Sixties City presents a wide-ranging series of articles on all aspects of the Sixties, penned by the creator of the iconic 60s music paper  Mersey Beat

Joey Dee and The Starliters - Peppermint Lounge


Joey Dee was born Joseph DeNicola on 11th June 1940 in Passaic, New Jersey. It was while at High School that he formed his first group with drummer Tony Scuiton and guitarist John Yanick. They cut their first record 'Lorraine' for a minor label in 1958 and were joined by David Brigati of The Hi-Fives. There were various personnel changes in Joey's band, now called The Starliters and they were booked for a weekend at the Peppermint Lounge, a New York club in 1959. They were so successful that they became the house band in 1961 and had appeared at the club each weekend for 13 months. The club became very fashionable and was frequented by numerous celebrities including Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, Liberace, Shirley MacLaine and Nat King Cole.

Joey turned down offers from major labels such as Atlantic and Warner to sign with Roulette Records and his single 'Peppermint Twist' topped the charts in 1961. The same year he starred in the film 'Hey, Let's Twist,' based on the Peppermint Lounge and the following year featured in his second movie 'Two Tickets to Paris'. Apart from this chart-topper, Dee and his group, The Starliters, had several other US hits: 'Shout', 'Hey Let's Twist', 'Ya Ya', 'Hot Pastrami With Mashed Potatoes' and 'What Kind of Love is This?'

In 1964 he opened his own club, The Starliter. His new band comprised Felix Cavaliere, Gene Cornish and Eddie Brigati, who left him later that year to form The Young Rascals. Jimi Hendrix was also guitarist with The Starliters for a spell in 1965. The Starliters never toured the UK, but appeared at The Star Club in Hamburg with Liverpool bands The Beatles, The Searchers and Kingsize Taylor and The Dominoes. They also appeared in France and topped the bill above The Beatles at a concert at the Kungliga Tennishaller in Stockholm, Sweden on Saturday 26th October 1963 and after the gig John and Ringo attended a party held by Joey at the Foresta Hotel.

After a regular run of releases, further records were issued sporadically on a variety of labels in the U.S. In 1967 Dee founded The Starlite Starbrite Foundation For the Love of Rock 'n' Roll. Although he no longer records, Joey Dee still performs regularly in the States. For a time he appeared with a new version of The Starliters, which included his wife Lois Lee and his son Ronnie on saxophone. Sadly, Lois Lee passed away in September 2003, a victim of cancer.

Joey now appears with the Dream Team of Rock & Roll, a collection of members of former groups who topped the American charts. During the show, each of them performs their individual chart-toppers, with Joey singing 'Peppermint Twist.' Other members include Earl 'Speedo' Carroll of the Cadillacs, Larry Chance of the Earls, Johnny of Johnny & Santo, Carl Gardner of the Coasters, Shirley Alston Reeves of the Shirelles and Jay Siegal of the Tokens.


Note: On Sunday September 19th 2010, a street corner was dedicated to the band in their home town of Passaic, New Jersey. The street signing took place on the corner of Washington Place and Columbia Avenue.

   The Peppermint Lounge in 'Hey, Let's Twist!'
Joey Dee and The Starliters - Peppermint Lounge




Mersey Beat Magazine Bill Harry attended the Liverpool College of Art with Stuart Sutcliffe and John Lennon and made the arrangements for Brian Epstein to visit The Cavern, where he saw The Beatles for the first time. Bill was a member of 'The Dissenters' and the founder and editor of 'Mersey Beat', the iconic weekly music newspaper that documented the early Sixties music scene in the Liverpool area and is possibly best known for being the first periodical to feature a local band called 'The Beatles'. He has worked as a high powered publicist, doing PR for acts such as Suzi Quatro, Free, The Arrows and Hot Chocolate and has managed press campaigns for record labels such as CBS, EMI, Polydor. Bill is the critically acclaimed author of a large number of books about The Beatles and the 60s era including 'The Beatles Who's Who', 'The Best Years of the Beatles' and the Fab Four's 'Encyclopedia' series. He has appeared on 'Good Morning America' and has received a Gold Award from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors.


Article Bill Harry 2017               Original Graphics SixtiesCity 2017

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