Johnny Maestro – The Crests – The Brooklyn Bridge
New York City-born Johnny Maestro (born John Peter Mastrangelo aka Johnny Mastro, Johnny Masters; May 7, 1939 – March 24, 2010) began his career in 1957 as the original lead singer of The Crests, one of the first interracial groups of the recording industry. Patricia Van Dross, older sister to famed R&B singer Luther Vandross, sang with Johnny Maestro while The Crests were signed to the Joyce Record label. Before The Crests signed with Coed Records, Patricia left the group because her mother didn’t want her 15-year-old daughter touring with the older guys. After a regional hit with “My Juanita”/”Sweetest One” on the Joyce label, he had three years of chart success with The Crests on Coed Records with “16 Candles”, “Six Nights A Week”, “Step by Step”, “The Angels Listened In”, and “Trouble in Paradise”. Between “Step by Step” and “Trouble in Paradise”, Coed released a single “The Great Physician”/”Say It Isn’t So” under the name Johnny Masters. Late in 1960, Maestro would leave The Crests for a solo career. Maestro was unable to reach his former chart heights with The Crests, but did have Top 40 hits with “What A Surprise” and “Model Girl” in 1961 as solo artist Johnny Mastro, “The Voice of the Crests” for Coed Records. For his next three singles with the label, he was known as Johnny Maestro, the third spelling change for the label. None of those records charted and Maestro recorded for three different labels before recording with new backup singers (none from the original group) as Johnny Maestro & The Crests in 1965 and 1966, which produced four singles on two more labels.
In 1968, Sperber, owner and founder of the talent management and booking agency Action Talents in New York City, was hosting her once a month Battle of the Bands talent search at the Cloud Nine nightclub in Long Island and brought Maestro along as the evening’s special guest star. Action Talents’ Vice President and General Manager Alan White suggested that Maestro be backed up that night by a seven-piece brass-filled group of youngsters called The Rhythm Method. That night’s performance was such a success that the next day Sperber decided to combine the talents of Maestro, the four Del-Satins, and The Rhythm Method. The new group’s name came about after White made the off-handed comment that “it would be easier to sell the Brooklyn Bridge” than book the proposed 11-piece act.
Johnny and the Bridge rehearsed their unusual combination of smooth vocal harmonies and full horns, and signed a recording contract with Buddah records. Their first release, a version of the Jimmy Webb song “Worst That Could Happen” (a note-for-note cover of the version previously recorded by The 5th Dimension on the album The Magic Garden, which had not been released as a single), reached No. 3 on the Billboard pop chart. It sold over one and a quarter million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A.. The follow-up, “Welcome Me Love”, and its flip side, “Blessed is the Rain” — both by Tony Romeo — each reached the Top 50. A dramatic version of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and the controversial “Your Husband, My Wife” also reached the middle ranges of the charts. The group sold over 10 million records by 1972, including LP sales, mostly produced by Wes Farrell. Appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Della Reese Show, and other programs helped to bring the group to the national stage.
Johnny Maestro died on March 24, 2010, from cancer in Cape Coral, Florida, at age 70.