Johnny Maestro, lead singer on the Crests’ doo-wop evergreen “16 Candles” and co-founder of the ’60s vocal act the Brooklyn Bridge, died Wednesday in Florida of cancer. He was 70.
Born John Mastrangelo and raised in Lower Manhattan, Maestro began his vocal career in a group that included future Dawn frontman Tony Orlando. In 1956, he joined the racially integrated group the Crests, which included Tommy Gough, Harold Torres and Patricia Van Dross (sister of vocalist Luther Vandross).
After a couple of minor singles, Van Dross left the group and the Crests segued to Coed Records, where they scored their biggest hit with the indelible “16 Candles,” which rose to No. 2 nationally.
Maestro left the group for solo work in 1960. In the late ’60s, he hooked up with Long Island vocal unit the Del-Satins, which morphed into the Brooklyn Bridge. Group scored a No. 3 pop hit in 1968 with the ballad “The Worst That Could Happen.”
Maestro regrouped with the Crests for reunion shows in the late ’80s.