Born Lawrence Curtis Johnson, he arrived in Boston Massachusetts in the early 70s and formed a family group called The Johnson Brothers. By 1980 he had taken his stage name and signed a solo deal, going on to release two solo albums: Flaming Starr for RCA and Spacey Lady for Arista. Neither sold especially well, and nor did the records he made with his brothers Michael and Soni for their The Jonzun Crew (you see what they did with the spelling of their surname there?), but Starr’s work on these and various others projects honed his skills as a vocalist, writer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist. He also branched into talent spotting when he launched his Hollywood Talent Nights in Boston in the 1982, and then into artist management when he discovered New Edition at one of those evenings, the group the featured future Smash Hits cover star Bobby Brown.
Deciding to focus on writing material for other acts to perform, Starr co-wrote New Edition’s first album Candy Girl with Michael Jonzun. It might have been another Starr solo effort for the contribution he made to it: Starr played bass, drums, piano, guitar, and synthesizers amongst other instruments, and his voice from demo recordings of some of the songs survived as backing vocals on the finished versions. He was also credited as arranger, producer and engineer. Although the album was a hit, New Edition would part company with Starr in 1984 over a dispute about wages: the group members effectively received no payment for an extensive tour to promote the record after expenses had been deducted from the takings.
Starr responded by creating New Kids On The Block and repeating the winning formula. The credits for the first New Kids album ran similarly to Candy Girl’s, except that this time Starr’s compositions were written alone. The group opened for Tiffany on her first tour in 1988; a year later she would return the favour and open for them. By then, Starr was also producing for Tiffany (her third album New Inside – he wrote only one track with her though, Back In The Groove) and mentoring another vocal group, Perfect Gentlemen, which featured his son Maurice Starr Jr. Of all Starr’s projects, though, New Kids On The Block were by far the most commercially successful; he would write and produce their next two albums taking them into the 1990s.
NEW SINGLES on sale from Jan. 30
STRAY CATS Rock This Town (Arista SCAT2)
THOMPSON TWINS The Perfect Game (T TEE1)
MADNESS Michael Caine (Stiff BUY196)
Rick ASTLEY Hold Me In Your Arms (RCA PB42615)
Bryan FERRY The Price Of Love (EG EGO46)
MORRISSEY The Last Of The Famous International Playboys (HMV POP 1620)
NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK You Got It (The Right Stuff) (CBS 6531697)
TIFFANY All This Time (MCA TIFF6)