“We’re The Brooklyn Bridge. We’re not a cover band,” original member Jimmy Rosica proudly confirms. Rosica, the bassist, will perform alongside his band (that formed on Long Island in 1968) at Suffolk Theater on September 23. Known for hit songs including “Sixteen Candles” and “The Worst That Could Happen” (with late member Johnny Maestro), The Brooklyn Bridge is now comprised of members from the Del-Satins and Rhythm Method. Rosica spoke with Dan’s Papers about how the group formed and what its members enjoy most about performing their classic hits.
Can you tell us how Johnny Maestro and The Brooklyn Bridge (the original band) came to be?
Back in March of 1968 some friends and I were putting a garage band together, and at that time I was hanging out at a nightclub in Amityville that my friend’s father owned. One night my friend’s father told me there was going to be a battle of the bands, and why don’t we come on down. I told him how we were still in my basement, and he said, “What’ve you got to lose?” We were definitely not the best band that night, but we did have horns—two saxophones and one trumpet. I was approached as we got off the stage by a woman asking who represented The Rhythm Method (that’s what we named ourselves). So I said, “I guess I do, and my friend Tommy Sullivan,” and she says how she’s from Betty Sperber Management, and they manage Johnny Maestro. At that time Johnny was singing with the Del-Satins. She asked if we’d be interested in coming into Manhattan the next day to meet Betty Sperber and Johnny Maestro. So that day I went in with Tommy, and met John. Johnny told us that he wanted to enhance the Del-Satins sound. There were seven of us, and four of them including Johnny, so if we combined that would be an 11-piece group. Betty Sperber got on the phone and called one of the booking agents, and Betty said to him, “Look Johnny Maestro is putting together an 11-piece group,” and this gentleman says, “Eleven pieces, geez! That’d be like trying to fill the Brooklyn Bridge,” and Betty goes, “I love it!” She hangs up the phone, and says to us, “You’re going to be called The Brooklyn Bridge.”
What is it about the music of The Brooklyn Bridge that causes it to still resonate with so many?
What characterizes our recordings, of course, would be the voice of Johnny Maestro. Johnny was the real deal. We were also a good vocal group. A lot of groups sing in harmony, and sing in tune, but certain groups are known as having a sound—like The Beach Boys, The Everly Brothers and Crosby, Stills and Nash—so that might have been a characteristic of our group. Also, a lot of those love songs that we did were timeless in their lyrics. The lyrics to “The Worst That Could Happen” tell a story that a lot of guys can relate to.
Your group was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame. What did this award mean to you?
It was a great night. I had all my brothers and sisters, and each of us had our families there. We were one of the few groups that were asked to perform live. We performed “The Worst That Could Happen.” We had flown in all of the original members, so there were about 13 or 14 of us on the stage, and Jimmy Webb came up and played keyboard. It was a wonderful experience, and a great memory, particularly now that Johnny and Freddie are not with us, and our original drummer, Artie Catanzarita—all of them have since passed away, so that was precious.
The Brooklyn Bridge will be performing at Suffolk Theater on September 23. What are you most looking forward to?
Well the fellow singing lead for us now is Joe Esposito. We didn’t look for another Johnny Maestro, or imitation, because Johnny was one of a kind. Joe was a little bit more of a soul singer, but hits the big notes, and does justice to all of our records. We found somebody that’s not a carbon copy of John, because to me if we did that we’d then be a tribute band. We’re not The Brooklyn Bridge Tribute Band. We’re The Brooklyn Bridge! We just recorded a new CD with Joe doing The Brooklyn Bridge songs and some of The Crests songs called “Live and Well”—as opposed to alive and well—and we’ll be selling that at our concerts. Johnny, Freddie and Artie are always with us on stage in some capacity—there’s that feeling. Even to this day, Joe Esposito sings from the right side of the stage. Johnny sang in the center of the stage, and that’s vacant. That spot has been retired. Losing Johnny was like if the Rolling Stones lost Mick Jagger, but you know, we still sound just fine, and I’m looking forward to getting on stage and letting it rip! Getting on stage is always exciting and gratifying, and the love that our fans have for us has encouraged us.
The Brooklyn Bridge will be performing at Suffolk Theater, 118 East Main Street in Riverhead on Friday, September 23, at 8 p.m. For more information visit suffolktheater.com or call 631-727-4343.