Backstreet Boys' Singer Leaves Group - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

6/26/06-Orlando, FL

Backstreet Boys' Singer Leaves Group

The Backstreet Boys are saying goodbye to the oldest member of their band, according to a statement posted on the group's Web site Saturday.

Kevin Richardson, 33, said he was leaving to pursue other interests.

"It was a very tough decision for me but one that was necessary in order to move on with the next chapter of my life," Richardson said in the statement.

The Orlando-based pop band ushered in a new teen-music craze in the late '90s, buoyed by their soulful harmonies, synchronized dance steps, clean-cut good looks and charm. Their three albums sold a total of more than 35 million copies.

The group took a hiatus in 2001 after A.J. McLean's highly publicized entry into rehab forced the band to postpone their "Black & Blue" tour. They reunited to release the album "Never Gone" in 2005.

The remaining members, McLean, Nick Carter, Howie Dorough, and Brian Littrell, said they had no plans to replace Richardson.

"The door will always be open for him to return to the Backstreet Boys. We wish him the all the best in his future endeavors," they said on the band's Web site.

The group plans to return to the studio this weekend to begin work on their next album, which is due later this year.

Calls and an e-mail sent to the group's publicist, Sonia Muckle, were not immediately returned to The Associated Press on Saturday.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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