When Greg McPherson, the former music director for New Kids on the Block, recanted his claim that the Boston-based teen sensations were primarily a lip-sync act, most everybody in the music industry thought the hatchet was buried.
New Kids singer Jordan Knight, whose group filed a defamation lawsuit against McPherson in February, says the group intends to push on with its legal case and won’t be satisfied until its name is cleared in court.
“We’re not done with this guy yet,” Knight said in his first interview since the group performed live on “The Arsenio Hall Show” in an attempt to refute the lip-sync charges on Feb. 5. “He lied about us and tried to ruin our reputation. I know it might sound cruel, but we hope that this lawsuit will damage his credibility in the same way he tried to do us. We want to teach him that what he did was wrong and that he should pay for it.”
The New Kids rift erupted Jan. 24 when McPherson, whom the group employed as a director and producer for a year beginning in December, 1988, sued New Kids manager Maurice Starr for creative infringement and breach of contract in Suffolk Superior Court in Boston.
The dispute escalated five days later when McPherson told the New York Post that the Kids lip-synced in concert and that Starr and his brother, Michael Johnson, had actually sung lead vocals over the New Kids’ singing on many of the group’s biggest hits.
McPherson retracted his allegations three weeks ago and dropped his suit after reportedly negotiating a six-figure settlement with Starr that included a cache of recording gear and a promise to be employed on several upcoming Starr music projects, sources close to the case said.
His change of heart followed a similar retraction made by composer James Capra, who co-wrote the New Kids’ song “Angel.” Capra told The Times in February that he believed Starr sang the lead vocal on “Angel,” but withdrew that allegation on March 27 after he too reportedly received a six-figure settlement.
Starr, who vehemently denied the lip-sync allegations in February, could not be reached for comment. In an interview Monday, McPherson declined to comment on whether a financial settlement had been reached, but acknowledged that his problems with Starr were resolved.
“Maurice’s pastor and my pastor played a big part in Maurice and I making up,” McPherson said Monday. “They convinced us that we were setting a poor example as Christians for kids in the community. By praying together, we found a way to resolve the situation.”
But New Kid Joe McIntyre believes something far less ethereal convinced McPherson to change his tune.
“Greg was after money,” McIntyre said in a phone interview from Boston on Monday. “We weren’t surprised that Greg did what he did. . . . What surprised us was that people believed him. . . . We were stunned at how the media just took the story and ran with it.”
Added Knight: “But what really made us mad was that when the truth finally came out, it barely got reported. Everybody jumped on the bandwagon with all the negative stuff about how we didn’t sing, but . . . nobody did any stories saying the guy who spread all these lies admitted he was a fraud. Nobody printed any big headlines like ‘The New Kids Really Do Sing!’ But hey, that’s the way the media works. It’s not about truth. It’s about controversy.”
Immediately after McPherson initiated the lip-sync controversy, the district attorney of Yolo County, Calif., launched a state consumer fraud investigation into the alleged New Kids scam, as it had done two years earlier with the Milli Vanilli fiasco. And a Chicago fan filed a $75-million class-action suit against the New Kids in Cook County Circuit Court, claiming the group--which has sold more than 18 million albums in the United States since 1986--defrauded everyone who bought its music. That suit is still pending.
According to Knight, negative fallout from the lip-sync accusations took a strong emotional toll on each member of the group.
“When something like this happens, it’s like everybody in the world thinks you’re a big phony,” Knight said. “Even though you know you didn’t do what you’re being accused of, you have to live with the fact that people want to believe the worst. Believe me, there’s some rage inside us.”
The case, which Starr is not a party to, is not expected to come to court before September. Meanwhile, Knight and McIntyre, who are currently recording in Boston for the next New Kids album, say they hope the crisis will induce their critics to treat them more seriously.
“What happened to us was really bad,” McIntyre said. “But maybe something good can come out of it. Maybe because of this people will pay a little more attention to exactly what we do now. Maybe they’ll finally begin to judge the New Kids on the Block for what we really are: singers.”