The Crests

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
The Crests
Origin New York City, New York, United States
Genres Doo Wop, R&B, Rock 'n' Roll
Years active 1955–Present
Labels Coed Records
Members J.T. Carter
Peter Lemongello, Jr.
Joe Rivera
D.R. Moyer
Past members Talmadge Gough
Harold Torres
Patricia Van Dross
Johnny Maestro

The Crests were an American doo-wop group, formed by bass vocalist J.T. Carter in the mid 1950s. The group had several Top 40 hits in the late 1950s and early 1960s on Coed Records. Their most popular song, “16 Candles,” rose to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in February 1959 selling over one million copies and earning a gold disc status.[1] The group’s other hits include “Step By Step,” “The Angels Listened In,” “Trouble In Paradise,” “Six Nights A Week,” “A Year Ago Tonight,” among others. The Crests were the first interracially mixed Doo Wop group, consisting of three African American members (one female), one Puerto Rican, and one Italian American.


Founded by J.T. Carter, the group included Talmadge “Tommy” Gough (1939-2014), Harold “Chico” Torres (deceased) and Patricia Van Dross (1943-1993) (older sister of R&B singer Luther Vandross). Carter selected vocalist Johnny Mastrangelo (1939-2010) (shortened to Johnny Mastro and later to Johnny Maestro) as lead vocalist.

One fateful day in 1956, while singing in a New York subway, The Crests were discovered. The wife of the famous orchestra leader, Al Browne handed the group a card and told them to call her husband. Browne connected the group with Joyce Records where they recorded their first two songs, the Maestro penned, “My Juanita” and “Sweetest One.”

In 1957, they charted with their first release, “Sweetest One” on Joyce Records. Maestro's vocal quality & style became instantly recognizable, and a jukebox favorite of national teen audiences. His pleasing vocals along with J.T.’s application of the group’s vocal harmonies and choreography have The Crests their unique look and sound which when combined with great song selections with dance-easy beats made for plenty of hits.

After recording two more singles for Joyce Records, Patricia Van Dross left The Crests in 1958 to finish her education.

Their next single after "16 Candles (song)" on COED Records was “Six Nights A Week” which hit #28 on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts and #17 on the R&B. Their next release “Flower Of Love” was bland compared to other Crests cuts and only attained a six-week run-up to #79.

From 1958-1960 the group was almost always on the road. In the late 1950s, The Crests performed on several national teen dance television shows, including “American Bandstand” and “The Dick Clark Show” (which Johnny Maestro & The Crests were one of the most frequent guests of, appearing on the show a total of seven different times).

After several years of making hits and touring with the group, Maestro left to pursue a solo career in 1961.

In 1961, The Crests recorded a new single, “Little Miracles,” with Tony Middleton, lead singer of The Willows, singing lead; it was their first single not to chart in the Top 100. Gough quit the group after the single, moving to Detroit to work for auto giant General Motors, and was replaced by Gary “Kit” Lewis (not to be confused with Gary Lewis of Gary Lewis & the Playboys fame).

Maestro 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.

Meanwhile, The Crests 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 had more record labels than The Crests had singles).

James Ancrum then took over the lead, recording “Guilty” in January 1962 and charting only to #123. The group went back to touring when their 1963 Selma side “Did I Remember?” flopped. A 1964 sequel to “16 Candles” leased by Craft to Coral suffered a similar fate; its prescient title was “You Blew Out The Candles.” [2]

In 1965, J.T. Carter and Mel Tillison were signed with Decca Records and chosen to be the potential Artists of the year to come. Carter wrote, “Closer To Your Heart” & “The Wild Ones” originally written for Jordan Christopher’s group “The Wild Ones.” Internal problems prevented Decca from securing the worldwide release of these recordings and the company folded, leaving all their artists in limbo.

Through the 1960s, The Crests toured on their name and signed no further record deals.

By 1968, Johnny Maestro had joined with The Del Satins as their lead singer and merged with The Rhythm Method in March 1968 to become The Brooklyn Bridge. In 1969, they had a #3 hit with “Worst That Could Happen.”

