The Crests – “Sixteen Candles”


The Crests were an interracial R&B/doo-wop vocal group who achieved the peak of their career in the late 1950s until the early 1960s. Formed in 1956 in New York, they were signed to Coed record label which released most of the Crests’ material. The group later achieved a string of Top 40 hits such as “Sixteen Candles” (their highest in the charts), “Six Nights a Week,” “The Angels Listened,” “Step by Step,” and “Trouble In Paradise.” They were one of the most successful interracial groups in their time. Lead vocalist Maestro left to pursue a solo career, later regaining stardom as the leas singer of The Brooklyn Bridge (whose “The Worst That Could Happen” became a million seller). The Crests soldiered on as they changed various personnel. In 1987, four original members (for the exception of Van Dross) reunited for a concert in Peekskill, New York. The present lineup includes new leader in Tony Mara.

Who were the Crests?

The Crests were one of the most successful racially-integrated groups during the 1950s. The group was formed in New York in 1956. The founding members consisted three blakc members (including one female), one Italian-American and one Puerto Rican. They were JT Carter, Talmoudge Gough, Harold Torres, Luther Vandross’ sister Patricia Van Dross and Johnny Mastrangelo aka Johnny Maestro (born on May 7, 1939) who was chosen to be the group’s lead vocalist.

The Crests’ heyday

The group had been signed first to Joyce label, and their first single “Sweetest One” (co-written by Maestro as Johnny Mastrangelo) was a minor hit on the pop chart in 1957. Van Dross left by 1958, the year that the Crests had been signed to Coed Records, where they launched a string of hits.

Their biggest hit was 1958’s “Sixteen Candles,” written by Luther Dixon and Allyson R. Khent. It reached #2 on the pop chart and #4 on the R&B chart that year. It was followed in 1959 by a couple of top 40 pop hits “Six Nights a Week” which reached its peak position at #28 (#17 R&B) and “The Angels Listened In” (#22 pop, #17 R&B).

During the late 1950s, the Crests furthered their popularity by appearing on television programs such as American Bandstand and The Dick Clark Show.

In 1960, the group scored two more Top 20 pop hits: “Step by Step” (#14 pop) and “Trouble in Paradise” (#20 pop). The following year Maestro left to pursue a solo career, and around the same time had a solo smash with “Model Girl,” also released on Coed. He later joined the Del Satins who would later merge with The Rhythm Method to form Johnny Maestro and the Brooklyn Bridge (or sometimes simply as The Brooklyn Bridge), who achieved a #3 pop hit with “The Worst That Could Happen” in 1968.

Disbandment and re-formation

Torres had quit the band by the late 1960s. In 1978 the Crests disbanded but only two years later Carter reformed the group. He and his band mates have been together into the 1980s and 1990s. In 1987, four original members (for the exception of Van Dross) reunited for a concert in Peekskill, New York. He finally sold his interests of the group to Tommy Mara, who has since been the Crests’ lead vocalist up to the present.

Some of the original members have been deceased: Torres is dead, Van Dross died in 1993, and Maestro in 2010.

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