New Kids on the Block (also initialized as NKOTB) is an American boy band from Boston, Massachusetts. The band currently consists of brothers Jordan and Jonathan Knight, Joey McIntyre, Donnie Wahlberg, and Danny Wood. New Kids on the Block enjoyed success in the late 1980s and early 1990s and have sold more than 80 million records worldwide. They won two American Music Awards in 1990 for Favorite Pop/Rock Band, Duo, or Group and Favorite Pop/Rock Album. The group disbanded in 1994, and reunited in 2007.
After secretly reuniting in 2007 and recording a new record, the group released that new album and embarked on a concert tour in 2008. The album, entitled The Block, was released on September 2, 2008. New Kids on the Block was listed as number 16 on Rolling Stone‘s Top 25 Teen Idol Breakout Moments. The group was on tour with the Backstreet Boys in 2011–12 as NKOTBSB. This collaboration first performed live together on November 21, 2010 at the American Music Awards on ABC and again on 2011 New Year’s on ABC’s Dick Clark/Ryan Seacrest show. The group received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on October 9, 2014. They are still touring as of 2017 with their Total Package Tour.
In the early 1980s, Maurice Starr discovered R&B/pop quintet New Edition, and guided their early success. After breaking ties with them, Starr and his business partner, Mary Alford, sought to create a white counterpart act. Fifteen-year-old Donnie Wahlberg immediately impressed Starr and Alford with his rapping skills, dancing ability and showmanship, becoming the group’s first member. Wahlberg assisted in helping to recruit other members. Among them were his younger brother Mark and his best friends Danny Wood and Jamie Kelly. He also coaxed one-time schoolmate Jordan Knight – who sang an exceptional falsetto – into auditioning for Starr as well. Upon Knight’s passing the audition, his older brother Jonathan was accepted into the group as well.
As the group began to take shape, Mark Wahlberg left and was briefly replaced by Jamie Kelly. When a search was made to find a Michael Jackson-esque singer to fill the role, Starr replaced Jamie with 12-year-old Joey McIntyre, whom the other members initially resented for being the one to replace their friend. With the final line-up in place, Starr rehearsed the boys diligently, after school and on weekends, and eventually secured the group, at this time named Nynuk, a recording contract at Columbia Records. However, the label demanded Starr change the name of the group. Subsequently, they settled on New Kids on the Block, after a rap song that Donnie Wahlberg had written and arranged for their first album.
In April 1986, Columbia Records released the group’s self-titled debut album. The album, almost exclusively written and produced by Maurice Starr, featured mid 80s bubblegum popmaterial. The first single, “Be My Girl“, received minor airplay around the group’s native Boston, but failed to capture nationwide attention. The album’s second single, “Stop It Girl“, fared even worse. The New Kids went on tour around the New England states, singing wherever Starr could book them: in bars, school dances, and clubs. Nevertheless, Starr remained diligent and persuaded the label to allow the group to record a second album.
After the failure of the first album, Starr had the group back in the studio for most of 1987 and 1988 recording their second album. Dissatisfied with the excessively bubblegum sound of their first album, the group wanted to have more input on their look, direction and song material. As a result, Wahlberg, Wood and Jordan Knight received associate producer credit on the final product. The album’s first single was “Please Don’t Go Girl“, a ballad released in the spring of 1988. Failure seemed destined a second time when the song became another that went unnoticed by the listening public, and Columbia Records made plans to drop the New Kids from the label. At the eleventh hour, however, a pop radio station in Florida began playing the song. Scoring listener approval, it soon became the most requested song on their play list. When Columbia caught wind of the positive response, they decided to keep the group on its roster and put more effort into promoting the single. Columbia decided to re-shoot a music video for “Please Don’t Go Girl”, hiring director Doug Nichol, and sent the video to thousands of radio stations across the country to show the group’s visual appeal. National attention soon followed and “Please Don’t Go Girl” eventually climbed to No. 10 on Billboard’s Hot 100 Singles Chart—becoming the group’s first hit.
New Kids on the Block’s second album, Hangin’ Tough, was released to modest fanfare in September. In the meantime, the group began making national televised appearances on such music programs as Showtime at the Apollo, and Soul Train. Producer Maurice Starr then held auditions to secure a band of musicians suitable for touring with the New Kids approving musical director and Keyboardist Greg McPherson, bassist David Dyson, keyboardist Yasko Kubota, guitarist Nerida Rojas, and drummer Derrick Antunes. The New Kids later landed a spot as an opening act for fellow teen-pop act Tiffany on the U.S. leg of her concert tour. Sales of Hangin’ Tough steadily increased as the group’s national attention slowly rose. At year’s end, the album’s second single “You Got It (The Right Stuff)” was released. The song was given a huge boost when MTV took notice of the group and began playing the video in regular rotation, including an appearance on Club MTV. By early 1989, it cracked the top five. The New Kids hit pay dirt with their next single, “I’ll Be Loving You (Forever)“, which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart in June. The group had been scheduled to open for Tiffany once again on a second tour, but their sudden popularity caused a reversal, and she wound up opening for them (although the two acts were technically billed as “co-headliners”).
More top five singles from Hangin’ Tough followed into the summer and fall, including the title track and “Cover Girl“. Columbia Records also released the single “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)” (a cover of The Delfonics‘ classic hit), from the group’s previously overlooked debut album. The song went No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100 Singles, on the strength of the group’s popularity and effectively jump-started the sales of that album as well. By the end of 1989, Hangin’ Tough had climbed to number one on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart and had gone eight-times platinum. They, subsequently, became the first ‘teen’ act to garner five top ten hits from a single album.
