For some of us, there’s only one group of boys that comes to mind when we hear “boy band” – Donnie, Danny, Jonathan, Jordan, and Joey. Loved by many googly-eyed ’80s teens, New Kids on the Block exploded onto the scene with their undeniably good looks and soft voices.
In just a few short years, they managed to become the highest-paid entertainers in the world, outrunning Madonna, Prince, and even Michael Jackson. Way before The Backstreet Boys, NSYNC, and New Direction, New Kids on the Block roamed the streets and won over hearts.
Here’s their story and a glimpse into where they’re at today.
Before New Kids on the Block got their catchy name, they were called Nynuk, pronounced “Na-Nook.” The odd stage name was chosen by the group’s manager, Maurice Starr. For those of you who don’t know, Nanook is the name of the dog in the movie The Lost Boys.
As it turns out, the name didn’t sit well with Columbia Records. They urged Maurice Starr to change the band’s name to something catchier, something that would grab everyone’s attention. Thus – New Kids on the Block was born. Bam!
After a long talent search in many different cities, Donnie Wahlberg was the first one to be recruited into the band. At just fifteen, Donnie Wahlberg impressed Maurice Starr with his rapping skills, and he became the first-ever New Kid on the Block.
Donnie got his brother Mark on board as well, who brought along his good friend Danny. Finally, two former classmates, Jordan and Jonathan Knight joined the party. Mark eventually ended up leaving the group after a few months.
Mark had the opportunity of a lifetime to be in a band with his brother and become part of one of the trendiest rapping boy bands of the time. But he was just 13 years old at the time and he really didn’t imagine that the band was going to go anywhere.
So, after a while, he got bored and split. He then watched New Kids on the Block skyrocket to stardom, as his career was, well, stagnating. Wanting to make a name for himself, he formed Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. They released two albums, and after the second one was largely ignored, they called it quits.
It took the boys a while to reach their final lineup. Donnie brought along his school friend, Jamie Kelly, but Kelly didn’t last long. Instead, Jordan’s older brother, Jonathan Knight joined and stuck around.
Finally, after a long search to replace Kelly, Maurice Starr recruited Joey McIntyre, who was just 12 years old at the time! With the final line-up in place, the boys began rehearsing after school and on weekends. Eventually, they scored a contract with Columbia Records. Hooray!
Apart from the fact that they were undeniably good-looking, there’s another reason why we admire the New Kids on the Block – they wrote their own material. Unlike many other boy bands (and pop artists in general), these guys were responsible for their lyrics.
The boys wrote over half of the songs on their fourth album, Step by Step. The title track from the album was the group’s most popular single, selling a whopping three million copies worldwide. Step by Step skyrocketed to number one in both the UK and the US.
The recording studio’s original thought was to market New Kids on the Block to Black audiences. But despite their best efforts, the boys’ album didn’t do well on the hip-hop, rap charts. Instead, they did way better over in the world of bubble-gum pop.
When a DJ on a pop radio station blasted “Please Don’t Go Girl,” people from Columbia Records started realizing that their target audience should be a different crowd: namely, hormone-crazed young girls.
In 1991, New Kids on the Block beat Madonna, Michael Jackson, AND Prince when they topped the list of Forbes’ “Highest-Paid Entertainers.” The band was so popular that they inspired a Saturday morning cartoon, and their overall merchandise worth was estimated at around $400 million.
Their official fan club at the time had over 200,000 members and was considered one of the largest in all of America. They even had their own hotline at one point – 1-900-909-5KIDs, which received around 100,000 calls per week.
New Kids on the Block was so groundbreaking that there is a day designated for them. While we don’t know whether people still celebrate it today, in 1989, the then-governor of Massachusetts, Michael Dukakis, officially tagged the 24th of April as “New Kids on the Block Day.”
So, how does one celebrate this exciting day? Easy! Just dust off your old tapes and blast some of their greatest hits on your speakers. You could also order some neat merchandise from Amazon, including lunchboxes and dolls.
When 16-year-old Tiffany first laid eyes on the boys from New Kids on the Block, she thought, “Hot, hot, hot, hot and hot.” They offered to open for her, and, of course, she thought, why not? “All these hot guys come in and they were talented, sweet, and wonderful and I didn’t have an opening act, so it just made sense,” she told Entertainment Weekly.
However, out of all the hot studs, one, in particular, had a massive effect on Tiffany’s young, fluttering heart – Jonathan Knight. They began dating but kept their relationship a secret to avoid saddening any googly-eyed fans.
