The Crests were probably the most respected and revered doo-wop group by the end of the 1950s. In fact, they were hailed, as not only the first integrated musical group, but the first successful interracial music group. The group’s faces changed frequently shortly after the 60s. However, when the group originally started, there were a two African American males, one Puerto Rican, one Italian, and one African American female. Wow, I had absolutely no idea a woman was in the group 😨.
For many of my younger readers, the group’s name will not “ring a bell.” Perhaps maybe my older readers too, as they have fell in to the realm of obscurity. However, I think you’ll remember their single big hit that cemented their careers once you hear it. The song that put them on the American Billboard map was called “16 Candles!” Then Italian lead singer, Johnny Maestro, took this song to #2 on Top 100 Charts in 1959. You may also remember the song from the movie “16 Candles (1984).” However, it was not sung by The Crests, it was actually covered by a rock group called “The Stray Cats.”
The group’s song “16 Candles” was played and used everywhere. In fact, I’m pretty certain I heard it on one or two episodes of “Happy Days (1974),” which was an extremely popular TV show, that dealt with a lot of normal teenage issues. The Crests had other hits as well. “Step By Step (1960),” “Trouble In Paradise (1960),” and “Six Nights A Week (1959).” However, “16 Candles” remained their biggest and most memorable hit.
You know, I’m thoroughly shocked! Absolutely dumbfounded! That the hugely popular musical group called “The Platters” only had one number one hit, and only two top 10s, according to Billboards’ Top 100 Charts (since formed in 1952)! Holy cow! Well, let me tell you, growing up, The Platters as a group were certainly #1 in our family. I remember my grandpa playing this group just as much as all his other favorites. Even as a young child, this was the kind of music I personally gravitated to.
The Original Lead Singer, Johnny Barnes, Had The Most Beautiful Voice!
The original lead singer, Johnny Barnes, had the most beautiful male voices I ever heard at the time. Even today, no other group comes to mind (when it comes to doo-wop), where their lead singer carries a tune so beautifully the way he did. Actually, you know I should add a small disclaimer to my prior statement. There were so many members that changed, members that were swapped, etc., Johnny may not actually be the original lead singer. However, his voice is the predominant voice I remembered growing up. There were sooooo many songs they produced, that became my all-time favorites. One of them on the top of that list, which also happens to be their only #1 song, is called “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes,” released in 1959. Man…. For me to be so young, and know nothing about love/adult relationship and somehow be able to connect with this song, was a huge testament to the power of his voice.
I was thrilled when I actually found a YouTube video of Johnny Barnes singing some of their old tunes! That was so cool! Now, that was a moment I hope the guests cherished. I would have loved to be present for that. If my research is correct, Gaynel Hodge is the only living member left from the legendary Platters. You know, considering all the scandals I’ve read; including drugs, as well as 4 male members being accused of sex trafficking (although never charged), I don’t even understand how that group continued to exist in that era, especially when news like that entered the public domain. Honestly, I really think that Johnny’s voice saved The Platters from total destruction. If they were not so talented, and had great songs, they would have been toast by the end of the 60s.
Before I close this article, I’d like to leave you with some more of my Platters favorites. “Only You (And You Alone),” “The Great Pretender,” “You’ve Got The Magic Touch,” “My Prayer,” “My Way,” “Unchained Melody,” “Please Have Mercy,” “I’m Sorry,” “As Time Goes By,” and finally, “I Only Have Eyes For You.” Thanks for reading… I hope you’ve enjoyed this article.