The Actual Origin Story of the Backstreet Boys

Everyone thinks they know the story about how the Backstreet Boys got formed.

Except, speaking as a die hard fan, I know that many people don’t. A tweet from Nick had a lot of surprised replies at the fact there was a promotional photo of five Backstreet Boys, but two of which were not Kevin or Brian. It was before they joined the group. The amount of shocked fans made me realize that Holy Howie, not everyone knows the real story. The Boys have talked about pieces of it at certain points, most recently being their Grammy Museum Q&A. I know I reference that interview a lot but it’s because it really is informative (and funny). Denise also talks about it in the book she published years ago. As does the “official biography” that was put out in 1997. There’s an interview or two that touches upon it as well.

All of this along with whatever videos I can find online or from our media archive will be used to put it together for you guys. Because the Backstreet Boys just aren’t quite right without Kevin and Brian, but it did take a minute to get there.

It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it? A Backstreet Boys group without Kevin’s smooth way of doing things. No Brian jumping around on stage, or saying Gotta Go!. The group we know today is only complete when we have Kevin, Nick, AJ, Brian and Howie. (Though I do have a post coming soon to address the Kevin-less time). At one point and time however, this was absolutely a reality. The Kentucky cousins were later found and well, destiny seemed to have a hand in it. But let’s go back, all the way to the beginning.

Once upon a time, in Orlando, Florida, there was something called the Blue Sheets. This was basically a leaflet or newsletter I suppose, aimed at up and coming entertainers in the area. It listed any auditions available and what they were looking for. This is part of the story we’ve come to learn, after their peak. (Back in the day they used to say they formed themselves.) In a way I suppose this is kind of true? Because AJ auditioned and then he helped audition future members after he was told he was in. Nick joined the group. As did Howie. Fun fact however, apparently his contact information got lost so they were checking the phone books (remember those?) for a Tony Donetti. You know, his stage name and Tony Donetti didn’t exist. So Howie assumed he didn’t get in. It wasn’t until his agent suggested an audition that he showed up and realized it was the same one. That’s how he found out he made it. And it’s around that time he scrapped the stage name.

The next members? Well, they weren’t Kevin and Brian.

You see this video above? That’s Sam Licata and Charles Edwards in there with Nick, AJ, and Howie. See according to AJ’s mom Denise, who wrote about this time in her book Backstreet Mom, Lou Pearlman originally had the idea to have seven members in the group. He quickly realized that number felt a bit off. So then it became five members and an alternate. The member who was the alternate, eventually quit. I personally think that’s for the best since how awkward would an alternate be? So the original, original five member line up was Nick, AJ, Howie, and two more – one named Sam Licata and another named Burk Parsons.

The name for the group came next. Now, we’ve all heard the story about how they came up with the name based on the “Backstreet Market” that was supposedly a teen hangout in Orlando. Back in the nineties we were told the Boys came up with it. Nope. Management did. And as we recently found out? Nick thinks the market is a load of crap and that management thought the name just “sounded cool”. Kevin, AJ, Howie and Brian think it really existed. Guess we’ll never know!

Moving right along…

Burk didn’t last very long. He did an interview years later practically trashing the Boys and defending his decision to leave and become a pastor. Now I can respect that if it turns out music isn’t your calling. But he definitely tries to call Brian’s religious faith and beliefs into question because Brian did stick with the group. Now if there’s something I can’t stand it’s someone trying to judge another for what they believe. Practice whatever faith you’d like but don’t try to say what’s right for you is what everyone must do. Which is what Burk does here. Also, his story about why he left doesn’t quite match Denise’s. She said she doesn’t know what the arguments were about, but there were shouting matches between Lou and Burk’s mother that led up to him leaving. Makes you wonder what Burk ended up sugarcoating.

After Burk, Charles became the next replacement. Mind you there are practically no videos of BSB with Sam and Charles. There’s a few photos, and I found the very original recording of I’ve Got To Get It online but that’s about it. This was before the age of social media and the very beginnings of the internet turning into what it is today. So much of it has been lost to time. According to Denise, Charles was simply a bad fit. He couldn’t get in tune quite as well with the others, which is pretty important if you plan on singing a capella.

Crazily enough I learned he was given another chance, in NSYNC! Like Chris (who also originally auditioned for BSB and didn’t make it) Lou offered him a spot in a new group. This was before the group even had a name or a real sound so eventually Charles quit the group. Man, think about that. You literally had the chance to be in the two biggest boybands in the world, and ended up in neither. That would haunt me.

