Tommy Mara “The Pavarotti of Doo Wop”
By Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta
Some people are just born to sing and it sure didn’t take Tommy Mara long to find his voice.
As a boy, he sang classic hits such as “More” while his grandmother played piano. He’d sing whatever his grandmother wanted him to sing, and even wore a fedora.
But Mara didn’t limit himself to his grandmother’s favorite Frank Sinatra songs, as he quickly moved on to rock, playing drums and singing in a high school rock band. Music flowed naturally for Mara, as it went from being a hobby to a serious career. The Italian singer from Brooklyn easily made the transition from Battle of the Bands to wedding bands, and then being in all kinds of rock groups, including southern rock. But it was doo wop that “rang like a bell” for Mara and because of his dynamic vocals, he became known as “The Pavarotti of Doo Wop.”
Mara left Brooklyn to move to Florida and in the 1990s, he joined the Saints and changed the name to “Tommy and the Saints.”
And in 2000, Mara joined The Crests, which was formerly led by the late Johnny Maestro, who later sang lead for The Brooklyn Bridge. Mara called the act, “The Crests, featuring the Voice of Tommy Mara” because he didn’t want anyone to think he was portraying Johnny Maestro.
“No one can sing like Johnny Maestro,” he said.
Maestro and Mara met officially in 1995 and became inseparable. “If we weren’t working, we were together,” Mara said. The duo performed together in the “Dream Team,” which Mara considered a career highlight. The pair even had a recording studio together.
While Maestro was the original front man for The Crests, Mara has been fronting them for over 13 years, longer than Maestro. Performing with The Crests took Mara all over the world. “I’m the most well-known, unknown person,” he said. “I’m the famous un-famous guy. I’m the only guy without a legitimate record.” But a “legitimate record” may be a reality soon enough for Mara, as a new Crest album is in the works, and it will feature both Mara and the late Maestro on the songs.
However, this was not originally in Mara’s plans.
“As a friend, I didn’t want to reap off his [Maestro] passing. I didn’t want to make money off my goombah,” Mara said.
It’s obvious from Mara’s live performances that he isn’t doing it for money. “I do it for the love,” he said, “to make people feel like they’re twenty-one again. To watch their faces brings joy to me. It’s beautiful.”
Tommy Mara and The Crests will be the special guest of David Brenner on Saturday, March 16, 2013, 8 p.m. at Paper Mill Playhouse, in Millburn, New Jersey.
Tommy Mara and The Crests will also be performing “Richard Nader’s Doo Wop Celebration XXIV” Saturday, June 1, 2013, at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey.