Wednesday, August 31, 2016

SHG: The Crests: "Sixteen Candles"

The Crests: “Sixteen Candles”
Entered the chart on: 12/22/1958
Peaked on: 2/9/1959
Weeks at #2: 2
Song at #1: “Stagger Lee” by Lloyd Price

More diner music. I can’t help but have images of waitresses in old-fashioned car-hop outfits bearing platters of patty melts and chocolate malts while this plays on an old Wurlitzer jukebox. Well, let’s refresh our collective memories of this evergreen:

I forgot about the “Happy birthday, baby” intro. And how did I never know that this was an interracial group? And that their one female member was the sister of Luther Vandross? All I knew was that their powerhouse lead tenor was one Johnny Maestro (né Mastrangelo).

Yes, it’s pretty obvious these folks had been listening to lots of the Platters. Maestro is no Tony Williams clone, he puts his own stamp on this recording with his impassioned delivery. Not sure who was the arranger for this session, but he sure knew his onions. Like the Connie Francis tune I covered a couple of reviews ago, it has a very understated arrangement, with everything as support to Maestro’s spectacular lead. The highlight of the backing vocals is bass singer J. T. Carter, who was the one who initially formed the group.

In spite of this staggering success, they weren’t able to follow it up effectively. They managed a couple of top 20 follow-up entries (if you know any other Crests song, “Step by Step” is probably it) but that was about it. Maestro later resurfaced as the lead singer of the Brooklyn Bridge, who had a top 10 hit in 1969 with “Worst That Could Happen.” Based on this, they deserved a rather better legacy.

Much, much better than I had remembered. Superbly done!

Rating: 5

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