During the late 1950s and early 1960s, Joey Dee & The Starliters were similar to thousands of other east coast bands playing in clubs and hoping to receive a recording contract. While later touring versions of the group would include Gene Cornish, Felix Cavaliere, and Eddie Brigati who went on to form the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame band, the Rascals, Jimmy James better known as Jimi Hendrix, and even a very young Joe Pesci, his early bands included a rotating cast of characters. The key addition was David Brigati, brother of Eddie, who joined as the lead vocalist.
Their big break came when the twist became a dance craze with adults. It had been a teen sensation during 1961 when Chubby Checker topped the Billboard Magazine Pop Singles Chart with “The Twist.” A year later adults were dancing the twist in clubs across the country. Checker made history when “The Twist” topped the charts again in 1962 for two weeks.
The Peppermint Lounge was a famous New York night club, 1958-1965, where many celebrities would hang out. Joey Dee & The Starliters became a fixture at the club, and Dee wrote a song that capitalized on the popularity of the Peppermint Lounge and the twist. “Peppermint Twist Part 1” was released November 11, 1961, and 50 years ago this week replaced Chubby Checker’s release as the number one single in the United States where it remained for three weeks.
“Peppermint Twist” was a long song spread over both sides of the single release, but it was part one that became the hit. It was an up-tempo organ driven tune, with an outstanding guitar solo by Sam Taylor in the middle, with Brigati’s lead vocal that was perfect for dancing the twist. The band usually employed three singers to front the band and provide harmonies for the lead.
The hits would cease for Joey Dee with the beginning of The Beatles era and the changing moods in music. Today he and David Brigati are still on road as Joey Dee & The Starliters, and the “Peppermint Twist” remains the highlight of their act. Fifty years ago this week they were the kings of the United States music world.