As one of the boy bands that exploded onto the airwaves in the late 1990s, the Backstreet Boys seemingly became a phenomenon overnight. The stories behind how the Backstreet Boys formed show that while their hits may have come out of the blue, the path that drew them together was meticulously plotted.
The Backstreet Boys's backstory begins in Orlando, FL, in 1992. The brainchild of infamous music producer Lou Pearlman, it all started with an ad Pearlman placed in a local newspaper looking for singers. AJ McLean auditioned and won the first coveted spot. Then, an open call went out seeking young male performers who could cut it as boy band members.
In 1993, the group - McLean, Howie Dorough, Nick Carter, Kevin Richardson, and Brian Littrell - finally came together. They played some bizarre gigs at SeaWorld as well as at a few shopping malls and restaurants before hitting it big in Europe. Soon, their music caught on stateside, and there was no stopping the group of harmonizing heartthrobs.
Even if you're a super-fan, there are lots of fun facts and things you never knew about the Backstreet Boys, their early years, and their subsequent rise, fall, and return.
The Velvet Underground took their name from a book about odd desires. Fall Out Boy is also the name of a minor character on The Simpsons. Coldplay is named after a collection of poems. And the Backstreet Boys? Their moniker came from a flea market in Orlando, FL, the Backstreet Market.
Back in the day, it was a trendy meeting-place for teens, so given the group's Orlando connection, the name was a perfect fit for an up-and-coming boy band.
Friends Howie Dorough and AJ McLean were the first two members of the group in the early 1990s, before the rest of Backstreet Boys signed on. Though their voices had nice harmony, Howie emerged as the duo's lead singer.
After more members came onboard and the group officially became the Backstreet Boys, Dorough realized he wasn't the lead singer at all. Dorough later confessed to Popcrush:
I was a little bit jealous of the situation - that I didn't have the opportunity to be the singer that I was before I started [in] the group. I had to really take a step back and say, "This is about being in a group. It's no longer the I, it's the we."
Ryan Gosling began his career on The All-New Mickey Mouse Club, but his life could have gone another direction entirely after he left the House of Mouse. During the years he was on the show, Gosling lived in the same Orlando apartment building as AJ McLean, and the two often hung out. Legend has it while the duo played basketball one day, McLean told Gosling about a new musical group he was forming and asked the Mousketeer to join.
At the time, Gosling thought it was too late to capitalize on the boy band fad and dismissed the offer. It seems to have worked out in the end for the former neighbors.
The late Lou Pearlman could be called the mastermind behind the Backstreet Boys. It was his classified ad in the Orlando Sentinel that eventually brought the group together, though many of the Boys knew one another previously and had already formed their own makeshift act. However, Pearlman expanded the group and gave them their boy band image and sound.
At the same time, Pearlman was also secretly running an elaborate Ponzi scheme that lasted over 20 years and bilked investors - many of whom were elderly retirees - out of more than $300 million. He fled the United States in 2007 to avoid paying his debts, but authorities eventually tracked him down so he could be brought to justice.
Later that year, Pearlman was sentenced to 25 years in prison. In the midst of his trial, he was also accused of preying upon underage boys, charges he vehemently denied. Pearlman died in 2016 while in prison.