Jonathan Knight, who was then 19 years old, was elated to have found someone in the industry he clicked with: someone who was going through similar things, someone to confide in and feel at home in their arms.
“I just fell in love with her soul,” Knight admitted years later. “She’s such a free spirit, caring and sweet. It was nice to relate to somebody who was in the same boat… She helped ground me and it was a good escape from the rigors of touring.”
Tiffany gradually began hanging out with the boys, and with every get-together, she grew closer and closer to Jonathan. “I was just so excited to have somebody my age on the road,” she revealed. “We shared lots of pepperoni, black olive pizzas! Jon and I became really good friends, then, of course, we became boyfriend and girlfriend.”
They kept their love a secret, and as their tour went on, it became harder to spend time together in peace, because crazy fans hunted the boys down and didn’t let them breathe. Unlike today, where celebs are dating in public and no one takes it too hard, in the ’80s, they felt they had to hide their love to remain “available” in the eyes of infatuated fans.
Jonathan and Tiffany went back and forth with their relationship for nearly two years. Breakups, makeups, and all that jazz. But after a while, Knight started getting sick of the see-saw love and began digging deep to find out what was really wrong.
He started to discover his true sexual identity. “At first, it didn’t affect our relationship, but I think as I got older and was able to have more self-realization, that was the hard part towards the end of our relationship,” he revealed.
In hindsight, Tiffany says she noticed Jonathan pressured her less than other boys. “I think that’s just him because he’s so caring…[and] I loved that he wasn’t trying to get into my pants every five minutes. Not that there wasn’t anything there, but I just always thought our friendship was amazing.”
Unbeknownst to her, Knight was dealing with massive internal struggles. “Coming to terms with that, even though it was a good thing, was difficult. I really felt like I was betraying her, so that was hard and caused a lot of guilt,” he admitted.
Jonathan and Tiffany have remained good friends. They got together again when New Kids on the Block urged Knight to ask Tiffany to perform with them at a Coney Island concert back in 2016. Tiffany was more than happy to accept their offer!
They got together and set out on “The Mixtape Tour” which saw the group play alongside not only Tiffany, but also Debbie Gibson, Salt-n-Pepa, and even Naughty by Nature. For ’80s kids worldwide, this was an unforgettable reunion.
When news of Jonathan’s sexuality surfaced, everyone pointed fingers at Tiffany for being the one to spill the beans. When Tiffany sat down for a talk with the hosts of Watch What Happens Live, she admitted to dating Jonathan Knight and said:
“He became gay later. I didn’t do it! But he’s fabulous.” Later, she apologized for outing her ex and tweeted: “Really didn’t know that was the wrong thing to say… Never meant to hurt Jon.” Knight tweeted back: “Tiff, please don’t lose any sleep over it! I know you weren’t being mean, and I found it to be funny. Wishing nothing but the best for you always!”
Some members of New Kids on the Block have been truly honest about the issues they’ve experienced in the public eye. Jonathan Knight, for example, opened up about his struggles during the boy band’s early days.
In 2000, Jonathan disclosed that he had developed an anxiety disorder ever since New Kids on the Block made it big. He ended up seeking medical help for his inability to control his thoughts.
The band was everywhere in the late ’80s. Girls went gaga for them, guys wanted to be them, parents likely didn’t understand what the fuss was all about (but we did). In any case, from 1992 to 1993, the band’s popularity faded. Many believed it would be the end for them.
However, their decline in sales didn’t stop them from continuing to record new songs or play to the loyal groupies who had been following them since their late ’80s heydays. Their 1994 album Face the Music didn’t do well at all, but the boys still went on tour and performed in smaller venues.
After the band split up in 1994 (at least temporarily), New Kids Jordan, Jonathan, and Joey all released solo singles that reached various degrees of success. However, the music industry wasn’t where their talents ended.
Donnie, Danny, and Joey have all tried their hands at acting. Donnie Wahlberg became the most successful, appearing in several successful (and scary) productions like The Sixth Sense, Band of Brothers, and the Saw franchise.
If you find it hard to choose between the New Kids on the Block and the Backstreet Boys for the title of your all-time favorite boy band, then the year 2010 probably had you shedding some tears of joy. 2010 was when both legendary bands joined forces.
They got together to form the supergroup NKOTBSB (long and weird, but that’s what they had to work with). The super boy band released a hit single and embarked on an emotional tour that traveled through North America, Asia, Australia, and Europe.
