Patricia Van Dross, Johnny Maestro, Harold Torres, Talmadge Gough & J.T. Carter


    The Crests (Manhattan, New York)

    Personnel :

    Johnny Maestro(Lead)

    Talmadge Gough(Tenor)

    Patricia Van Dross(Tenor)

    Harold Torres(Baritone)

    J.T. Carter(Baritone/Bass)

    Discography :

    The Crests 

    Singles :
    1957 - Sweetest One / My Juanita(Joyce 103)
    1957 - No One To Love / Wish She Was Mine(Joyce 105)
    1958 - Pretty Little Angel / I Thank The Moon(Coed 501)
    1958 - Sixteen Candles / Beside You(Coed 506)
    1959 - Six Nights A Week / I Do(Coed 509)
    1959 - Flower Of Love / Molly Mae(Coed 511)
    1959 - The Angels Listened In / I Thank The Moon(Coed 515)
    1959 - A Year Ago Tonight / Paper Crown(Coed 521)
    1960 - Step By Step / Gee(Coed 525)
    1960 - Trouble In Paradise / Always You(Coed 531)
    1960 - Journey Of Love / If My Heart Could Write A Letter(Coed 535)
    1960 - Isn't It Amazing / Molly Mae(Coed 537)
    1960 - Good Golly Miss Molly / I Remember(Coed 543)
    1961 - Little Miracles / Baby I Gotta Know(Coed 561)
    1962 - Fifty Million Heartbeats / Before I Loved Her (United Artists 474)
    1962 - Guilty / Number I With Me(Selma 311)
    1962 - The Actor / Three Tears In A Bucket(Trans Atlas 696)
    1963 - Did I Remember / Tears Will Fall(Selma 4000)
    1964 - A Love To Last A Lifetime / You Blew Out The Candles(Coral 62403)
    1964 - Baby / I love you so(Times Square 5/6-97)
    1965 - Phone Booth On The Highway / She's All Mine Alone (Apt 25075)

    Unreleased :
    1958 - Let Me Be The One (Coed)
    1958 - Strange Love (Coed)  
    1959 - Young Love (Coed)  
    1959 - Journey Of Love (Coed)  
    1960 - Keep Away From Carol (Coed)  
    1960 - Let True Love Begin (Coed)  
    1960 - Learning About Love (Coed)  
    1960 - You Took The Joy Of Spring (Coed)  
    1960 - Dream Maker (Coed)  
    1960 - Out In The Cold Again (Coed)  

    Ep :
    1960 - The Crests - The Angels Listened In (Coed 101)
    Sixteen Candles  / The Angels Listened In / Flower of Love / Six Nights A Week

    Lps :
    1960 - The Crests Sing All Biggies (Coed LP 901)
    Earth Angel / Good Golly Miss Molly / My Special Angel / Six Nights a Week / Butterfly /16 Candles / The Angels Listened In / A Rose and a Baby Ruth /I Remember (In the Still of the Night) / Party Doll / Silhouettes / Tweedlee Dee

    1960 - Best of the Crests (Coed LP 904)
    16 Candles / A Year Ago Tonight / Six Nights A Week / Angels Listened In / Gee (But I'd Give The World) / Step By Step / I Thank The Moon / Pretty Little Angel / Journey Of Love / Trouble In Paradise / Earth Angel / Flower Of Love / Always You / If My Heart Could Write A Letter / Molly Mae / Isn't It Amazing



    Johnny Maestro & The Crests
    1965 - I'm Stepping Out Of The Picture / Afraid Of Love (Scepter 12112)
    1966 - Heartburn / Try Me(Parkway 987)
    1966 - Come See Me / I Care About You(Parkway 999)
    1966 - My Time / Is It You(Parkway 118)

    Johnny Masters
    1960 - The Great Physician / Say It Isn’t So (Coed 527)

    Johnny Maestro
    1961 -     Model Girl / We’ve Got To Tell Them (Coed 545)
    1961 - What A Surprise / The Warning Voice  (Coed 549)
    1961 - My Happiness / Test Of Love (Coed 552)
    1961 - I. O. U. / The Way You Look Tonight (Coed 557)
    1961 - Besame Baby / It Must Be Love  (Coed 562)
    1962 - Before I Loved Her / 50 Million Heartbeats (United Artists 474)
    1963 - I’ll Be True / Over The Weekend (Cameo 256)
    1964 - Lean On Me / Make Up My Mind ( Cameo 305)
    1965 - Phone Booth On The Highway / She’s Mine Alone ( APT 25075)

    Biography :

    0ne of the most popular of the late '50s groups, the Crests were often thought to bean all black aggregation. In fact, they were about as integrated as a group could get, with four men (two blacks, a Puerto Rican, and an Italian), and one black female. Talmadge (Tommy) Gough (first tenor), Harold Torres (second tenor), and Patricia Van Dross (tenor) were all from the Alfred E. Smith housing projects in Chinatown on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. In 1955, while students at P. S. 160 Junior High, they teamed up with Jay (J. T.) Carter (bass) of Delancey Street to forma singing group.

