Original members: Ricky Bell, Bobby Brown, Michael Bivins, Ronnie DeVoe, Ralph Tresvant.
Later members: Johnny Gill (joined in 1988, after the departure of Bobby Brown).
The boys who would become New Edition all grew up in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1978, when they were around ages 9 and 10, the group was formed by Bobby Brown, Michael Bivins, and Ricky Bell, who knew each other from school and from living in the same housing projects. Not long after, Ralph Tresvant joined the group and became lead singer, and in 1980 the group's choreographer, Ronnie DeVoe joined the group, making it a fivesome. The quintet took the name New Edition as a tribute to another former boy band, the Jackson 5, whom the younger group emulated. In 1982, the group was discovered at a local talent show by music producer and songwriter Maurice Starr. In late 1982, Starr produced the group's debut album, Candy Girl, which was released in March 1983.
Candy Girl was both a critical and commercial success: it sold over a million copies and the title track reached No. 1 on the singles charts in both the U.S. and the U.K. Despite having a hit album and touring the world, the boys became with disenchanted with Starr, who they felt was cheating them financially. In 1984 they broke from his management and sued his label, Streetwise Records. The boys eventually won the lawsuit, then signed with MCA Records. Their self-titled second album, which was released in July 1984, was even more successful than their debut. It eventually sold over two million copies and generated multiple top 10 singles, including "Cool It Now" and "Mr. Telephone Man."
Despite the group's mid-80s success, one member, Bobby Brown, was not happy. He felt the group's members, who were by then in their mid-to-late teens, should start singing more adult-oriented material, instead of the kiddie pop they had done up to that point. He also felt he should have a more prominent role in the group. In December 2005, about a month after their third album's release, the other four members of New Edition voted to throw Bobby out of the group. To keep the peace, their label, MCA, offered Bobby a solo deal, which he accepted. For a time, the group proceeded as a quartet, and released an album as a foursome in 1986. In 1987, the members voted to bring Johnny Gill, an already established solo singer, into the group as co-lead vocalist.
Seeing the success Bobby Brown had as a solo artist with his Don't Be Cruel album in 1988, members of New Edition decided to try side projects while still keeping the group on the back burner. One of the projects was Bel Biv Devoe, made up of Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins and Ronnie DeVoe. Their young adult-oriented 1990 debut album, Poison, which was part of the New Jack Swing movement, sold four million copies. Ralph Tresvant released his own solo debut the same year, selling a million copies, and Johnny Gill, who was a couple years older than the other New Edition members and started his career as a solo artist in the early '80s, put out his third album in 1990. Thanks in part to the name recognition brought about by his work with New Edition, Johnny Gill sold over two million copies.
Reformation & Comeback:
In 1996, New Edition reformed and recorded an album, Home Again, that was released in September of that year. It was their first release together since 1988. The album is notable for the return of Bobby Brown to the group, making New Edition a sextet for the first time. The reunion was short-lived, however; during a tour in support of the album, Bobby again left the group due to personality conflicts. The group released another album as a fivesome in 2004 on Sean 'Diddy' Combs' Bad Boy Records label, but the album flopped on the charts. Despite this, the group has continued to tour and perform live on and off, with and without Bobby Brown. In January 2012, the group announced it would tour throughout the year as part of a commemoration of New Edition's 30th anniversary. The tour included all five original members as well as Johnny Gill.
2004: One Love
1996: Home Again
1988: Heart Break
1986: Under the Blue Moon
1985: All for Love
1984: New Edition
1983: Candy Girl