So, since their devastating breakup in the ’90s, what have the New Kids on the Block been up to today? Well, for one, they all went from being New Kids to being well-established men. Some went into acting, others pursued music, and others branched out to things outside the business.
Let’s see where they’re at today, starting with Jonathan Knight, who was actually one of the first to step away from the limelight and encourage the band’s breakup. He quit during their 1994 world tour.
When Jonathan left the group in 1994, the boys tried to play it off like he was injured. He left mid-tour, so that was the best explanation they could think of so as not to upset their fans. However, a few weeks later, they revealed they were breaking up.
After his leave, Jonathan admitted to having panic attacks, and that if he wanted to save his soul, he had to distance himself from the limelight. He stayed out of showbiz and instead, became a real estate developer. As of 2021, he has an estimated net worth of $10 million.
Jonathan’s younger brother, Jordan, was just 13 years old when he joined the group. After their split, he went on to have a solo career. Unlike his brother, he wasn’t ready to give up the limelight. And in any case, music was his passion.
He achieved great success with his first hit single “Give It to You,” released in 1999. As a solo artist, Jordan has sold over 1.5 million records. He’s also made small-screen appearances as a judge on the American Idol spin-off, American Juniors. All in all, he’s managed to accumulate a net worth of around $14 million.
Donnie Wahlberg has had quite a remarkable career, both in music and acting. When New Kids on the Block began to fade, he turned to his brother Mark, who was busy launching his group, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch.
He co-wrote and produced their debut album. Apart from the music industry, he dipped his feet in acting, and landed his first acting gig in 1996. Since then, he’s appeared in many films and TV shows. As of 2021, he has a whopping net worth of around $25 million!
After the breakup, Danny Wood decided he was going to continue making music. He even created his own record label called Damage Records. The singer went on to release several successful singles, including Second Face, Coming Home, and What If.
Even though Danny never reached the level of success he experienced with New Kids on the Block, he still had a blast releasing his music and expressing himself as a solo artist. Danny also starred in the reunion of his group and, over the years, has accumulated a comfortable fortune of around $16 million.
The youngest member of New Kids on the Block, Joey was still in his teens when the band broke up. After the split, he turned to songwriting as a form of coping with the dramatic turn of events and looked for a solo recording contract to continue his journey in the music industry.
Joey struggled to find someone to sign him. But instead of self-wallowing, he decided to record his own debut album. Incredibly, his first single cracked the top ten of several music charts. Like Donnie, Joey went on to acting as well, starring in several Broadway shows. All in all, he’s worth about $15 million.
According to Donnie Wahlberg, Mark either “wanted to go out and steal cars with his friends” or preferred to “play basketball.” Early bandmember Kelly also made an exit shortly after joining Nynuk. This could have been due to a lack of commitment.
In any case, Maurice Starr felt the band needed a fifth member. He finally found Joey McIntyre, a talented young singer who would often sing at his local community theater. After signing on, Joey regretted his decision, as he felt that the other guys, who were much older, teased him for being little, to the point that he wanted to leave. He changed his mind after Donnie called him and persuaded him to go on, saying, “We want you to shine. You can make us great.”
In elementary school, Wahlberg, Wood, and the Knight brothers had been taken out of Dorchester in an attempt to desegregate Boston schools. Danny Wood later shared: “Outside of school, it was a very controversial time. … We were surrounded by chaos, but in school it was amazing. We didn’t feel all that. Everyone was open to being around everyone else.”
Wahlberg told Variety years later: “They intended to bring people together to learn about each other and be exposed to different things and that’s what happened to us.” The change exposed the boys to new music and allowed them to feel comfortable traveling to their manager, Maurice Starr, who lived in a mostly Black neighborhood.
In their early days, Nynuk rehearsed like crazy and agreed to perform nearly everywhere, from talent shows to social halls to retirement houses. One show took place at a men’s prison. There, the band made the choice to connect with their audience by throwing out cigarettes to the crowd.
But during one of their early shows at the Franklin Park Kite Festival, Nynuk faced a crowd that threw things at them instead. Danny Wood’s face was slashed by a flying record. Wahlberg later mentioned that they kept going because they didn’t want to seem like scaredy-cats. “Going back on stage was simply about us believing in ourselves and wanting to stand our ground,” he stated.
