New Play at LaMama in New York based on The Carmelettes, the 1950s All-Girl Doo-Wop Group from Jersey City
By Sally Deering
When I think of girl groups that influenced my teen years, my mind goes straight to The Shangri-Las, four big-haired girls from Queens and their 1964 hit “Leader of the Pack.” That rocking tune about an ill-fated crush on a biker boy became the song for 60s teen-girl angst, inspiring us to iron our hair, slather our lips in Yardley pinks and Frug in white go-go boots.
Before the Shangri-Las and girl groups of the 60s, 70s, 80s, and beyond, there were girl doo- whop groups and one fondly remembered was The Carmelettes, a Jersey City trio of teen girls christened their girl-group name by their parish priest at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. In 1959, the girls Angela LaPrete, Vicky Cevetello and Virginia Verga recorded two songs, “My Foolish Heart” and “Promise Me a Rose,” and in 1960 “Aching for You” and “Something Tells Me I’m in Love.” They sang backup for Neil Sedaka’s hit “Oh Carol,” and Carole King’s hit “Oh Neil.” And when the group regrouped under the name “The Kittens,” (after Verga left for a solo career,) the LaPrete and Cevetello sang backup on several songs including the Top 40 hit “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” – which bombarded the airwaves during the summer of 1960.When the group disbanded in the 1961, the girls went on to start other careers and raise families. LaPrete married James Murphy (folks just know him as “Murphy”) and the couple raised their daughter Susan, who went on to earn a BFA in Drama at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and become a singer in clubs and cabarets while performing in Off-Off Broadway plays. A drama teacher at Snyder High School, Susan Murphy continues to reinvent herself and her latest career turn is her new play, “Girl/Group: A Daughter’s Tale” a personal piece about her mother’s life as a doo-whop singer and the affect it has had on Murphy’s life. (“Girl/Group: A Daughter’s Tale” features Murphy along with Tom Cappadona, Drew Citron, Alison Scaramella, and Jenna Smith and is directed by Mario Giacalone. It opens at LaMama’s The Club in New York City on June 17 and runs through June 26.)
A singing career that has lasted over 5 decades ended last night when Johnny Maestro 71 died from cancer. The lead singer of the Crests had one of the most successful integrated doo wop groups in the 1950s, the Crests waxed the classic ballad “16 Candles” in 1959. Formed in 1956, Johnny Maestro’s (b. May 7, 1939) warm tenor made “16 Candles” a national smash, and pop/R&B hybrids like “The Angels Listened In” and “Step by Step” also did well. Maestro went solo in 1960, scoring the next year with “Model Girl” on Coed, while the Crests attempted to survive on their own. Maestro eventually reclaimed stardom as leader of Brooklyn Bridge,, an 11-piece aggregation that hit with “Worst That Could Happen” in 1968. source Bill Dahl, All Music Guide
I knew Johnny Maestro having first met him in 1982 when our singing group the Heartaches opened for him at Richard Nader’s Doo-Wop show at the New Yorks’ Felt Forum. He was very kind to us, a group of unkowns and made us feel very welcomed at such a large venue. Our group went on to play several other venues with Johnny Maestro and the Brooklyn Bridge througout the 1980s.
In the music world Johnny Maestro will be missed for his talent and friendship.
such notable hits as “The Angels Listened In” and also he was lead singer of the the Brooklyn Bridge with hits throughout the 1960s with songs “The Worst that Could Happen”
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