Johnny Maestro, the legendary lead singer of the Crests and Brooklyn Bridge,
died of cancer on March 24 at his home in Florida at the age of 70. Born John Mastrangelo in Brooklyn in
1939, he began his career in 1957 with the Crests, one of the music industry's first interracial groups
and the most successful. The other members of the group were Harold Torres, J.T. Carter, Talmadge Gough and Patricia Van Dross. During that year they had a chart record on the Joyce label with "Sweetest One" which made it to #86. In 1958 they switched to Coed records and stormed up the chart with their classic signature song "16 Candles," which peaked at #2 for two weeks and spent 21 weeks in the Billboard Hot 100. Over the next year the group had several other hits including "Six Nights A Week" (#28),
"The Angels Listened In" (#22), "Step By Step (#14) and "Trouble In Paradise" (#20). Johnny left the group in 1961 and had solo hits with "Model Girl" (#20) and "What A Surprise" (#33). In 1968 he became the lead singer
of Brooklyn Bridge, an unusual recording act consisting of a vocal quartet called the Del Satins (they had
backed Dion on most of his biggest hits) and a seven piece band called the Rhythm Method. The act's recordingof "Worst That Could Happen" for Buddah Records got to #3 on the chart and became yet another rock and roll classic for Johnny Maestro. Six more chart singles followed. Both the Crests and Brooklyn Bridge were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall Of Fame, in 2004 and 2005 respectively. Johnny continued working in various incarnations of his two groups until his final illness forced him to stop. For over 50 years he thrilled audiences with his magnificent distinctive voice. This is truly one of the most significant losses in the annals of rock and roll music.
Johnny had a magnificent voice and was a wonderful entertainer who, during more than 50 years performing, touched so many hearts. He was also one of the most beloved people in music. Rock and Roll Heaven now has its latest Golden Angel.
Shortly before his death on March 24, Johnny sent this message to his fans throughout the world:
"I would like to thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for their thoughts, get well wishes and prayers while I am undergoing treatment for cancer. I have been fortunate to be able to perform before the 'best audiences,' our loyal fans dating back to the late 1950's. I am very grateful for the opportunity that has allowed me to do something that 'I love' and to be able to share our music with so many people. I want everyone to know that when I read your messages, it brightens my day and gives me strength and determination to get back on stage. Your support is the best medicine."
Sadly, that was not meant to be. Johnny is gone. But he will never be forgotten. His music will live on forever and continue to be enjoyed by millions.
In tribute to this very special individual, here's a few comments from some of his notable musical peers.
Denise, Bernadette and Ronnie:
"We are devastated by this news. Johnny was truly special in so many ways and he always gave his all to make his fans happy. His music touched our hearts and will continue to do so. He was truly a rock and roll legend in every sense of the word."
"Johnny was a class act. He was truly a gentleman," singer Dion DiMucci said on Facebook. 'He sang `You'll Never Walk Alone' like an angel. ... We thank you for the beautiful trip you took us on. Love and peace."
Les Cauchi (Brooklyn Bridge member):
"He's considered one of the premier vocalists in rock 'n' roll — and one of the nicest, most sincere perfectionists in music."
"The world has lost one of the greatest voices in our business today. Johnny Maestro lost his battle with cancer and passed away last night in Florida. We shared the stage together many times throughout our careers and, it was always a pleasure working with him. Johnny Maestro will truly be missed!"
"Joan and I are deeply saddened and shocked--really, over John's passing. We saw him not that long ago. What a great artist and a such a gentleman. I admired his talent and those wonderful early records with the Crests--PERFECTION! God Bless his soul. He and his family will certainly be in our prayers this week. We've lost a wonderful artist!"
Jerry "The Iceman" Butler:
"I had the pleasure to have known Johnny for many years, and to have shared the stage with him. A great entertainer and even better man. He will be missed. God bless his family."
Johnny's last performance was January 17, when The Brooklyn Bridge was among groups appearing at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut. The show was billed as "Bowzer's Ultimate Doo-Wop Party."
Jon "Bowzer" Bauman:
"As frail and weak as Johnny seemed, I knew he didn't want to have to cancel. I told him afterward it was the most courageous performance I'd ever seen. As frail as he looked, that's how strong he sounded. It was a privilege to have known him, and it was thrilling to have listened to him."