By then Torres was gone, he had moved to upstate New York and became a jeweler, but the group continued as a trio of Carter, Ancrum, and Lewis and had become a lounge act, disbanding in 1978. Carter went to sing with Charlie Thomas' Drifters for a year, then moved to Plainfield, New Jersey to teach voice and set up his own recording studio.

In 1973, Carter met his wife Leona, an accomplished classical pianist/composer. Leona Carter has been a part of The Crests since then.

Carter reformed The Crests in 1980, auditioning over 200 singers at his studio, finally settling on lead Bill Damon (a Maestro sound-alike), Greg Sereck, Dennis Ray and New York drummer, Jon Ihle. The group continued well into the 1990s and toured with a five-piece band including his wife Leona on Keys.

Since as far back as the 1980s, Aside from The Drifters, J.T. has worked with The Five Satins, Randy & The Rainbows, Bobby Valli (Frankie Valli’s brother) and many more. He has recorded an album with The Blue Notes and recorded all the background harmonies on Teddy Pendergrass’ CDs.

The 1984 John Hughes teen film “Sixteen Candles” took its title from The Crests’ song, which was re-recorded by The Stray Cats for the “Sixteen Candles” soundtrack.

In June 1987, for a concert in Peekskill, New York, Maestro, Carter, Torres, and Gough (The Original Crests) reunited as “The Crests,” which was organized by Carter.

From 1990-2010, Johnny Maestro invited J.T. to join him and The Brooklyn Bridge to record with them and to re-record some of their greatest hits.

From the late 2000s til the early 2010s, Carter’s group consisted of Carter, Carter’s wife Leona, Barry Newman & Terry King (formerly of The Drifters). They later became Carter, Newman, King & Richie Merritt (formerly of The Clovers & The Marcels) instead of Carter’s wife. Michael D’Amore also sang with this lineup for a time.

In April 2010, the Los Angeles-based rights-management firm Beach Road Music, LLC, acquired the Coed Records catalog, subsequently re-releasing The Crests' 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” in an attempt to boost Maestro as a solo performer.

Carter has had a new level of recognition in recent times and 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.[3]

In 2013, Carter also appeared on the 1st Annual Palisades Park Reunion concert with Cousin Brucie aka Bruce Morrow,[4] broadcast live on SiriusXM satellite radio. Other performers included Neil Sedaka, Lesley Gore, Bobby Lewis and Ronnie Spector. Carter was also asked to return two years later for Cousin Brucie's 3rd Annual Palisades Park Reunion concert.

In January of 2014, Carter interviewed Joe Franklin on the Bloomberg Radio network.

In 2014, Carter also 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.[5]

In March of 2015, Carter was accepted as a member of The Recording Academy aka the Grammys.

In 2016, Carter continued his legendary career performing as J.T. Carter’s “Crests,” based on provisions of the Truth in Music Act. Carter’s new lineup included Carter back with[Richard Merritt, plus Ken Boulden (formerly of Solid Gold) and one other member, who was soon replaced by Russell Gore, Jr. (former lead singer of The Original Tymes). J.T. Carter’s “Crests” held their first concert in Upland, California on July 16, 2016, to a sold-out crowd and received standing ovations. [6]

At age 76, Carter is still performing throughout the US and Canada and still appears with Charlie Thomas and his Drifters on occasion.[3][7][8][9][10]

In March of 2018 at the age of 76, Carter appeared on the PBS Music special “My Music: Doo Wop Generations,” which was aired nationally. TJ Lubinsty, Bowzer and Little Anthony hosted the event. The event was structured to feature new young Doo wop talent, and had Peter Lemongello, Jr. in the role of the famed vocalist, Johnny Maestro. Over 20 million people tuned in. [11]

J.T. Carter's Crests 2017 to Present[edit]

J.T. Carter's Crests in 2017 (Left to Right: J.T. Carter, D.R. Moyer, Ray Orta, Peter Lemongello, Jr.)

