The Peppermint Twist

The Peppermint Twist
11 Mar
2019
Not in Hall of Fame

January 27 – February 16, 1962

Joey Dee and the Starliters

The Peppermint Twist – Part I


One twist song replaces another, and if I didn’t convince you before just how big this dance craze was before, perhaps the fact that we have back-to-back number one songs extolling the virtues of twisting will.

Think about any dance craze.  There may have been multiple songs about a dance (actually there always is if one is successful), but for two to go to the top, and do so consecutively?   It has never happened since, nor is it likely to again, especially now that we have so many musically choices, subgenres and ways to access it. 

The second consecutive “twist” song is the “Peppermint Twist”, which does not refer to the mint, but to the bar that bears it name, New York City’s Peppermint Lounge.  It was there that the house band, Joey Dee and the Starliters took the name of the venue and the fad dance that had become bigger than ever and hence you have “The Peppermint Twist”.

If you haven’t heard the “Peppermint Twist”, but are familiar with the “Twist”, it isn’t the knockoff you might originally think it is.  The end result, the dance, may have been the same, but the beat and tempo were radically different, and dare I say that Joey Dee and the Starliters, had a strange combination of feeling like a garage band, yet had a more polished feel to him.  While the group’s success was perceived to occur mainly because of its lyrical content, the group was quite a talented bunch. 

Three members of the band (the touring version anyway) would become a part of the Young Rascals.  Jimi Hendrix would at one point play with the group, as would future Goodfella, Joe Pesci and Charles Neville, of the famed Neville Brothers.[1]  If there was ever an old film of Hendrix and Pesci jamming together I would pay a Subway sandwich to see it.[2]

They were also not a “one and done” as they would score another Top Ten in the year with a blistering version of the Isley Brothers’ “Shout”, and Dee would star in the film “Hey, Let’s Twist”, which of course was about twisting at the Peppermint Lounge.[3]  The band would also become the gateway to stardom for Ronnie Bennett, Estelle Bennett and Nedra Talley, a trio who were discovered at the Peppermint Lounge while in line to get in and would work their way to be dancers and backup singers for the band.  That triumvirate would become The Ronettes, a successful vocal group and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee in their own right. 

I have to segue a bit to the Ronettes, who I was convinced would have a chapter as this was the girl group that without hesitation gave me what I think is the greatest girl group song of the early 1960’s, “Be My Baby”, which went to number #2 in 1963 and had another pair of what would become signature songs, “Baby I Love You” (#24 in 1963) and “Walking in the Rain” (#23 in 1964).  I know I have talked about a lot of musical acts that have never went to the top, but how the Ronettes failed is borderline criminal.

You know what?  Let’s twist on out of here.  I think we are all done with this dance!

Other Notable Songs that charted but did not go to number one in this time period: January 27, 1963 – February 16, 1962.

1/27/62: Turn on Your Love Light by Bobby Bland went to #28 but shot up to #2 on the R&B Chart.

2/2/62: Can’t Help Falling in Love by Elvis Presley went to #62.

2/2/62: Baby, It’s You by The Shirelles went to #8 and #3 on the R&B Chart.

[1] Which makes you wonder…when Pesci won the Academy Award for that movie, how age inappropriate was he really for that film!

[2] Yes, just a sandwich, but I love Subway, so this is no small thing.  Incidentally, Pesci would later put out an album based on his My Cousin Vinny character, “Vincent Laguardia Gambini Sings Just For You” and yes it is as bad as it sounds.  Now how the hell did Marisa Tomei win the Oscar for that film?

[3] Why is it that I imagine a cranky Chubby Checker when that film came out?  Now if he changed his name to “Cranky Checker”, maybe he could have had that second musical career he seemed to want so bad!  Actually, Checker had a more successful film with “Don’t Knock the Twist” in 1962.

More in this category: « The Twist Duke of Earl »

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