Reunited after a 14-year hiatus, the New Kids on the Block have returned to the pop music scene. In his new book “Before the Legend: The Rise of the New Kids on the Block and a Guy Named Maurice Starr, The Early Years (An Unauthorized Biography),” author Tony Rose looks at the group’s beginnings, including their Roxbury connections. (Photo courtesy of Interscopre Records)
After a 14-year hiatus, 1980s pop icons The New Kids on the Block reunited earlier this year, releasing a new single called “Summertime” and a new album, “The Block.” With its first new material since breaking up in 1994, the group hopes to reprise some of the glory of their halcyon years when they were the most successful young musical group since the Jackson Five, starring Michael Jackson.
While all five members of the group are white — Donnie Wahlberg, Jordan and Jonathan Knight, Danny Wood and Joey McIntyre — some readers might not understand that they are still homeboys. In the recently published “Before the Legend: The Rise of the New Kids on the Block and a Guy Named Maurice Starr, The Early Years (An Unauthorized Biography),” author Tony Rose provides an encyclopedic history of the music industry in Boston.
Rose was once a card-carrying member of Roxbury’s society of music promoters. Without question, the most musically talented member of the society was Maurice Starr, formerly Lawrence “Larry” Johnson. After the enormous commercial success of the Jackson Five, Starr realized that youth groups would always eventually age out, leaving the market open to a successor.
Starr’s first discovery was New Edition, a group from Roxbury’s Orchard Park in Roxbury that featured Bobby Brown, Ricky Bell, Ralph Tresvant, Michael Bivins and Ronnie DeVoe. The group was successful, but they jumped to a major national label before Starr could benefit from his mastery.
Rose points out that the requirement for racial integration in the Boston schools brought white youngsters from Dorchester and Jamaica Plain into contact with the black musical culture. After an intense audition, Starr recruited the five young teenagers to form the new group.
It took two years of hard work, and many long hours spent at the 27 Dudley Street studio, before success dawned in 1986. Eight years later, predictably, the NKOTB had aged out. Rose has written an interesting and compelling story of how the music business works, and how five lads from Dorchester and Jamaica Plain became international stars, from the perspective of someone who was actively involved in the saga.