Kidding Around

DON’T TRY TELLING THE MEMBERS OF Immature that youth is wasted on the young. Marques “Batman” Houston, 13, Jerome “Romeo” Jones, 13, and Kelton “LDB” Kessee, 14, aren’t buying it. No wonder. Their second album, Playtyme Is Over, has sold more than 500,000 copies and spent 31 weeks on the pop charts, propelled by two hit singles, the R&B ballads “Never Lie” and “Constantly.”

But hitting the big time has yet to separate the trio from their prepubescent nicknames. Keyboardist Houston’s is from the Batman underwear he used to wear over a hat onstage. Percussionist Kessee’s LDB is for Little Drummer Boy, while bassist Jones goes by Romeo because of his dreamy eyes, one of which he obscures—purely for effect—with a patch.

Still, changes are inevitably in store. “Our first album [the 1992 flop On Our Worst Behavior] was more bubblegum, but we’re older now,” says Houston, who plays the pesky Roger in ABC’s comedy series Sister, Sister as a sideline. “I hope my voice holds up until the next album,” he says of one change in particular. “If it doesn’t, I’m in troubles.” Their manager-producer Chris Stokes sometimes gets nervous too. “Their hormones are just starting to kick in,” he says. “They’re really amazed by the girl thing.”

The group, which just embarked on a 10-week tour, got started in 1990 when Stokes discovered Jones—whose parents run a catering business in Venice, Calif.—rapping at the Venice youth center where Stokes volunteers. They found Houston, the son of a secretary and a phone company manager, dancing at a school talent show. He brought in Kessee, who had performed with his church choir and lived four doors away from Houston’s family in L.A.’s Windsor Hills section with his father, a gas company repairman, and mother, a social ser-‘ vices supervisor.

Wary of fame’s pitfalls, the group’s parents, all friends, hang tough on chores and homework. (Houston is tutored on the Sister, Sister set and Jerome and Kelton by a teacher hired by their record company, MCA.) “We’re very proud of them,” says Carolyn Houston. “But Marques is still a kid who can’t find his socks. We want him to stay that way.”

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