Before there was One Direction or Backstreet Boys or *NSYNC, there was New Kids on the Block.
One of the bestselling groups of all time — they sold more than 80 million records worldwide – New Kids provided the archetype for boy bands manufactured during the ’90s pop explosion. The Boston quintet had all the right stuff: syrupy harmonies, dreamy looks and flashy dance moves. But the group started as a carbon copy.
In the early 1980s, R&B-pop outfit New Edition was launched out of Boston under the tutelage of producer-songwriter Maurice Starr. After becoming sensations, the group and Starr split. The producer quickly concocted a plan — applying the successful formula he used with New Edition to a white group. "I honestly believe that if they'd been white, [New Edition] would have been 20 times as big," Starr once told Entertainment Weekly.
The first recruit to New Kids on the Block was a then-15-year-old Donnie Wahlberg, who impressed with his showmanship and rapping ability. He recruited his best friend, Danny Wood, and schoolmate Jordan Knight, who brought older brother Jonathan Knight into the fold. Starr brought in a 12-year-old Joey McIntyre and began rehearsals after school and on weekends.
In 1986 the group issued its self-titled debut through Columbia. Produced and mostly written by Starr, the album’s set of bubblegum pop tunes failed to make any impact. Their 1988 follow-up, "Hangin’ Tough," featured more input from the group and the R&B ballad "Please Don’t Go Girl" finally got them radio attention. The hits kept coming with "You Got It (The Right Stuff)" and "I’ll Be Loving You (Forever)," and eventually the album went eight times platinum.
By 1990 New Kids were one of the biggest pop acts in the country. Merchandise sales were reportedly in the neighborhood of $400 million and they had one of the largest fan clubs in the U.S. (there was even a hotline).