Meanwhile, a top ten charting holiday album, Merry, Merry Christmas, was released in the fall—spawning another top 10 hit, “This One’s for the Children” and going double platinum in the U.S. The proceeds were donated to United Cerebral Palsy, the New Kids’ favorite charitable cause. Hangin’ Tough would go on to spend 132 weeks on the chart, and in January 1990, the album won two American Music Awards for “Best Pop/Rock Album”, and “Best Pop/Rock Group”. With the success of “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind)”, “Cover Girl”, and “This One’s For the Children”, the group pulled off a rare feat of having three singles on the Billboard Hot 100 at the same time, but each from a different album.
Columbia Music Video also released a home video “Hangin’ Tough”, a documentary on the band directed by Doug Nichol and produced by Bryan Johnson, that included their four hit music videos and a live concert recorded during their 1989 tour. It achieved massive sales, earning a Grammy Award for Best Long Form Music Video nomination, and was one of the biggest selling music videos of all time.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts declared April 24, 1989, “New Kids on the Block Day”.
By early 1990, New Kids on the Block had become one of the most popular acts in the United States. The following May, they followed up Hangin’ Tough with Step by Step, which featured slightly more than half of the songs co-written and produced by the members themselves.
The first single, the title track, raced to number one on the Hot 100 Singles Chart and became their biggest selling single. It was followed up with the top ten “Tonight“, which extended the consecutive top ten singles chart run to nine records. “Let’s Try It Again” hit No. 8 on the UK Singles Chart, whilst “Baby I Believe In You” went No. 1 on the Japanese Chart, further signifying the international appeal of the group. The album was eventually certified triple platinum, selling close to 20 million copies worldwide.
The group performed an estimated two hundred concerts a year, with an extravagant worldwide concert tour that summer, called The Magic Summer Tour, sponsored by Coke. The tour ultimately grossed $74 million ($133 million, adjusted for inflation), making the group the top-grossing touring act in the country at the time and one of highest grossing concert tours of the decade. The tour had an overall attendance of 3.2 million people.
Their 1990 pay-per-view special broke cable-TV history at the time. During this time, the group became heavily merchandised. NKOTB-licensed merchandise included lunch boxes, buttons, T-shirts, comic books, dolls, trading cards and even a Saturday morning cartoon in their likeness, which was developed by the writing and development team from Pangea Corporation and animated by DIC Entertainment. In 1991, sales for the group’s merchandise were estimated at US$400 million.
New Kids on the Block’s official fan club had a membership of over 200,000 members and was one of the largest fan clubs in the United States. Approximately 100,000 calls per week were dialed to 1-900-909-5KIDs, the Official NKOTB Hotline, as well. In 1991, the group topped Forbes list of highest paid entertainers, beating out the likes of Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince and Bill Cosby. Further capitalizing on the fame, at year’s end, Columbia Records released No More Games/The Remix Album—a compilation of the group’s biggest hits remixed, the album also brought along two more released songs in “Call It What You Want” (UK #12) and “Games” (UK #14) in which videos were also released.
The group released no new material in 1991, but went overseas and continued to tour throughout Europe and Asia. That summer, Wood and Wahlberg co-wrote and produced the debut album from Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch—headed by Mark Wahlberg, Donnie’s brother and former New Kid. Mark Wahlberg’s album scored a number one hit with “Good Vibrations“, and a platinum album.
By late 1990, David Dyson assumed the role of musical director. In early 1992, the group released the stand-alone single “If You Go Away“, the only new track on the compilation H.I.T.S.. The song peaked at No. 16 on the US charts and No. 9 in the UK charts. Meanwhile, as the music industry was still reeling from the Milli Vanilli lip-syncing scandal, the group found themselves accused of lip-syncing by Gregory McPherson, also a music teacher at Berklee College of Music, who was listed as an associate producer and string arranger on the group’s third album, Step by Step. McPherson alleged that Maurice Starr sang the vocals while the group lip-synced to pre-recorded vocals during their live performances. McPherson also filed a breach of contract and creative infringement lawsuit against Starr.
The group immediately responded to the allegations and interrupted the Australian leg of their tour to fly to Los Angeles to perform live on The Arsenio Hall Show. After performing a medley of their previous hits and their new single, the group (along with Starr) was interviewed by Hall. The group admitted to singing with a backing track during live performances and also admitted that Starr sang harmony on some background vocals.
On February 10, 1992, the New Kids filed a defamation lawsuit against McPherson regarding his lip-syncing allegations. In April 1992, McPherson dropped his suit against Starr and released a statement recanting his previous allegations stating, “They [The New Kids] did sing lead on their vocals”.
By the time the lip-syncing allegations surfaced, the group was starting to experience a backlash. Despite their success, the group was regularly dismissed by critics for their attempts to promote themselves as an urban act and their practice of using backing vocals for live performances. The group’s record sales also began to decline due to a shift in musical tastes to gangsta rap and grunge music.
- Donnie Wahlberg – vocals (1984–1994, 2007–present)
- Jordan Knight – vocals (1984–1994, 2007–present)
- Joey McIntyre – vocals (1985–1994, 2007–present)
- Jonathan Knight – vocals (1984–1994, 2007–present)
- Danny Wood – vocals (1984–1994, 2007–present)
- Mark Wahlberg – vocals (1984–1985)
- Jamie Kelly – vocals (1985)
- Greg McPherson (Musical director/keys) (1989–90)
- David Dyson (bassist) (1989-1992) (Musical director/bassist) (1990–92)
- Nerida Rojas (guitar) (1989-1990)
- Rob Sachs (guitar) (1990-1992)
- Yasko Kubota (keyboards) (1989-1992; died 2015)
- Derrick Antunes (drums) (1989-1992)
- Kevin Antunes (2nd keyboards) (1990-1992)