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Starr’s latest boy band: HeartBeat Boys

Jacquinn Williams
Starr’s latest boy band: HeartBeat Boys
Famed music producer Maurice Starr’s latest creation, The HeartBeat Boys, have their sights set on the top of the charts. (Photo: Maurice Starr)

Local legend Maurice Starr returns to Boston this week after a 15-year absence with a new band in tow. His newest group, the HeartBeat Boys — comprised of 12 year olds Erik Feliciano and Dakota Carey, 16 year old Brandon Feliciano and 17 year olds Kristian Maldonado and Anthony Sacco — will perform this Saturday, March 26 at 4 p.m. at the Strand Theater for the Healing of Boston Concert.

Before the term “boy band” became a common phrase in popular culture, Starr — born Larry Johnson — created two of them: New Edition and New Kids on the Block (NKOTB).  He had, and perhaps still has, the ability to take kids off the street and turn them into stars.

“I have a formula I use,” Starr said. “They have to have a certain look.  They need to look good in pictures and on TV for the girls.  Second, they have to have the sweet sound of music.”

New Edition’s hits like “Mr. Telephone Man,” and “Candy Girl,” and NKOTB’s hits like “Please Don’t Go Girl,” and “Hangin’ Tough” had throngs of screaming fans in the 1980s and early 1990s. They sold millions of albums, T-shirts and other paraphernalia.  Starr, a.k.a. the General, exercised tight control over the groups he managed. For NKOTB’s Hanging Tough album, all instruments were played or programmed by Starr with the exception of one song.

Now 58 years old, Starr moved to Boston in the 1970s with his brother Michael and released two albums “Flaming Star” and “Spacey Lady.” After disappointing sales, Starr decided to focus his energy on making other people stars. He found success with New Edition and NKOTB but later parted ways with both groups. Shortly after NKOTB disbanded, Starr headed to Florida and moved into the mansion he bought his mother at the height of his fame.

 “I wanted to just enjoy life,” Starr said.

Rejuvenated and ready to pick up where he left off, Starr’s been consulting southern star Tiger Hope Boy, who has a number three hit “Ride on ‘Em,” and managing the HeartBeat Boys.

Pairing super sweet vocals with an urban look, the HeartBeat Boys are poised to be the next NKOTB. They’ve got Facebook fan, group and street team pages and a newly established Twitter account where they’ve been promoting their upcoming performances. But, after such a long absence, can Starr make magic happen for the HeartBeat Boys, whom he created with pop-king Michael Jackson?

“Are you asking an arrogant man like me if I can make them stars?  I can send you ten number one hits right now if you want me to.  Before Michael died they were booked for Michael’s ‘This is It’ tour in London at the O2 Arena. Two of their songs have already hit number one on the Billboard charts. First in 2007 with ‘Christmas Oh Christmas’ and ‘I Believe’ in 2010. I sell records before they’re even finished and I sell out concerts before I step into a city. I have people all over the country that help me do this,” explained Starr.

Despite his conceit, Starr is warm and affable. His conversation is rapid-fire and he gushes with the enthusiasm of a kid when it comes to music and helping other people. He brags about what he has done and what he’s capable of doing, but more importantly he works hard to make it happen.  

“When it comes to helping kids, I’m not arrogant. If you put me in a room with Diddy and other industry people, I’m going to be arrogant. I’m a winner and I have a winning spirit.  I have a lot of things going on. The [HeartBeat] Boys are working on a movie called ‘Angel Boy,’ which I will put on pay-per-view and a big summer tour.  We’re going to hit Madison Square Garden; there will be ribbon cuttings and everything. This week there’s a series of concerts at the schools in Boston before the Strand Theatre performance.  I had them working on three albums at the same time. Their album From the Heart is done, we’ll have a Christmas album and a soundtrack for the movie ‘Angel Boy,’ ” Starr said.

When asked if he’ll make an appearance, Starr said, “I told the boys the General will come out when they’re worthy. By summer they’ll be ready. I’ve been working with them for two years. I may not wear all the medals and army gear, but the General will certainly appear.”