The Crests Biography

Formed in New York City, USA, in 1956, the Crests soon became one of the most successful of the ‘integrated’ doo-wop groups of the period, after being discovered by Al Browne. Headed by the lead tenor of Johnny Mastro (Johnny Mastrangelo, 7 May 1930, USA), the rest of the band comprised Harold Torres, Talmadge Gough, J.T. Carter and Patricia Van Dross. By 1957 they were recording for Joyce Records and achieved their first minor pop hit with ‘Sweetest One’. Moving to the new Coed label, the Crests (without Van Dross) recorded their signature tune and one of doo-wop’s enduring classics, ‘16 Candles’, a heartfelt and beautifully orchestrated ballad. It became a national pop hit at number 2 in the Billboard charts, paving the way for further R&B and pop successes such as ‘Six Nights A Week’, ‘The Angels Listened In’ and ‘Step By Step’. At this time the band was almost permanently on the road. Following ‘Trouble In Paradise’ in 1960, the band’s final two chart singles would be credited to The Crests featuring Johnny Mastro. However, this was evidently not enough to satisfy their label, Coed, whose priority now was to launch the singer as a solo artist. Mastro’s decision to go solo in 1960 (subsequently calling himself Johnny Maestro) weakened the band, although they did continue with James Ancrum in his stead. Their former vocalist made the charts with ‘Model Girl’, still for Coed, in the following year, before re-emerging as leader of Brooklyn Bridge, an 11-piece doo-wop group who are best remembered for their 1968 single ‘The Worst That Could Happen’. After ‘Little Miracles’ failed to break the Billboard Top 100 (the first such failure for the Crests in 10 singles), Gough moved to Detroit and a job with General Motors. He was replaced by Gary Lewis. However, the Crests were now entangled in legal disputes with Coed over the ownership of their name. They eventually moved to Selma, although the songs made available to the group were now of significantly inferior quality, including ‘You Blew Out The Candles’, a blatant attempt to revisit the success of ‘16 Candles’. The band continued to tour throughout the 60s, though Torres had left to become a jeweller, leaving a core of Carter, Lewis and Ancrum. Later line-ups were organized by Carter for lounge sessions (although there are no recordings from this period), and in June 1987 the original line-up (minus Van Dross) was re-formed for a show in Peepskill, New York.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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