This Filipino Pop Rock Band Briefly Took America by Storm in the '60s


Before the British Invasion dominated American pop culture in the mid-1960s, a Filipino band was on the cusp of true superstardom.

The Rocky Fellers often get forgotten when we remember our Filipino pioneers abroad. Long before the likes of an Arnel Pineda, Olivia Rodrigo, or a Lea Salonga, or even a Bruno Mars for that matter, this Filipino pop rock band captured the attention of the United States. And they did so during an era where it was difficult for colored people in America to break through in mainstream music culture.

Discovered by Stanley Kahn in the early '60s, these four Filipinos would go on to have a hit single that skyrocketed through the Billboard Charts.

Doroteo "Moro" Maligmat and his sons, Tony, Junior, Eddie, and Albert were an American-born Filipino family of musicians that would go on to be signed by Scepter Records (a label that once housed the Isley Brothers on its roster). Under the label, they would produce their biggest hit, "Killer Joe."

Written by Bert Russell, Phil Medley, and Bob Elgin, the song was inspired by the "King of the Discothèque" himself, Killer Joe Piro. It would go on to reach number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 in April 1963. Unfortunately, that was probably the peak of their short-lived pop music acclaim. They would follow the single up with "Like the Big Guys Do" but it never really caught on.

The band had also worked with legendary musician Neil Diamond on occasion. Then an unknown songwriter, Diamond wrote the Christmas novelty song "Santa, Santa" for the boys. The Rocky Fellers also recorded another song written by Diamond called "We Got Love." It appeared on their LP Killer Joe that same year.


When the Brits arrived, the Rocky Fellers sort of faded into oblivion. With acts like the Beatles, the Kinks, and the Rolling Stones captivating American audiences, the Filipino pop band would inevitably fall out of favor.

Not much can be said about their respective music career after that. Albert would eventually join the Society of Seven in the '70s where he went through a rebrand of sorts, calling himself "Little Albert" Maligmat. He played drums and the bass. The group's biggest hit was the song "99.8" and that was pretty much that for his tenure with the band during the decade. He left to pursue a solo career but had nothing to show for it in the end. In the '80s, he joined the group again for a few more years before settling down on a quieter life.

Albert and Eddie were said to have still been performing somewhere in Hawaii as late as 2017 under their new name The Fellers in the Rockys. Tony, sadly, passed away in 2007 at the age of 62.

What could've they been? They could've been so much more than just an obscure footnote in pop music history, we can tell you that. Still, they can be credited as one of the first Filipinos to represent the country on a global stage. The Rocky Fellers may haven't had conquered America per se, but at the very least, they got their 15 minutes of fame. Not too bad.

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Bryle B. Suralta
Assistant Section Editor
Bryle B. Suralta is the assistant section editor of Esquire Philippines.
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