On August 4, 2017, J.T. Carter came together with a new group of “Crests,” consisting of 17-year-old lead, Peter Lemongello, Jr. (son of Peter Lemongello) and tenors, Joe Rivera (formerly of Earl Lewis & The Channels) & Luis Mercado of The Fabulaires, to perform in an R&B music festival in Indian Head, MD the following day. After only 1 show, Mercado was replaced by D.R. Moyer who has sung with a number of groups including The Platters, The Dubs, The Paragons and The Jarmels.[12] Former Jarmels member, Ray Orta was also called in as a fill-in replacement for Joe Rivera.

On December 12, 2017, J.T. Carter's Crests performed at The Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park, New Jersey, along with over 40 other groups from the 50's & 60's, as part of T.J. Lubinsky's new PBS TV Special, "Doo Wop Generations" (part of the "My Music" series). The special aired nationally on PBS on March 3, 2018.

The group was featured singing "The Angels Listened In" on the PBS television broadcast, as well as "Step By Step" listed on the CD/DVD track listing.

Death of Original Members[edit]

Patricia Van Dross died of complications from diabetes in 1993.

Harold "Chico" Torres died sometime in the early 2000's in upstate, New York.

Johnny Maestro (born John Peter Mastrangelo, May 7, 1939, Manhattan, New York) lived in Islip, New York, until 2003. He died of cancer on March 24, 2010, at his home in Cape Coral, Florida. He was 70.[13]

Tommy Gough (born Talmadge E. Gough, October 15, 1939, Sardis, Georgia) died of throat cancer on August 24, 2014 at his home in Flint Michigan. He was 74.[14][15]

Awards and recognition[edit]

The Crests were inducted into the United in Group Harmony Association (UGHA) Hall of Fame in 2000.

The Crests were inducted into The Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2004.

The Crests were inducted into The Doo Wop Hall of Fame in 2008.

The Crests were inducted into The Doo Wop Music Hall of Fame in 2015.

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 Maestro was born and where he began his music career, introduced an Extension of Remarks in the House of Representatives. This posthumous honor is now a permanent part of the Congressional Record. The Extension of Remarks includes the original members of The Crests.[16]

On November 12, 2013, J.T. Carter was honored by the Pennsylvania State House, Speaker of the House Sam Smith, and PA State Representative Rosemary M Brown, for his lifetime in the music industry and for being the first African American to form an interracial vocal group in the America. Carter was officially recognized on the state house floor.[3][7]

In 2014, Carter was honored with a lifetime achievement award from The Lehigh Valley Music Awards in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

In 2016, J.T. Carter, Charlie Thomas of The Drifters and Ernest Wright of Little Anthony & The Imperials were honored in both House and Senate chambers at the State Capital in Dover, Delaware for their contributions to American Music, declaring them “Rock-n-Roll Royalty.” The three also met with Governor Jack A. Markell, who presented them a special Gubernatorial tribute. (148th General Assembly, State of Delaware Senate Concurrent Resolution No: 53, March 22, 2016), (State of Delaware, Office of the Governor Tribute No: 160201)


