In 1989 the music world was shook by 5 teens from Boston known as New Kids On The Block! I'll never forget introducing them before a sold out hysterical mob of girls at the New Haven Coliseum. This photo was taken backstage, 10/30/89, with one of the five, Danny Wood.
The opening act, Sweet Sensation, was on stage and the New Kids were about an hour from show time. Danny and I spoke briefly about the past year and their future plans. Please Don't Go Girl, The Right Stuff, Hanging Tough and I'll Be Loving You Forever had all been smashes over the past 12 months. Danny was humbled by the success, and really couldn't explain why it happened. As for future plans, it was to 'enjoy this ride as long as we can'.
The star of the New Kids was Jordan Knight. I interviewed Jordan numerous times through the years. He is a singer who loves singing! That's all he ever wanted to do.
The guy who always stuck out to me was Donnie Wahlberg. I met Donnie a few times in 1989, and a few more times through the early 90's. He knew he wasn't a singer, but was determined to be a star! I didn't think he was very smart, but in July of 1990 I got to speak with him for about 30 minutes, and realized he was very intelligent! This photo was taken on that day.
The 2 guys on the left side of this photo are Charlie Walk (with the hat) and Jerry Blair (with the afro). They worked for Columbia records at the time, and had told me there would be no interviews for radio at this concert at Lake Compounce in Bristol CT. (The other 2 guys were my bosses at the station). I was backstage while Debbie Gibson was on stage, when I saw Donnie walk into the catering tent. I went over and reintroduced myself to him. I worked up the courage to ask him if he would mind recording a radio interview. He was all about it! I turned that recording into a 2 night special on my show. The highlight was Donnie had been shot at that day before the concert by a farmer whose property Donnie had been riding his ATV on. I actually had the exclusive interview. The local news channels and several teen magazines interviewed me about it! The other pop music stations in town were ticked.
The reason the New Kids weren't doing interviews, was they were the biggest group on the earth at this time. They were in the middle of the Magic Summer tour which would cover the globe for 2 years! Their management was concerned with over working them. The other 4 followed orders to rest and relax. Save their energy for the concerts and for TV appearances. When I asked Donnie why he was willing to help me out, he said "hey man this ride ain't gonna last forever. Someday I might need you to do me a solid".
That time for "the solid" came a lot sooner than any of us expected. Grunge and gangsta rap stormed pop radio within minutes of this photo. The next year the New Kids were dead as far as pop radio and MTV were concerned. They tried to regroup, rebrand, and release new music, to underwhelming results. As this article from March 1994 shows the New Kids were officially has-been's. For a group whose previous outing was the second-highest-grossing tour of all time - selling more than 42,000 tickets alone for a two-show weekend in Connecticut five years ago - the only thing more surprising about Sunday's show at New Haven's 700-capacity Toad's Place gig is that it isn't sold out.
I was asked to introduce the band at that concert where they couldn't find 700 fans to attend.. I was embarrassed for them. It was such a fall! I had hyped it as hard as I could for several weeks on the radio, but their audience abandoned NKOTB for Dr Dre and Nirvana. Talking to Donnie before the concert he said he felt like this album could turn it around for them. (It didn't). But even if it stiffed (it did) Donnie felt like he had a real chance to make it as an actor.He had a dream and had started taking acting lessons. 2 years later Donnie was in 2 movies! Both small roles, and his name wasn't used in promotion of the movies, but he was working.
The first was a Mickey Rourke picture co starring Tupac called Bullet. A few years earlier Tupac had been carrying records and a dancer for the guys who had a hit with Humpty Dance. Donnie was selling out arenas all over the world and then it flipped. Tupac was one of the top rappers on the planet and was costarring in major movies. Donnie was lucky to get a speaking role. The other was a pretty big film that with Mel Gibson called Ransom. Donnie was a kidnapper. But in 1999 he blew audiences away with a small role in the Sixth Sense where he kills Bruce Willis. We couldn't even recognize him!
Today the rest of the New Kids are leading productive lives. Joey McIntyre followed Donnie into acting, first on stage, and now appears in some movies and TV shows. Jonathon Knight was on the reality show "The Amazing Race" last year, and has become a real estate developer. Jordan Knight continues to release music as well as appear on reality shows. Danny Wood is a choreographer. The New Kids also continue to perform from time to time. But it's Donnie who has become the man.
The lesson is, stay humble. Donnie was worth millions in 1994. Why was he playing a 700 person room? Donnie was worth millions in 1995. Why was he going to acting lessons, and auditions for small roles? Because Donnie gave himself a dream and saw that he had to scrap to get there! Success is never handed over. You have to fight for it! Today Donnie is a major star on CBS's Blue Blood's and has created 2 reality shows for A&E in which he stars.
Donnie was one of the guys I kept in mind after I left Universal Records in July of 2003. By July of 2004 I had lost all of my money and took a job selling cars in North Charleston. I had to reinvent myself. I was in my late 30's and felt like I had wasted everything. But Donnie was grinding. Not for the money, but for a dream. I needed to grind for the money but also a dream. Could I return to radio? I had left radio at the end of 99. By the Fall of 04 I was working part time on air for a friend who took pity on me. I used the tapes I made there to land me a full time job in the Summer of 05. I was back in the business! I got a job at WNOK Columbia... where I worked 2a-10a... basically as an assistant. It took a while but the grinding payed off with a job on the morning show. And now a decade later I feel like I'm on top of the world! But like Donnie I remember that this ride may end at any time.