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|Johnny Maestro & the Brooklyn Bridge
Johnny Maestro (center) with Freddy Ferrara (left) and Les Cauchi (right) of the Brooklyn Bridge at a 2006 show
|Also known as
||The Brooklyn Bridge
||New York City, U.S.
||Doo wop, R&B, pop, rock
||The Del-Satins, The Crests
“Smitty” Edward Smith
Johnny Maestro & the Brooklyn Bridge (or simply The Brooklyn Bridge) is an American musical group, best known for their million-selling rendition of Jimmy Webb‘s “The Worst That Could Happen” (1968).
New York City-born Johnny Maestro (born John Mastrangelo aka Johnny Mastro aka Johnny Masters; May 7, 1939 – March 24, 2010) began his career in 1957 as the original lead singer of the Crests, one of the first interracial groups of the recording industry. Patricia Van Dross, older sister to famed R&B singer Luther Vandross, sang with Johnny Maestro while The Crests were signed to the Joyce Record label. Before the Crests signed with Coed Records, Patricia left the group because her mother didn’t want her 15-year-old daughter touring with the older guys. After a regional hit with “My Juanita”/”Sweetest One” on the Joyce label, he had two years of chart success with the Crests on Coed Records with “16 Candles”, “Six Nights A Week”, “Step by Step”, “The Angels Listened In”, and “Trouble in Paradise”. Between “Step by Step” and “Trouble in Paradise”, Coed released a single “The Great Physician” under the name Johnny Masters. Maestro would leave the Crests for a solo career. Maestro was unable to reach his former chart heights with the Crests, but did have Top 40 hits with “What A Surprise” and “Model Girl” in 1961 as solo artist Johnny Mastro, “The Voice of the Crests” for Coed Records. For his next three singles with the label he was known as Johnny Maestro, the third spelling change for the label. None of those records charted and Maestro recorded for three different labels before briefly reuniting with the Crests as Johnny Maestro & the Crests in 1965 and 1966 which produced four singles.
By 1967, another New York vocal group called the Del-Satins—who had become well known in the New York area as weekly performers on the local dance party program The Clay Cole Show, had made several non-charting recordings between 1959 and 1967 under their own name, and were also noted for backing up Dion on his post-Belmonts recordings—were looking for a new lead singer to replace original lead Stan Zizka. Other members were brothers Fred and Tom Ferrara (baritone and bass), Les Cauchi (first tenor) and Bobby Faila (second tenor). According to Cauchi, members of the group ran into Maestro at a local gym, playing his guitar, and approached him with the offer to join the group. After initially turning them down, Maestro’s manager, Betty Sperber, called Cauchi and told him Maestro had changed his mind.
In 1968, Sperber, owner and founder of the talent management and booking agency Action Talents in New York City, was hosting her once a month Battle of the Bands talent search at the Cloud Nine nightclub in Long Island and brought Maestro along as the evening’s special guest star. Action Talents’ Vice President and General Manager Alan White suggested that Maestro be backed up that night by a seven-piece brass-filled group of youngsters called The Rhythm Method. That night’s performance was such a success that the next day Sperber decided to combine the talents of Maestro, the four Del-Satins, and The Rhythm Method. The new group’s name came about after White made the off-handed comment that “it would be easier to sell the Brooklyn Bridge” than book the proposed 11-piece act.
Johnny and the Bridge rehearsed their unusual combination of smooth vocal harmonies and full horns, and signed a recording contract with Buddah records. Their first release, a version of the Jimmy Webb song “Worst That Could Happen” (a note-for-note cover of the version previously recorded by The 5th Dimension on the album The Magic Garden, which had not been released as a single), reached No. 3 on the Billboard pop chart. It sold over one and a quarter million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A.. The follow-up, “Welcome Me Love”, and its flip side, “Blessed is the Rain” — both by Tony Romeo — each reached the Top 50. A dramatic version of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and the controversial “Your Husband, My Wife” also reached the middle ranges of the charts. The group sold over 10 million records by 1972, including LP sales, mostly produced by Wes Farrell. Appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Della Reese Show, and other programs helped to bring the group to the national stage.
