Born Joseph DiNicola in Passaic, New Jersey on June 11, 1940 Joey attended Paterson State College (now William Paterson University) with the hopes of becoming a high school History and English teacher. However, while attending college, he decided to take a break and give his musical career one more try and if that did not pan out successfully, he would obtain his teaching degree.
Joey Dee formed his first group, The Thunder Trio, while still in high school. While the line-up would change and grow, the core remained Joey Dee, Tony Sciuto on drums, and John Yanick on guitar.
In 1954, the group placed second on Ted Macks' famed Amateur Hour. A new lead singer, Rogers Freeman, joined the group in 1958 and they set out for their first recording session. Their first single on the obscure Little label was a ballad, "Lorraine," and an uptempo doo wop song, "The Girl I Walk To School."
Joey recruited David Brigati, lead singer of The Hi-Fives (and brother of Eddie Brigati of The Young Rascals) during a gig at Garfield High School, Garfield, New Jersey. Their first musical collaboration had come with The Hi-Fives, for whom Dee sang background on a few cuts, and who David had recorded with for Decca Records.
At the suggestion of high school friends - The Shirelles - Joey contacted Florence Greenberg of Scepter Records and began working on new material. The first single release was a ballad sung by David Brigati, "Face of an Angel." The B-side was the group-led "Shimmy Baby," which led them to work out the "1-2-3 kick, 1-2-3 jump!" routine that would later evolve into the "Peppermint Twist."
In 1959, Joey Dee recognized the potential of the newest fad, a new dance called "The Twist." The Starliters, now composed of Dee, drummer Don Martin, Willie Davis, organist Carlton Lattimore, and Larry Vernieri, Joey worked out a stage act with new dance routines.
Joey Dee and the Starliters were discovered while working at a nightclub called Oliveri's in Lodi, New Jersey, by a New York City agent named Don Davis. They were booked for a weekend at an obscure New York City night club called the Peppermint Lounge which was located on West 45th Street. What was to be a weekend booking turned into a 13-month run.
Their initial appearance at the club found actress Merle Oberon and Prince Serge Oblinski dancing the night away at the Peppermint Lounge. After the newspapers reported the "sighting" crowds started to appear, along with barricades and mounted police to keep the crowds in line, which had backed up to Broadway.
For several months, the craze would continue at the Lounge. Celebrity visitors continued to pour in and included Judy Garland, John Wayne, Jackie "Ted Kennedy, Nat "King" Cole, Shirley MacLaine, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and Liberace.
Less than one year later, a trio of young singers called The Ronettes came and danced with the Starliters one evening. During their first visit to New York three years later, The Beatles even checked out the Lounge.
|Crowds at The Peppermint Lounge|
In 1961, Joey Dee and The Starliters filmed the movie Hey, Let's Twist, a fictional story of Joey Dee and the Peppermint Lounge. the movie capitalized on the Twist craze and made the once-obscure Lounge famous.
Successful singles spawned from Hey, Let's Twist were the title track and "Shout - Part I," which became the group's second-biggest selling record, reaching #6 on the U.S. charts. It also sold a million copies, giving the group their second gold disc.
Albums released during this time were Doin' The Twist At The Peppermint Lounge, which was recorded live at the venue, and All The World's Twistin' With Joey Dee & The Starliters.
During 1962, Joey Dee and The Starliters starred in their second motion picture, Two Tickets to Paris. One of the songs from this film, "What Kind Of Love Is This," scored Top Twenty. During December 1962, the original Starliters did their final recording session as a team, producing "Help Me Pick Up the Pieces," and "Baby, You're Driving Me Crazy," written by Joey Dee and Henry Glover.
During 1963, Joey Dee recorded an album entitled Dance, Dance, Dance, with The Ronettes as his backup group. During spring of that year, Roulette released the track "Hot Pastrami with Mashed Potatoes," from the previously issued live album, as a two-part single; the record made the U.S. Top Forty.
Dee continued to record and issue solo recordings from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s, as well a song he wrote with original Starliters David Brigati and Larry Vernieri entitled "How Can I Forget" during the late 1960s which was released under the name Joey Dee and The New Starliters. He continued to travel and make personal appearances with various Starliters.