The Crests: The Best Of The Crest featuring Johnny Maestro (LP)
(Rhino/Murray Hill) 14 tracks (5 newly remastered in Stereo) - In order to examine the way rock 'n' roll began as a marriage of
black and white popular musics. one need only look at the number of
racially mixed vocal groups that emerged dunng rock's chaotic origin. The
first to gamer national recognation was Pittsburgh's Del Vikings who
scored with Come Go With Me in late '56 early '57. But the group that
would enjoy the longest run of hits with a mixed line up was Johnny
Maestro And The Crests There would be others (The Marvels immediately
comes to mind). but none succeeded in establishing a sound as well as
Mr. Maestro and company. The Crests began as a black quartet in 1955.
Patricia Van Dross. Harold Torres. Talmadge (Tommy) Gough and J.T.
Carter formed the group at P.S. 160 Junior High School in Manhattan;
Carter. originally from Brooklyn. lived on Delaney St. and the rest (all
from Staten Island) lived in the Allred E. Smith projects in nearby
Chinatown. Singing for local functions without a permanent name, the
group naturally emulated the singing idols of the day.
Cadillacs. Harptones. and Teenagers. At the same time. Brooklyn.born
Johnny Maestro (or Mastroangelo. as he was christened) from near. by
Mulberry St. was already singing in a racially integrated group —a
necessity, according to Maestro. There just weren't too many white kids
interested in singing black R&B in lower Manhattan at the time.
Maestro met the future Crests at the Henry Street Settlement House in
1956 and joined them soon after.
'Street' vocal groups would seek any place that offered a good echo to
add timbre and depth to their a capella singing. One natural refuge was
the subway. One day in 1957 the group. recently named The Crests at the
suggestion of member Carter. was in the subway practicing some of the
gospel harmony they had been studying. A woman. riding the train from
Brooklyn. heard them singing at the Brooklyn Bridge station The wife of
arch' estra leader Al Browne. she gave her husband's
business card to the group at the subway station. The group kneew that
an Al Browne had backed up one of their favorite groups. The Heartbeats.
and rushed to contact him.
Browne knew the owners of a miniscule record label. Joyce Records.
Maestro claims that Joyce Records was two guys who ran the company from
the back of a record store in Brooklyn. something quite believable given
the history of many of New York's small independent record operations
at the time.
The group wrote both sides of what would be their last single. My
Juanita , Sweetest One: and future royalty payments notwithstanding
(Maestro claims the sum of $17.50 for this single). Sweetest One -
actually made the national pop charts. peaking at #87 in July 1957.
Two other recordings from that session. No One To Love and Wish She Was
Mine were released on Joyce a few months later without fanfare or sales.
While recording for Joyce. the group was intro-duced to singer.
songwriter.rarranger Billy Dawn Smith. Smith was impressed with the
group and brought them to the attention of music publisher George
Paxton. With the group now signed to him— minus Patricia Van Dross, who
as a 15-year-old girl was not allowed to travel with the boys—Paxton
formed Coed Records in early 1958.
Compared to Joyce. Coed was it big
league operation. Paxton had contacts throughout the industry and
provided the group with some Al the best writers and arrangers on the
scene, including Luther Dixon. Bert Keyes and Otis Blackwell.
Coed 501 Pretty Little Angel by The Crests— inaugurated the label. While
it got local airplay and local chart placement. national atten. Lion
was not to be. The group's next release. however. was a different story:
it would not only twome one of the best-selling 'oldies' of all time,
but the source of some controversy in the payola hearings that would
take place two years atter its release That classic. 16 Candles was
originally called Twenty One Candles before someone with marketing sense
aimed the song at the burgeoning teenage audience.
Trade ads of the day state that the record 'broke' immediately; it was
later shown that when Dick Clark bought it share of the publishing in
the song. the record began being featured almost daily 011 American
Bandstand. and success followed directly.
The song peaked at 12 on the
national charts and The Crests were on their way. Appearances with Clark
and Alan Freed. among others. strengthened the group's stage acumen:
their show featured some fancy choreography from the group members. It
was on 16 Candles" that Maestro's voice really came to the forefront.
kiroup harmony predominated on earlier releases. but tram this landmark
recording on. Maestro's smooth. easy tenor became the trademark of The
Crests' sound. Six Nights A Week followed 16 Candles- onto the charts
(#28). and over the next year The Crests would place three more in the
national Top 30.
The Angels listened In (#22). "Step By Step (#14) and Trouble In
Coed released it total of eleven Maestro led singles from '58 to '60
along with an EP (featuring a photo of Maestro and line drawings of the
rest of the group—the mixed group profile having presumably lost its
novelty) and two LPs.
One the LPs. The Crests Sing The Biggies, featured their renditions of
earlier Rock'n'Roll hits and two of these selections became the last
single released by the original quartet.
By 1960. their managers at Coed began to think of Maestro more and more
as it solo act —or at least. a singer with an uncredited backup group.
Some talk of racial issues apparently surfaced at the time. but it seems
more likely that simple economics dictated the move. For it short
while, releases by both Johnny Maestro solo and The Crests sans Johnny
were released, the only Crests
release without Johnny Little Miracles / Baby I Gotta Know: featured IT
Carter as lead on one side (Baby) and new member James Ancrum on the
A legal battle over use of the name 'Crests' would continue for a
year or so, and numerous releases in the mid-to late '60s would see
that name on the label.
'Guilty' released on Marty Craft's Selma label in 1963. actually reached
the 'Bubbling Under' charts at #123 but beyond this none the
latter-day Crests singles charted.