After its heyday, the Brooklyn Bridge downsized to a five-man group, with the vocalists playing their own instruments. For example, Maestro could be seen on stage playing rhythm guitar, while former Rhythm Method bassist Jim Rosica picked up a vocal part. Later in the 1970s, as the Rock and Roll Revival evolved from a nostalgic fad to a respected genre, the group began to add members, retaining its core vocalists. By 1985, the group had solidified into an eight piece group, including original Del Satins, Cauchi, Fred Ferrara, and original Bridge member Rosica, augmented by a horn section for special occasions. The drummer for the current line up, Lou Agiesta, was the drummer for the Original American Touring Company of Jesus Christ Superstar(1970). Today he is drummer (Brooklyn Bridge) and sub drummer for (Little Anthony And The Imperials).
The later version of the Brooklyn Bridge released a Christmas EP in 1989 and a greatest hits compilation in 1993, re-recording Maestro’s hits with The Crests. In the early 1990s, Maestro moonlighted as the background tenor on Joel Katz’s studio project CD Joel & the Dymensions (which also featured baritone-bass Bobby Jay). In 1994, The Brooklyn Bridge recorded the 10-song CD Acappella.
Recently, the Brooklyn Bridge was featured in one of PBS’s biggest fundraising events ever, “Doo Wop 50”, performing both “16 Candles” and “The Worst That Could Happen”; the entire program was released on VHS and DVD. In 2005, the Brooklyn Bridge released a full concert-length DVD as part of the Pops Legends Live series. They continue to tour and in 2004 released a CD on the Collectables label titled Today, featuring more re-recordings of their hits and versions of other groups’ songs of the 1950s and 1960s.
The Brooklyn Bridge was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall Of Fame in 2005. They were inducted into the South Carolina Music (Rhythm & Blues) Hall of Fame in May 2006 and the Long Island Music Hall of Fame on October 15, 2006.
In 2007, Collectables Records reissued the Brooklyn Bridge’s 2002 album Peace on Earth as Songs of Inspiration. On March 31, 2009, the album Today, Volume 2 was released on CD by Collectables Records.
Johnny Maestro died on March 24, 2010, from cancer in Cape Coral, Florida, at age 70.
In April 2010, the Los Angeles-based rights-management firm Beach Road Music, LLC, acquired the Coed Records catalog, subsequently re-releasing the Maestro song “The Great Physician” on the 2011 compilation album From The Vault: The Coed Records Lost Master Tapes, Volume 1. “The Great Physician” was originally released in 1960 as Coed 527, under the pseudonym “Johnny Masters”.
Freddy Ferrara died on October 21, 2011, from a cardiac arrest. Following the deaths of Maestro and Ferrara, original member Joe Ruvio returned, and the group recruited new lead singer Roy Michaels. Michaels was replaced by Joe Esposito in 2013.
On May 9, 2012, Johnny Maestro was honored by the House of Representatives of the United States of America. Congressman Jerrold Nadler of New York, whose district includes the neighborhood where Johnny was born and raised, and where he began his music career, introduced an Extension of Remarks in the House of Representatives. In June 2012, a 40th Anniversary DVD was released by the Brooklyn Bridge. The DVD includes a full concert and interviews with group members, recorded on May 6, 2006 (38 years after the group formed).
- See Johnny Maestro & The Brooklyn Bridge discography for a complete discography.
Original: vocals Johnny Maestro, Les Cauchi, Fred Ferrara, Mike Gregorio, musical director Tom Sullivan, keyboardist Carolyn Wood, guitarist Richie Macioce, bass guitarist Jimmy Rosica, trumpeter Shelly Davis, saxophonist Joe Ruvio and drummers Tony Trombino, Artie Catanzarita (died October 12, 2014) and very briefly substituting for Richie Macioce, due to illness, Rick Solomon aka BlueRick.
Current: vocals (The Brooklyn Bridge Band): Joe Esposito, Les Cauchi, Joe Ruvio, keyboards and vocals Marty D’Amico, bass and vocals Jimmy Rosica, guitarist Jim Sarle and drummer Lou Agiesta. (This lineup also previously included members Ed Lisciandro [guitar and vocals], who was with the group for some of their earlier [PBS] performances, and Richie Bono, who played saxophone on many of their earlier recordings).