    Top : J.T. Carter        Middle : Harold Torres,  Patricia Van Dross & Talmadge Gough          Bottom : Johnny Maestro

    With influences ranging from THE MILLS BROTHERS to THE AMES BROTHERS(with THE HARP-TONES, THE CLOVERS, THE 5 ROYALES, THE FIVE KEYS, THE PENGUINS, and THE ORIOLES thrown in for good measure) the unnamed quartet started performing at hospitals and charity functions for experience while learning the craft of harmonizing from an old singer known only as Mr. Morrow.

    Harold Torres, Patricia Van Dross, Talmadge Gough , J.T. Carter &  Johnny Maestro

    In 1956, Mulberry Street resident John Mastrangelo met the group at the Henry Street Settlement House. John's previous group had also been integrated, and reportedly included a young Tony Orlando. Mastrangelo's strong voice and natural feel for R&B made him an instant asset to the group and they joined forces. J. T. Carter came up with the name the Crests (a good many years before the toothpaste). The group found the New York subway system to be an excellent place to polish their sound. On one occasion they boarded the Lexington IRT at the Brooklyn Bridge and took the opportunity to practice.

    The Crests

    To their astonishment, as the train pulled into the next stop, a woman got up, walked over, handed them a business card, and left the train without even mentioning her name. The card read "Al Browne and Orchestra," Mr. Browne being the well-known arranger who backed up THE HEARTBEATS and other acts. The group scrambled to call him, set up an audition, and by June 1957 were recording two original Mastrangelo compositions. The mysterious lady on the train turned out to be Mrs. Al Browne.

    The Crests   

    Harold Torres, Johnny Maestro, Talmadge Gough & J.T. Carter

    The songs "Sweetest One" and "My Juanita" were tremendous first efforts for a new group, especially considering the medieval production work and studio sound. "My Juanita" was an up-tempo rocker with a slow double-chime prelude, a smooth lead from Mastrangelo (now calling himself Johnny Maestro), and a tight background by the Crests. "Sweetest One" was an understated ballad. Its simplicity was classic, but most in the know would have put their money on "Juanita." On July 15, 1957, the tiny Joyce Records (run out of the back room of a Brooklyn record store) bet on "Sweetest One," putting all two minutes and four seconds on the national Top 100 chart peaking at number 86. "My Juanita7 subsequently became a standard rehearsal tune for every street-corner group.

    The Crests Talmadge Gough, Harold Torres, J.T. Carter &  Johnny Maestro

    The Crest's next single was "No One to Love," a beautiful ballad with an "Earth Angel" intro followed by wondrous harmony and an original arrangement. Lightning didn't strike twice, but Maestro recalls that each member received a $17.50 royalty for the tune. It probably went to buy the checkered sport jackets and thin black ties they wore at their local gigs (with Pat in her gown, the performers looked like four Bo Diddleys and a prom queen).

    The Crests     The Crests

    After almost a year of shows, the Crests got a break in the form of an introduction by songwriter Billy Dawn Smith to music publisher George Paxton, a veteran of the Brill building. Paxton formed Coed Records and signed the group just as they became a quartet. Pat was forced to leave when her mother refused to let her tour with the older guys (in 1958 the members were 18 to 19 years old). Had Patricia's younger brother been old enough to do more than hang out to hear the group sing, he would have been an interesting vocal addition to the Crests. His name was Luther Van Dross.

    The Crests Johnny Maestro, Talmadge Gough, Harold Torres & J.T. Carter

    The Crests' first Coed single was "Pretty Little Angel" b/w "I Thank the Moon," the former written by Maestro, arranger Bert Keyes, and Luther Dixon (writer of several SHIRELLE's hits), and the latter by Billy Dawn Smith. "Pretty" did well in New York (for example one Rochester station, WRVM's survey had it at number 25 and moving up on March 31st) but soon fizzled out. The next release was "Beside You," a pretty ballad with loads of harmony and a mid250s sound. When deejay Alan Freed and TV's Dick Clark received their copies they both flipped it over and took a liking to a sentimental birthday song called "16 Candles." The record entered the Billboard pop charts on November 24, 1958, and the R&B charts almost two months later.

    The Crests J.T. Carter, Harold Torres , Talmadge Gough & Johnny Maestro

    The group then played the first of many shows for Alan Freed's Christmas party at the Loew's State Theatre along with three giants of rock who would all be dead within six weeks: Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper. In the week of January 26, 1959, "16 Candles" was number four nationally and Vileness' "Donna' was number three. J. T. Taylor had a friendly bet with Valens that week as to whose record would hit number one first. On February 3, 1959, Valens, Holly, and the Big Bopper J. P. Richardson) died in a plane crash while the Billboards chart of February 9 had "16 Candles" at number two and "Donna" at number three. Ironically, neither recording ever made it to number one. The record that kept both from that position was Lloyd Price's "Stagger Lee."