Year Title Chart positions Record Label Notes
US Hot 100 US R&B
1957 A: “Sweetest One”
B: “My Juanita”
86 Joyce Recorded in early 1957
Recorded in early 1957
A: “No One To Love”
B: “Wish She Was Mine”
Recorded on May 22, 1957
Recorded on May 22, 1957
1958 A: “Pretty Little Angel”
B: “I Thank The Moon”
Coed Recorded on June 25, 1958
Recorded on June 25, 1958
A:16 Candles” (Originally the B Side)
B: “Beside You”
2 4 Recorded on August 12, 1958
Recorded on June 25, 1958
1959 A: “Six Nights A Week”
B: “I Do”
28 17 Recorded on January 14, 1959
Recorded on January 14, 1959
A: “Flower Of Love”
B: “Molly Mae”
79 Recorded on January 14, 1959
Recorded on August 12, 1958
A: “The Angels Listened In”
B: “I Thank The Moon”
22 14 Recorded on March 24, 1959
Recorded on June 25, 1958
A: “A Year Ago Tonight”
B: “Paper Crown”
42 Recorded on October 11, 1959
Recorded on October 11, 1959
1960 A: “Step By Step”
B: “Gee (But I'd Give The World)”
14 Recorded on January 18, 1960
Recorded on January 18, 1960
A: “Trouble In Paradise”
B: “Always You”
20 Recorded on May 4, 1960
Recorded on May 04, 1960
A: “Journey Of Love”
B: “If My Heart Could Write A Letter”
81 Recorded on January 18, 1960
Recorded on May 04, 1960
A: “Isn't It Amazing”
B: “Molly Mae”
100 Recorded on May 4, 1960
Recorded on August 12, 1958
A:I Remember (In the Still of the Night)
B: “Good Golly Miss Molly”
Recorded on March 24, 1959
A: “Say It Isn’t So”
B: “The Great Physician”
Recorded on January 18, 1960
Recorded on January 18, 1960
1961 A: “Model Girl”
B: “We’ve Got To Tell Them”
20 Recorded on December 29, 1960
Recorded on December 29, 1960
A: “What A Surprise”
B: “The Warning Voice”
33 Recorded on December 19, 1960
Recorded on December 29, 1960
A: “Little Miracles”
B: “Baby I Gotta' Know”
1962 A: “The Actor”
B: “Three Tears In A Bucket”
Trans Atlas
B: “Number One With Me”
123 Selma
1963 A: “Did I Remember”
B: “Tears Will Fall”
1964 A: “A Love To Last A Lifetime”
B: “You Blew Out The Candles”

Unreleased Recordings

Year Title Record Label Notes
1958 “Strange Love” Coed Recorded on June 25, 1958
Released in 1991
1959 “Let Me Be The One” Recorded on January 14, 1959
Released in 1991
“Young Love” Recorded on October 11, 1959
Released in 1990
1960 “You Took The Joy Out Of Spring” Recorded on May 4, 1960
Released in 1991
“Learning 'Bout Love” Recorded on May 4, 1960
Released in 1991
“Let True Love Begin” Recorded on December 19, 1960
Released in 1991
“Keep Away From Carol” Recorded on December 29, 1960
Released in 1991


  1. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 99. ISBN 0-214-20512-6. 
  2. ^ [1] Archived May 8, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ a b c "Blow out the candles for J.T. Carter | Milford PA | Local News". 2014-01-02. Retrieved 2014-08-11. 
  4. ^ "Barry Newman JT Carter of the Crests and Bruce Morrow attend the... News Photo 171193065". Getty Images. 2013-06-22. Retrieved 2014-08-11. 
  5. ^ Roseanne Bottone (2014-07-25). "Bushkill doo-wop legend joins TV show celebrating classic music, cars". Retrieved 2015-08-17. 
  6. ^ Roseanne Bottone. "Music legends collaborating on a medley of memories". 
  7. ^ a b Roseanne Bottone (2014-01-03). "J.T. Carter says glory years with the Crests remain popular". Retrieved 2014-08-11. 
  8. ^ Andrew Scott (2012-09-03). "J.T. Carter, an original member of doo-wop's the Crests, still living in harmony". Retrieved 2014-08-11. 
  9. ^ "Crests Legend and Originator, J.T. Carter to be recognized on the House Floor of the PA State Capital". PRLog. Retrieved 2014-08-11. 
  10. ^ "The Johnny Maestro Story" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-08-11. 
  11. ^ "J.T. Carter's Crests". EA Kroll Productions. Retrieved 2018-04-09. 
  12. ^ "J.T. Carter's Crests". Retrieved 2018-01-09. 
  13. ^ Dennis Hevesi (March 26, 2010). "Johnny Maestro, Brooklyn Bridge Singer, Dies at 70". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-10-18. (Subscription required (help)). 
  14. ^ "Mr. Talmadge E. Gough". Retrieved April 28, 2015. 
  15. ^ "Passings: Tommy Gough of the Crests". Retrieved April 28, 2015. 
  16. ^ "Congressional Record – Extension of Remarks" (PDF). May 9, 2012. Retrieved 2012-10-18. 

External links[edit]