Although there were several integrated groups during the golden age of doo-wop, the Crests stood out as one of the most diversified. Now mostly remembered for the 1959 mega-hit “16 Candles,” the Crests included an Italian-American, a Puerto Rican, and — in the beginning — three African-Americans, one of them a lady.
Formed in New York in the mid 1950s, the group was originally composed of J. T. Carter, Talmoudge Gough, Harold Torres, and Patricia Van Dross, the sister of Luther Vandross. They then added lead singer Johnny Maestro (Mastrangelo), but success was elusive for a while. Eventually the group’s one female member left to pursue other interests, and by the late 1950s the remaining quartet finally started to make some headway.
The big breakout for the Crests came with “16 Candles,” which shot up the charts and came within a whisker of the top spot. It made Maestro a star and created a lot of momentum for the group, which enjoyed lots of appearances on radio, TV, and jukeboxes over the next couple of years. Along the way they scored lesser hits on “Six Nights A Week,” “The Angels Listened In,” “Step By Step,” and “Trouble In Paradise.”
That last song might have had another meaning, because Johnny Maestro left the group about then to pursue a solo career. The remaining members continued to perform as the Crests in various configurations in subsequent years (and the group’s name survives even now) while Maestro found a few ups and downs in his later career. But he did find gold again in the late 1960s as part of the group Brooklyn Bridge, which nearly hit the top of the charts with “Worst That Could Happen.”