The first (Maestro solo release was recorded early in 1960—between the
sessions that produced Step By Step and Trouble In Paradise with billing
going to 'Johnny Masters', the single failed to sell.
His next three releases (credited to Johnny Maestro. although The Crests
sang back-up!) What A Surprise, Model Girl and
Mr. Happiness all charted. with Model Girl reaching #20 nationally.
But after Mr Happiness — from the last recording session with the
original group in June 1961, no other Maestro single placed,
despite the 'Voice Of The Crests' notation that appeared on these
records.Maestro left Coed early in 1962 and continued recording, with
numerous cuts (with or without a Crests group) appearing on the Apt.
Cameo, Parkway, Scepter and United Artists labels. None met with any
success. Finally, in 1968, Maestro combined forces with The Del Satins, a
popular vocal group who had backed up Dion on his 'solo' recordings for
Laurie and Columbia and who had recorded a local hit on their own
(Teardrops Follow Me) for Laurie in 1962. One night in April 1968, at a
'battle of the bands' concert in Long Island, Johnny came across a
seven-piece out-fit called The Rhythm Method, led by sax man Tom
Sullivan. The next day, Johnny, The Del Satins and The Rhythm Method all
merged to form The Brooklyn Bridge—the subway stop that brought the
original Crests into the recording studio for the first time! The story
goes that when Maestro described the I I-piece group to his management,
one of them sarcastically opined that the group would be 'as easy to
sell as the goddamned Brooklyn Bridge'
The group signed with Buddah Records, whose president, Neil Bogart (of
later disco fame with the Casablanca label), had met Johnny when he
recorded for Parkway in 1966. By 1969, the group had scored three major
national hits: 'The Worst That Could Happen', 'Welcome Me Love' and
'Blessed Is The Rain' and Maestro was back on top again.
The group, with minor personnel changes, continues to this day. Johnny
still appears by himself on occasion, and was part of WCBS-FM's
incredible 15th anniversary show (with Dion and The Del Satins) in 1987.
Former original Crest J.T. Carter has formed a new 'Crests' singing
group and performs with this group around the country as well. The
Crests' sound was (and remains) unique. Johnny Maestro's voice,
simultaneously strong and mellow, and The Crests' superb black vocal
harmony joined to produce one of the most distinctive and enjoyable
vocal combinations in rock history. That they did not flourish together
beyond the early '60s is more a symptom of that unsettling time in the
record industry than it is a reflection of their individual and mutual
talents. The very best of The Crests' original Coed recordings (along
with Johnny's solo sides) are showcased in this collection, with many
mixed in true stereo from the original 3-tracks for the first time. The
result rates among the finest vocal group collections money can buy.
(Bob Hyde 1990)
Artikeleigenschaften von The Crests: The Best Of The Crest featuring Johnny Maestro (LP)
Johnny Maestro and his Crests had a good thing going at Coed Records. Co-owner George Paxton was a music publisher whose output displayed a polish that a lot of New York indies lacked. The Crests had been Coed's flagship group since their 16 Candles just missed topping the pop hit parade (you'll find it on our 1958 edition).
Maestro's powerhouse leads and the harmonies of second tenor Tommy Gough, baritone Harold Torres, and bass J.T. Carter ensured that the multi-ethnic Crests kept posting hits: Six Nights A Week, Flower Of Love, and The Angels Listened In in 1959 alone. Step By Step, written by house songsmiths Ollie Jones (a former member of The Ravens and Cues) and Billy Dawn Smith, sailed to #14 pop in the spring of '60 with Gee (But I'd Give The World) residing on the opposite side.
"That got us back up in the Top Ten again," said the late Maestro."It was a good song." Coed spared no expense. "That was great. The sound was phenomenal, the first time being there in the studio with live strings. A beautiful sound." Paxton's studio demeanor was calm. "He was kind of laidback. He never really had much to say. It was mostly the arrangers who had most of the say in the recordings. He'd throw his two cents in once in a while. He'd always be there, of course. But Bert Keyes and Billy Dawn, they were very instrumental in all of our recordings."
Between Step By Step and its Top 20 followup Trouble In Paradise, The Crests were flying high. But trouble loomed on the horizon. "'Trouble In Paradise,' I think, was the beginning of the end for the Crests,” said Maestro. "The record company told us that sales started diminishing because of the integration of the group, and they felt that we couldn't get any national exposure on national TV because of that. So they made the decision to start recording us separately - me as a soloist, and the group with another singer. We were young, we just really had no say-so in anything. And they kind of told us to what to do, so we just followed them and figured they knew what they knew what they were talking about.”
Maestro became a solo at Coed, nailing three 1961 hits. But he wasn't happy. "Being with a group all my life - all my vocal life, anyway - I was really used to being with the group in the studio and onstage. I had that support," he said. "So after a couple of records, I left the record company and just started traveling around the country with a band." Meanwhile, The Crests soldiered on without him. Maestro was singing with The Del-Satins, Dion's vocal group on Runaround Sue, but they wanted a bigger sound. They merged in 1966 with a horn band called The Rhythm Method. A new name was in order for the 11-piece outfit. "Someone at our manager's office made a comment, 'It's gonna be easier to sell the Brooklyn Bridge than sell a group of this size!'" laughed Johnny.
Buddah Records boss Neil Bogart wanted The Brooklyn Bridge to go bubblegum, but Maestro had heard a Jimmy Webb composition on a 5th Dimension album. "I said, 'This is a great song. I think we should arrange it our way and go into the studio,'" he said.The Brooklyn Bridge's Wes Farrell-produced rendition of Worst That Could Happen went gold in early '69, soaring to #3 pop. They scored lesser hits through 1970 and were still going strong when Maestro died March 24, 2010.
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