Friday, March 26, 2010

Johnny Maestro (1939 - 2010)

Thanks to for this indepth look at the remarkable career and voice of Johnny Maestro

Johnny Maestro, the Brooklyn-born singer who had success with both the Crests and the Brooklyn Bridge, passed away in Florida on Wednesday from cancer and a possible heart attack. He was 70.

Maestro was born John Mastrangelo in 1939 and, at the age of 17, joined the fledgling doo wop group the Crests under the stage name of Johnny Mastro. The group recorded their first single, Sweetest One, for the Joyce label, scoring a regional hit in 1957 and reaching number 86 nationally. The next year, they moved to the Coed label where their single Sixteen Candles flew to number 2 on the pop and number 4 on the R&B charts.

The Crests continued having hits for the next two years, making them one of the most successful of the integrated doo wop groups. While never equaling the success of Sixteen Candles, they did place eight more songs on the charts including four that reached the top 40 (Six Nights a Week (1959/#28 Pop/#17 R&B), The Angels Listened In (1959/#22 Pop/#14 R&B), Step by Step (1960/#14 Pop), Trouble in Paradise (1960/#20 Pop).

Maestro left the group in late-1960 to attempt a solo career, scoring with Model Girl (1961/#20 Pop) and the minor hits What a Surprise (1961/#33 Pop) and Mr. Happiness (1961/#57 Pop).

For the next seven years, Maestro recorded for a series of labels (Apt, Cameo-Parkway, Sceptre, United Artists), at times with different Crests lineups, but had no chart success. It wasn't until 1967 that he was invited to join the group the Del-Satins who had been around New York for a decade recording their own songs and backing Dion after he left the Belmonts. At first, Maestro turned them down but eventually relented.

In 1968, the Del-Satins joined forces with another group called the Rhythm Method. They changed their name to the Brooklyn Bridge and signed with Buddah Records. Like the Buckinghams before them and artists like Blood, Sweat and Tears and Chicago after, the group combined smooth vocals with a rhythm and horn section. They covered a song originally recorded by the Fifth Dimension as their first single and went straight to number 3 with The Worst That Could Happen.

Like the Crests, they peaked early and spent the rest of their recording career much lower on the charts, reaching the top 50 with the double sided hit Blessed is the Rain/Welcome Me Love (1969/#45 & #48 (each side of the record charted separately at the time)) and Your Husband-My Wife (1969/#46).

Even after the hits stopped coming, the group continued to perform and record with various changes in the lineup, shrinking as low as five members and expanding back to eight when turing demanded it. Their last album, Today, Volume 2, was released in March of 2009.

Maestro is in the Vocal Group Hall of Fame twice, with the Crests (inducted in 2004) and the Brooklyn Bridge (2005). The Brooklyn Bridge are also in the Long Island Music Hall of Fame.


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