were an American doo-wop group, formed by bass vocalist J. T. Carter in the mid-1950s. Their most popular song, “
“, rose to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1959, selling over one million copies, earning a gold disc. The interracial group had three African American members (one female), one Puerto Rican, and one Italian American.
Founded by J.T. Carter, the group included Talmadge Gough, Harold Torres and Patricia Vandross (sister of R&B singer Luther Vandross). Carter selected vocalist Johnny Mastrangelo (shortened to Johnny Mastro and later to Johnny Maestro) as lead vocalist. Maestro’s vocal style became instantly recognizable, and a jukebox favorite of national teen audiences. His quality vocals, great song selections and recordings, with dance-easy beats, made for charted hits. The group had several Top 40 hits in the late 1950s and early 1960s on Coed Records, including the #2 hit, “16 Candles”, “Six Nights a Week”, “The Angels Listened In”, “A Year Ago Tonight”, “Step By Step” and “Trouble in Paradise.” They also charted with “Sweetest One” (Joyce Records) in 1957. In the late 1950s the group performed on several national teen dance television shows, including American Bandstand and The Dick Clark Show.
After recording two singles for Joyce Records, Vandross left The Crests in 1958. Maestro left for a solo career in 1961. He recorded with other backup singers under the name Johnny Maestro & The Crests, producing a single for United Artists in 1962, two singles for Cameo Records in 1963-64, a single for APT Records in 1965, a single for Scepter Records in 1965 and three singles for the Parkway label in 1966. He later joined The Del Satins as their lead singer. They merged with The Rhythm Method in March 1968 to become Johnny Maestro & the Brooklyn Bridge. In 1969 they had a #3 hit with “The Worst That Could Happen”. The Crests recorded a new single, “Little Miracles”, with Tony Middleton singing lead. It was the first single not to chart in the Top 100. James Ancrum then took over the lead, recording “Guilty” (Selma Records) and several other songs. Gough quit the group after the single, and was replaced by Gary Lewis (not to be confused with Gary Lewis of Gary Lewis & the Playboys fame). Subsequently, the group failed to find success throughout the decade.
By the late 1960s Torres was gone. The group continued until 1978 as a trio of Carter, Ancrum and Lewis, when the group split. Carter went on to sing with Charlie Thomas’ Drifters.
Carter reformed the group in 1980, auditioning over 200 singers, finally settling on lead Bill Damon, Greg Sereck, Dennis Ray and New York drummer Jon Ihle. The group continued well into the 1990s. Carter sold the trademark to The Crests’ name to Tommy Mara in the late 1990s. Mara was Carter’s lead vocalist at the time, and now continues the group without Carter.
Carter has had a new level of recognition in recent times. On November 12, 2013, he was recognized on the Pennsylvania State House Floor by Speaker of the House, The Honorable Sam Smith and State Representative Rosemary M. Brown for a lifetime in music and as the first African American to form an interracial vocal group in the United States. In 2013 Carter also appeared on the 1st Annual Palisades Park Reunion concert with Cousin Brucie aka Bruce Morrow, broadcast live on SiriusXM satellite radio. Other performers included Neil Sedaka, Lesley Gore, Bobby Lewis and Ronnie Spector. In January 2014 Carter interviewed Joe Franklin on the Bloomberg Radio network. Carter is still performing throughout the US and Canada, at age 74. As of 2012, publicist Erik A. Kroll, is accredited with Carter’s recent popularity and the music of The Crests reborn. In 2014, Carter began production on American Classics, The Stars, Music and Cars, a TV show featuring the music and cars of the 1950s and 1960s, produced by Emmy Awards winner Ashley Russo. In March of 2015 Carter was accepted as a member in The Recording Academy aka the Grammys.