    The Crests  

    Johnny Maestro with Al Contrera, , Ralph Lizano, Santo Farina, Johnny Farina and George Galfo (The Mystics)

     At its peak, "16 Candles" was selling 25,000 records a day and well on its way to becoming one of the most popular birthday songs since "Happy Birthday." "16 Candles" actually started out as "21 Candles" written by Luther Dixon and Allyson Kent, but since the average age of targeted record buyers was much younger, the number of candles was brought down a few notches.The Crests were now playing all the major venues from the Apollo to the Paramount along with the prime-time Saturday night radio version of "American Bandstand." (Dick Clark may remember his first encounter with the Crests at the Little Theatre on 47th Street in New York City.

    The Crests Talmadge Gough, Harold Torres ,  J.T. Carter,  Johnny Maestro with a fan

    The Crests were cavorting in the dressing room when Clark peeked in to say hello. When one of the boys fell against the door Clark got a black eye for his trouble.) The boys appeared on what in those days were called all-star shows-and they really were. On a given night the Crests would appear with the likes of Jackie Wilson, THE MOONGLOWS, Chuck Berry, the Everly Brothers, Bo Diddley, THE FLAMINGOS, DION AND THE BELMONTS, Frankie Avalon, and more saxophone-led orchestras than you could shake a stick at, including those of Sam "the Man Taylor, King Curtis, Big Al Sears, Red Prysock, Earl Warren, and more. From 1958 to 1960 the group was almost always on the road.

    The Crests  

    Their first single after "Candles" was a swaying, dreamy stroll-styled ballad called "Six Nights a Week" (#28 Pop, #16 R&B). As was the case with many acts, the charts were a relatively accurate barometer of the quality of the Crests records from this point on. "Flower of Love" was bland in comparison to other Crest cuts and only attained a six-week run up to number 79. But the charting proved that the Crests were out in front with deejays and the public; far superior records of the time (such as "Millionaire Hobo ' by the Fantastics, "MY Heart7' by THE CAROLLONS, and "Lovers Never Say Goodbye" by the Flamingos) had less activity.

    The Crests    The Crests

    Their next single, however, was a catchy love song called "The Angels Listened In" (#22 Pop, #14 R&B). It was the last Crests single to chart R&B. Their fall 1959 release, "A Year Ago Tonight," was an up-tempo take on "16 Candles," and it probably overachieved by reaching number 42. 1960 kicked off with two catchy and danceable tunes, "Step By Step"(#14) and "Trouble In Paradise" (#20) (The latter title was significant, for by now the group was starting to feel growing pressure from Coed for Johnny to go solo.) The last two singles of 1960, "Journey of Love" and "Isn't it Amazing," barely charted (numbers 81 and 100, respectively). Different members made up the group from 1960  include Eddie Wright, Chuck Foote, and Leonard Alexander.

    The Crests     The Crests

    A long overlooked Crests single titled "I Remember" was actually the old FIVE SATINS standard "In the Still of the Night"; done competently by Maestro and company, it was their last Coed single together. Little Miracles" was their next single; it showcased new lead James Ancrum and became the first Crests single in 10 tries that didn't make the top 100 (#102). Gough then quit, moving to Detroit to work for auto giant General Motors.  Gary Lewis (not Jerry's son) replaced him. Johnny went solo as long predicted, but what was not predicted was that his records would gain absolutely no acceptance.

    The Crests

    He tried a few one-shots with other groups (THE TYMES' "Over the Weekend" b/w "I'll Be True" in 1963 and "Try Me" b/w "Heartburn" with a studio group calling themselves the Crests in 1966), but they also failed. The Crests, meanwhile, were caught up in a court dispute with Coed over ownership of the name. The group finally won and signed with Morty Craft's Selma Records (Craft owned more labels than the Crests had singles), recording "Guilty"  in January 1962 and charting only at number 123. The group went back to touring when their 1963 Selma side "Did I Remember" flopped.

    The Crests    The Crests  

    (Left to Right) Chuck Foote, Leonard Alexander                          (From top) Eddie Wright,Chuck Foote
             Johnny Maestro & Eddie Wright                                      Johnny Maestro and Leonard Alexander

                                A 1964 sequel to "16 Candles" leased by Craft to Coral suffered a similar fate; its prescient title was "You Blew Out the Candles." Kenneth Head filled in for Ancrum on one single for Trans Atlas in 1962, but the songs weren't as good as the ones the Coed Records staff had provided. ( George Paxton was a good publisher, with a knack for finding hits for his acts.)Through the '60s, the Crests toured on their name and signed no further record deals. Maestro went on to form THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE in 1968.

    American Singing Groups: A History from 1940s to Today by Jay Warner

    Videos :

    Step By Step

    The Angels Listened In

    Six Nights A Week

    Trouble In Paradise


    Follow this section's article RSS flux
    Follow this section's comments RSS flux