon Out Tonight" for credit against more expensive records in the store. This was a unique practice Jerry had devised to get collectors to bring in hard-to-find records so he could resell them. Greene gave the customer a $50 credit for the Capris single and brought it to DJ Allen Fredericks to be aired on his "Night Train" radio show.
The young entrepreneur saw a good thing evolving and with three other collectors chipped in and bought 100 copies from the defunct Planet label and sold them to Irving "Slim" Rose for a tidy profit. They sold out in about a week and Jerry repeated the buy-and-sell formula. When he returned to Planet for a third try the owner told him all the records were gone but he'd sell Jerry's cartel the masters for $200. The investing collectors bought the masters but passed up purchasing the publishing rights for $10 more, because they felt they'd spent all they could — in retrospect, not a good move. Jerry then reissued it under Lost Nite Records, a label that he and his pals had formed in 1960.