Joey Dee and the Starliters: '60s Music Stardom


Rise to Fame: 'Peppermint Twist' Phenomenon

Joey Dee and The Starliters are an American pop music group from the 1960s. Best known for their 1961 hit recording “Peppermint Twist,” the group was founded by Joey Dee, born Joseph DiNicola in Passaic, New Jersey in 1940. With lead singer Rogers Freeman, Joey Dee and The Starliters’ first single was “Lorraine,” backed with “The Girl I Walk To School,” in 1958. Their biggest hit, “Peppermint Twist,” became a cultural phenomenon in 1961, skyrocketing to the top of the charts and sparking a dance craze across the nation. The song’s infectious rhythm and Joey Dee’s charismatic stage presence made them a household name and established their reputation as one of the premier acts in the early ’60s music scene.

In 1960, The Starliters were discovered by an agent while performing at a nightclub.The group was booked at an intimate venue on 45th Street in New York City called the Peppermint Lounge for what was supposed to be a one-time weekend gig. Joey Dee and company made such a smash that they ended up becoming the house band for the Peppermint Lounge, remaining onboard for more than a year. The Lounge became world famous during The Starliters’ tenure, attracting celebrities such as Jackie Kennedy, Truman Capote, and Judy Garland. Joey Dee recruited David Brigati (Eddie’s brother) to the band and one night in 1961, a trio of pretty teenagers, waiting on line outside the club hoping to be allowed inside. They were dressed in matching brightly coloured dresses and were ushered up to the stage and told to dance. The Ronettes spent the rest of that night dancing and singing. The girls were offered a job on the spot. 

On Stage: Captivating Audiences Across America

Also in 1961, Joey Dee and The Starliters filmed the movie Hey, Let’s Twist. Hit singles spawned from Hey, Let’s Twist were the title track and “Shout – Part I,” which became the group’s second-biggest selling record. 

Musical Evolution: Hits and Chart-Toppers

In 1962, Joey Dee and The Starliters starred in their second movie, Two Tickets to Paris. One of the songs from this film, “What Kind Of Love Is This,” penned by Johnny Nash, became a Top Twenty hit.  

In 1963, Joey Dee recorded an album entitled Dance, Dance, Dance, with The Ronettes as his backup group.  The Starliters toured Europe with The Beatles as their opening act. During 1964, Joey Dee toured with various Starliters including Cornish, Cavaliere, and Eddie Brigati. Other group members at different times included Hendrix, Neville, drummer Jimmy Mayes and singer Tommy Davis.

Jimi Hendrix - member of the Starliters

Joey Dee continued to record and issue solo recordings from the mid-60s to the mid-70s, as well a song he wrote with original Starliters David Brigati and Larry Vernieri entitled “How Can I Forget” in the late 1960s which was released under the name Joey Dee and The New Starliters. 

Influence Beyond Music: Impact on Pop Culture

These days, Joey Dee and The Starliters is comprised of Joey with Bob Valli (brother of Frankie Valli) and original Starliter David Brigati. The group tours and plays at various venues from Connecticut to New Jersey to Florida to Las Vegas, doing well over a hundred concerts per year.  Joey Dee resides in Florida, while Brigati and Valli remain Jersey boys.

Join me as I chat with Joey Dee during this week’s episode. He shares all the stories from yesterday and today. If you’d like to know more about Joey Dee, head for his website here and pick up a copy of his book ‘Peppermint Twist Chronicles.’ It’s a great read!

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