‘Peppermint Twist – Part 1,’ Joey Dee and the Starliters

The cover of a Joey Dee and the Starliters greatest hits album.

The cover of a Joey Dee and the Starliters greatest hits album.

In early 1962, the No. 1 song in the country, Chubby Checker’s “The Twist,” was replaced in that position, after two weeks there, by “Peppermint Twist — Part 1.”

How was that possible? There’s a long tradition, of course, of pop artists trying to have hits of their own by imitating other hits. But how were saxophonist and Passaic native Joey Dee and his Starliters, featuring lead singer David Brigati of Garfield, able to get there so quickly?

The gist of the answer is: “The Twist” was not a new craze in 1962. The song had been a minor hit for Hank Ballard in 1959 and a major one for Checker in 1960, spawning a number of imitation hits, including Checker’s own “Let’s Twist Again” and “Slow Twistin’,” and Danny and the Juniors’ “Twistin’ U.S.A.” It also inspired several movies, including “Twist Around the Clock,” “Don’t Knock the Twist” and “Hey, Let’s Twist.”

This last movie starred Dee and the Starliters, and helped draw big crowds to the Peppermint Lounge in New York, where they performed regularly. All of this helped make Checker’s “The Twist” zoom up the charts again, with the Starliters’ “Peppermint Twist — Part 1” (the song was too long to fit on a single, so the mostly instrumental Part 2 went on the B-side) right behind it.

Dee and the Starliters had some more hits, including “Shout — Part 1” in 1962, and featured in its lineup, at various times, Jimi Hendrix, Joe Pesci, Charles Neville of the Neville Brothers and Young Rascals members Eddie Brigati (David’s brother), Gene Cornish and Felix Cavaliere. David Brigati often worked with the Young Rascals (later The Rascals) but never became a full member. Dee is still performing.

Check out “Peppermint Twist” below.

New Jersey celebrated its 350th birthday in 2014. And in the 350 Jersey Songs series, we marked the occasion by posting 350 songs — one a day, from September 2014 to September 2015 — that have something to do with the state, its musical history, or both. To see the entire list, click here.


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