Kevin came in and took the place of Charles after he left. God bless the person who told Lou about Kevin. Apparently it was a friend of a friend. For awhile it was Sam, Howie, AJ, Nick, and Kevin. Out of nowhere Sam decided the group couldn’t use a song he wrote, he wanted to keep it for himself. On top of this, he didn’t think the group was going to go anywhere. Kevin said at the Grammy Q&A that one day they were leaving a rehearsal and Sam said they should just quit, that it wasn’t going to turn into anything. He asked if he wanted to join him in maybe heading up to Nashville or something. Kevin decided to stick around. Good idea, Kevin.

Sam? Well, he left.

He decided he was better off as a solo artist. Bad move Sam! He started using the name Phoenix Stone and tried to make his own way in music. I guess he ended up somewhat successful at some point. He’s easily the most Google friendly of the original ex-members. He tried to make a mark in country, he did end up going back to Lou at some point however. Why? Because I stumbled on this 2001 article that mentions he was signed on to Trans-Continental Records. Ring a bell? Apparently he was the first recording artist to get put on a Wheaties box. Do you regret leaving…Sam? I mean, Phoenix?

I would.

(One of the earliest performances of the Backstreet Boys we know today)

After that was when they had the many, many, many auditions where they just couldn’t find a replacement for that fifth spot. Finally, Kevin suggested his cousin Brian but warned Lou that he was still in high school and may not be able to come down. Thus, it leads us to the call that changed their destiny on April 19th, 1993. Brian eventually made it down to Florida and met the Boys that very next day. On that infamous day of April 20th, 1993…the Backstreet Boys as we know them today were finally born. It took several member changes, and some struggles, but sometimes there’s a reason behind everything.

It may have taken some years for them to refine their sound, as seen above as they perform I Got To Get It. They were going to go through many ups and downs, both only the five Backstreet Boys we have now could’ve survived as a group. It was their bond and chemistry that helped them last where other groups could not. There is a reason why the others didn’t last. It simply wasn’t meant to be.

Thus concludes this lesson on the origin story of the Backstreet Boys! Okay so it’s not as smooth and easy as the one they were pitched to say during their heyday. But it’s definitely more interesting and it gives a lot to think about. Would the Backstreet Boys even exist today if the ex-members hadn’t left, thus making it so Kevin and Brian didn’t join the group? Would the pop boyband explosion have happened without the Boys to ignite it? Who knows.

What I do know is that I’m very thankful for the way things worked out in the end.

And hey…so is Nick!

16 thoughts on “The Actual Origin Story of the Backstreet Boys

  1. Sam did want back in, remember? He wanted to take Kevin’s place after Never Gone (he and Joey Fatone, lol). And didn’t he work with Lou on ‘Making the Band’? Props to Sam, though, unlike Pastor Burk he never seems to have trashed the Boys.


  2. I agree Rose.. Very grateful and glad that things worked out the way they did. Destiny def had a role in how things turned out. Thank goodness indeed


  3. For me its ok, we can not tell if the former 2 members did not leave and the music we loved is at is without kevin and brian…we cant really tell who is better with or without them… I dont know if the original members now are together but did not make good music…you cant love them… Well this is only my opinion…i love them i love their music no one can replace them


  4. There was actually a Backstreet Market , I use to hang out there in the early and mid 90’s. It was on International Drive just past Wet n Wild water park (which is now closed)


      1. Backstreet Market, a new outdoor flea market near International Drive in Orlando, has done a brisk trade in squabbling during its first month of operation.

        Here’s the article.

        I live in Orlando, but not back in ’91, and I don’t remember this place. For those who don’t know, International Drive (I-Drive) is the main tourist thoroughfare in Orlando, right near Universal Orlando. Tons of hotels, restaurants, shopping centers and smaller attractions are located on I-Drive.

        Only the center of entertainment in the American southeast could create the awesomeness that is the Backstreet Boys!


  5. Thank you for this very informative and interesting post.

    Love the Star Search performance. Did they win at all? Just getting to perform was a coup. That show was the American Idol and America’s Got Talent of the 80s and early 90s. So many names got their start there.

    They sound here a bit like the other early 90s teen pop groups, The Party (made up of MMC members) and pc Quest.

    According to Discogs, that River Phoenix dude has a self titled full length album in 2000 and a maxi single, Nothing Good About Goodbye (1999).


    1. Thanks for reading! I tried to make sure this was put together as best I could. They did not win! A lot of present day stars that came up in the 90s lost on Star Search, it’s a bit funny. Yeah, Phoenix Stone was able to do an album but that was about it. I was reminded (by another fan) that he actually offered to take Kevin’s place during Kevin’s absence from the group. Which is crazy yet funny LOL.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.