Those of us growing up in the 80’s and early 90’s don’t have to think twice when hearing the names Danny, Donnie, Jordan, Jonathan and Joey. They were the first boy band of the generation that most could find what they consider a handsome face (regardless of their type) and the first to appear on merchandise from lunch boxes to bed sheets.
Though the five guys are known for their hits like “Please Don’t Go” and “Step by Step”, even the biggest fans may learn a thing or two they didn’t know about the bands beginning and the path that led them to stardom. New Kids on the Block (NKOTB) began as five young kids on the streets of Boston, but are still going strong today.
How it All Started
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Producer Maurice Starr had just experienced a major setback with his band, New Edition but he was there to see the success of the five black teens and learned more throughout the process. According to Biography, Starr was determined to make his dream a reality and thought five white kids from the rough neighborhoods of Boston could be equally successful.
Talent agent Mary Alford set to work, searching for young men with singing, dancing or rapping ability and the first two that checked all boxes was Mark and Donnie Wahlberg. At 14 and 13 years-old, the boys had friends that loved the same type of music and were equally talented. Jordan and Jonathan Knight and Danny Wood joined the group along with friend, Jamie Kelly.
After just a few months, Mark left the group (though we know he turned out just fine) and Kelly left as well, leaving a spot open for the youngest member of the band, 12-year-old Joey McIntyre.
Starr originally called the group Nynuk (na-nook) and began receiving some attention for the group as a black man producing an all-white group of performers.
In 1986, the group was signed to Columbia Records, who chose the name New Kids on the Block, borrowing a name from a song written by Wahlberg. The first album by the same name was released later that year.
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The first album flopped but despite the setback, the New Kids continued recording and tried again. In 1988, the band dropped “Hangin’ Tough”, and the rest is history. One radio station in Florida began playing “Please Don’t Go Girl” and requests begin pouring in. The New Kids found the young girls who would follow them to the ends of the earth.
Once “Hangin’ Tough” hit shelves, what followed, was a string of hits in 1988 and 1989. Five songs from the album went to the Top Ten and went double platinum. With the sudden success, Columbia began releasing singles from their previous album and those jump-started record sales, even though the songs were three years old at that point.
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“Step by Step” dropped at the height of New Kids popularity and became the boy bands largest selling album to date with three million copies sold in America and another 16 million worldwide, according to All Music.
A worldwide tour, sponsored by Coke included 100 concerts in the U.S. and more overseas. By 1991, the group was making an additional $400 million in merchandise sales, including dolls, clothing, bed sheets and more. At the height of their glory, the group became the highest paid entertainers of the year in 1991, beating out Michael Jackson and Madonna.
As their teen fans began aging out of the boy band era, the group rebranded themselves as NKOTB in an attempt to show their own growth and more mature music selections for the “Face the Music” album. Popularity waned in 1994 and New Kids on the Block went their separate ways for a time.
Where Are They Now
Several members attempted to launch solo careers with Jordan Knight earning a gold-selling record in 1999. Donnie Wahlberg shifted to an acting career and landed several roles in movies and television. Fans could see Wahlberg in “The Sixth Sense,” “Band of Brothers” and later in his career, television crime drama, “Blue Bloods.”
In 2008, the band released a new album “The Block”, which debuted at number two on the Billboard charts and sold 100,000 records in the first week. Taking advantage of their popularity, both in a new generation and now, super-fan adults, they toured that year and then came back in 2011 with a joint tour, featuring fellow boy band, Backstreet Boys.
According to Eighties Kids, In 2014, the group took up a residency in Las Vegas and in 2019, they joined a host of other 80’s and 90’s superstars with a blast from the past Mixtape Tour, featuring Tiffany, Debbie Gibson and Salt-N-Pepa.
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Sources: Biography, All Music, Eighties Kids
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