Friday, March 26, 2010

Johnny Maestro R.I.P.

Johnny Maestro, the lead vocalist of The Crests and later  The Brooklyn Bridge, passed on March 24 at the age of 70. The cause was cancer.

Johnny Maestro was born on May 7, 1939 in Brooklyn. He grew up on the lower east side of Manhattan. In 1956 The Crests, founded by J. T. Carter, chose Maestro as their lead vocalist. The Crest would sign with Joyce and had a minor hit with "Sweetest One" in 1957. The Crests later moved to the Coed label, where they achieved their biggest hit, "Sixteen Candles," in 1958. The Crests would have further hits with "A Year Ago Tonight," "Trouble in Paradise," "Six Nights a Week," "Step By Step," and "The Angels Listened In."

It was in 1960 that Johnny Maestro went go solo, adopting the name "Johnny Maestro." He had a few hits such as "Model Girl" and "What a Surprise." In 1967 Johnny Maestro joined The Del-Satins as their new lead vocalist. It was in 1968 that The Del-Satins met a seven piece brass ensemble called The Rhythm Method. The two groups decided to merge. The group then became known as The Brooklyn Bridge.

The Brooklyn Bridge would have a hit with "The Worst That Could Happen," which went to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1968. Unfortunately, they never repeated the success of their debut single. They released six more singles, among them "Blessed Is The Rain," "Welcome My Love," and "Your Husband, My Wife." The Brooklyn Bridge released four albums before being dropped by the Buddha label. Although the group no longer had a recording contract, they continued to perform. In 1989 they released a holiday album entitled Christmas Is... From 1993 to 2007 they released five more albums.

I always enjoyed The Crests' songs with Johnny Maestro as their lead vocalist. And while I have never heard very many of The Brooklyn Bridge's songs, I always liked "The Worst That Could Happen." Johnny Maestro was a very good singer, with a remarkable range. More importantly, he was capable of endowing songs with emotion in a way only a few singers can. By way of example, "The Worst That Could Happen" was originally recorded by The Fifth Dimension, but their version is inferior to the one recorded by The Brooklyn Bridge, precisely because it lacks the feeling Johnny Maestro put into the song. When it came to doo wop, he was one of the best.

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