In 1986, New Kids on the Block signed to the R&B division at Columbia Records. But Columbia didn’t really appreciate the weird name. After they changed it to New Kids on the Block, they released their debut album.
Maurice Starr, who wanted his boys to win over Black audiences, was disappointed by the album’s outcome. Only one song, an endearing ballad called “Be My Girl,” managed to chart Billboard’s Top 100 Singles. After the devastating flop, Columbia considered dropping the group. Luckily, they were given another chance.
The tale of New Kids on the Block is connected to another boy band from the 1980s: New Edition. Maurice Starr was their producer and promoter. He led the five Black teens to achieve worldwide success. But after songs like “Candy Girl,” they decided to split from Starr.
Maurice Starr was determined to find the next new boy band, and he had an idea of how to do so. He later told The New York Times, “If New Edition was as big as they were, I could imagine what would happen if white kids were doing the same thing.” He then asked talent agent Mary Alford to search Boston neighborhoods for white boys who could rap, sing or dance.
Many of the boys from the group were already trying their hand at singing and songwriting well before they were discovered by Maurice Starr. Donnie Wahlberg was one of them, who had started writing songs at a very young age.
In fact, a line from one of his rap songs became the band’s new name. It contained the lyrics “the new kids on the block,” which clicked well with Maurice and the boys and inspired the group’s change of identity.
The boy band’s second album, Hangin’ Tough, sold 14 million copies and was recorded in a temporary, humble studio in producer Maurice Starr’s home. The conditions there made it nearly impossible to work in peace.
The boys found it hard to drown out the noise from the rest of the house. They recorded their vocals while doing their best to ignore the sounds in the background. Jordan Knight once mentioned: “If you solo the tracks on Hangin’ Tough, you’ll hear babies crying, you’ll hear sirens, you’ll hear lots of stuff in the background.”
In the music video for 1989’s “I’ll Be Loving You (Forever),” Jordan Knight can be seen wearing a Batman T-shirt. However, it wasn’t his choice of clothing, and it surely didn’t come out of his closet. He put it on because “the stylist brought it.”
“I just gravitated toward that shirt,” he admitted; “I like the colors, it was cool and young, and so I wore it.” Shortly after the video aired, fans started sending him Batman T-shirts and everyone came to the conclusion that he adored the hero. “Honestly, when the Batman movie came out [in 1989], I actually fell asleep in the theater because I didn’t like it,” he later admitted.
In truth, the band’s Step by Step album was far from what the group had in mind for their Hangin’ Tough follow-up record. They wanted more input and say in the production process, but as it turns out, they ended up having less input. It was as if their producers didn’t count on them.
Wahlberg later stated: “It needed just a little more grit.” He actually wanted to incorporate other rappers, even collaborate with the boys from New Edition. “The crossover music that everyone does today. I wanted to do it then,” he explained.
Way before Jennifer Lopez became the icon she is today, the future actress/singer was an unknown backup dancer. She performed with New Kids on the Block at the 1991’s American Music Awards.
The show marked a departure from the previous year’s American Music Awards, where the boy band believed they had “played it too safe.” This time, they performed a more risqué version of the remixed single “Games.”
Over the years, many fans have wondered why Mark Wahlberg gave up such an incredible opportunity to be part of a great group. Wahlberg’s mom might have the answer. “The regimen was really tough,” Alma Conroy said of her son’s decision.
“Rehearsal every night after school, shows on weekends. There was no time for anything else. You really had to want to do this. Mark wasn’t ready for it.” Well, it seems Mark didn’t have it in him to stick around. It’s okay, he went on to be more successful than all of them.
So, with their first disappointing album behind them, the New Kids on the Block looked towards the future and kept going. In 1987, they worked on their second album, much of which was recorded at Maurice Starr’s house.
When their second album, Hangin’ Tough was released in 1988, Maurice Starr still wanted the boys to target Black audiences. But then, a Florida pop radio station began playing “Please Don’t Go Girl,” which drew the attention of many excited teenage girls.
The latest news is that New Kids on the Block have recently announced a “MixTape 2022″ tour with Salt-N-Pepa, En Vogue , and Rick Astley. If this rings a bell, it’s because they went on a similar tour back in 2019 with quite the same lineup.
“We had a blast out on the first MixTape Tour in 2019 and can’t wait to take it to another level with our fans on the MixTape Tour 2022,” Donnie Wahlberg confessed, “Just like a mixtape, these shows are going to take audiences through all the emotions.