Calling all boy band fans! The property where perennial pop group New Kids on the Block was formed has just come up for sale! Now a revamped multi-family dwelling, back in the ‘80s the handsome brick structure served as the home and recording/dance studio of Maurice Starr, the music business multi-hyphenate who launched the careers of a then-teenaged Joey McIntyre, Donnie Wahlberg, Danny Wood and brothers Jordan and Jonathan Knight, thereby turning the entire industry on its head. Though he’s been called a hitmaker, a manufacturer and even a Svengali, regardless of what Maurice is labeled, there’s no denying he has the Midas touch!
Born Larry Curtis Johnson Starr in Deland, Fla. in 1953, Maurice moved to Boston, Mass. at the tender age of 17 hoping to break into the biz. Though he did land a couple of contracts, first with RCA and then Arista, Starr was never able to grab that golden ring, so to speak, and, while attempting to make ends meet, landed a gig hosting a talent show at a local club. It proved a fortuitous turn, one that changed the course of his career. As he told Scripps Howard News, “I started looking around, looking at this talent. And these kids were dressed up. One was called the something Gentlemen and they had these old suits on like in the Eliot Ness days. These boys were dancing and mimicking to the grown people’s music, and sometimes they would mimic to the Jackson 5 music. And I thought, this is great! And my head just got crazy. I said, ‘Man, if I could take one of these groups and put them out there, they would be big!’”
And that’s exactly what he did! His first coup came in 1982 when, while producing a talent show of his own, he met a group of four local boys with musical potential. He started workshopping with them out of his home, writing music and recording songs, teaching them choreography and orchestrating their overall look and sound. He eventually added a fifth member and New Edition was born. The quintet quickly landed a recording contract and in 1983 their debut album, “Candy Girl,” was released, ultimately resulting in three hit singles. The group became an instant sensation – and almost as quickly severed ties with Starr, moving onto greener pastures.
But Maurice wasn’t to be deterred. He promptly set his sights on forming a new act, this time “aimed at white teen-age girls – a larger group, thus a more profitable market,” as noted in the Scripps Howard News. New Kids on the Block (originally called Nynuk) was launched just a year later. Once again, he was instrumental in their sound, look and marketing, serving as the group’s de facto producer, manager, songwriter, background musician, publicist and choregrapher. And Maurice obviously had, ahem, “the right stuff” because New Kids soon landed a contract with Columbia Records and though their first album barely made a blip on the radar, their second, “Hangin’ Tough,” became a worldwide phenomenon! Surpassing even Maurice’s lofty expectations, the group went on to become one of the best-selling boy bands of all time and is still going strong today!