The Peppermint Lounge

Gary: “Russ just sent me this link to our posting for Chubby Checker.  I was looking at it and my slow memory kicked in and I remembered there was also another very significant Group and a very significant Club that heavily influenced the Twist Dance Craze in 1961.

From 1958 to 1965 a fairly modest type club, The Peppermint Lounge, existed at 128 West 45 Street in New York City.  When it opened it was just a club, but it was a Rock and Roll Club and it had no idea that in 3 years it would be world famous.

During 1960, a group called “The Starliters”, featuring Joey Dee, were performing at the club.


The Starliters with Joey Dee (seated)


Joe Dee and the Starliters

Joey Dee and the Starliters were noticed by agent Don Davis while performing at a Lodi, New Jersey nightclub called Oliveri’s. The group was booked at an intimate venue on 45th Street in New York City called the Peppermint Lounge for what was supposed to be a one-time weekend gig.

Peppermint Twist / Joey Dee & the Starliters /

During the Starliters show at the nightclub, actress Merle Oberon and Prince Serge Oblinski were dancing much of the night there. This appearance was published  the next morning by columnists Earl Wilson and Cholly Knickerbocker, and the following night it took barricades and mounted police to keep the crowds in line, which had backed to Broadway.

For several months, the craze would continue at the Lounge. Celebrity visitors continued to come, including Judy Garland, John Wayne, Jackie Kennedy, Nat “King” Cole, Shirley MacLaine, Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, and Liberace.

John Lennon and Ringo Starr were there.


Dee and company made such a sensation that they ended up becoming the house band for the Peppermint Lounge, remaining for more than a year.

Dee wrote “Peppermint Twist,” along with producer Henry Glover, as a tribute to the lounge and the song scored #1 on the U.S. charts during early 1962. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc By this time the team had contracted with Roulette Records.

The club was sold in 1965 and some speculate that associates of the Genovese crime family took it over, and that it was controlled by Matthew Ianniello who managed many gay bars and strip clubs in Manhattan. It closed when it lost its liquor license on December 28, 1965.
Video: The Beatles at the Peppermint Lounge

I had to deal with the Peppermint Lounge so that I could bring you to the subject of this group:

Joey Dee & the Starliters
The Original Starliters
  • Joey Dee – vocals (born Joseph DiNicola, June 11, 1940, Pasaic, New Jersey)
  • David Brigati – vocals (born October 29, 1940, Garfield, New Jersey)
  • Larry Vernieri – vocals (born 1941, Newark — died December 7, 1999)
  • Carlton Lattimore – organ (born c. 1941, [Passaic)
  • Willie Davis – drums (born c. 1940, Passaic)

These are just some of the Musicians who were Starliters at one time or another.

1.  Gene Cornish, and Felix Cavaliere – three-quarters of The Young Rascals

2. Jimmy James (later known as Jimi Hendrix),

3. Charles Neville of The Neville Brothers

4. A  young  Joe Pesci on guitar.


The Peppermint Twist


First TV appearance 1956 / Starlighters /


In 2008 /


Hey Let’s Twist


Some of Their Hits

1.  Peppermint Twist Part 1/ Roulette 4401/ December 1961/ # 1 (3)


2.  Hey Let’s Twist/ Roulette 4408/ March 1962/ # 20


3.  Shout Part 1/ Roulette 44716/ March 1962/ # 6


4.  What Kind of Love is This/ Roulette 4438/ September 1962/ #18


5.  Hot Pastrami with Mashed Potatoes Part 1/ Roulette 4488/ June 1963/ # 36

Joey Dee and The Starliters are an American pop music group from the 1960s. Best known for their 1961 hit recording “Peppermint Twist,” the group was founded by Joey Dee, born Joseph DiNicola in Passaic, New Jersey on 11 June 1940. With lead singer Rogers Freeman, Joey Dee and The Starliters’ first single was “Lorraine,” backed with “The Girl I Walk To School,” in 1958 on the Little label. That same year, Joey Dee recruited David Brigati for the group after meeting him during a gig at Garfield (New Jersey) High School. David and Joey would subsequently share lead vocal honours for The Starliters, with Joey ultimately becoming the primary lead singer. Another early single for the group was “Face of an Angel,” with David on lead vocals, released on Scepter Records; the flipside was “Shimmy Baby.” An album entitled The Peppermint Twisters and credited to “Joey Dee and The Starliters” was subsequently released on Scepter as well.

Various members of The Starliters, such as vocalist Freeman and drummer Don Martin, came and went over the next few years; the most famous line-up of Joey Dee and The Starliters is considered to be Joey Dee, David Brigati, Larry Vernieri(vocals), Carlton Lattimore (organ), and Willie Davis (drums). Later members of the touring group would include Eddie Brigati (David’s brother), Gene Cornish, and Felix Cavaliere – three-quarters of The Young Rascals – as well as guitarist Jimmy James (later known as Jimi Hendrix) and Charles Neville of The Neville Brothers.

In 1960, The Starliters were discovered by agent Don Davis while performing at a Lodi, New Jersey nightclub called Oliveri’s. The group was booked at an intimate venue on 45th Street in New York City called the Peppermint Lounge for what was supposed to be a one-time weekend gig. Joey Dee and company made such a smash that they ended up becoming the house band for the Peppermint Lounge, remaining onboard for more than a year. Joey penned “Peppermint Twist,” along with producer Henry Glover, as a tribute to the lounge and the group took the song all the way to the top spot on the U.S. charts in late 1961. By this time the group had signed with Roulette Records. The Lounge became world famous during The Starliters’ tenure, attracting celebrities such as Jackie Kennedy, Truman Capote, and Judy Garland.

One night in 1961, a trio of pretty teenagers were waiting on line outside the club hoping to be allowed inside. Dressed in matching brightly colored dresses, they looked like professional entertainers (which in fact they were) and in a case of mistaken identity, thinking they were the dancers he’d hired, the manager of the Peppermint Lounge ushered the girls – Ronnie and Estelle Bennett and their cousin, Nedra Talley – up to the stage and told them to dance. The Ronettes spent the rest of that night dancing and singing along with Joey Dee and The Starliters, and the reaction from the group and the crowd was so positive that the club manager, having realized his error, offered the girls a job on the spot. Every night, The Ronettes would dance and perform along with The Starliters at the Peppermint Lounge, even traveling with them to the club’s Miami, Florida location in early 1962.

Also in 1961, Joey Dee and The Starliters filmed the movie Hey, Let’s Twist, starring Jo Ann Campbell and Teddy Randazzo, for Paramount Pictures. Hey, Let’s Twist was a fictional portrait of Joey Dee (Randazzo and Dino DiLuca played the parts of Joey’s brother and father, respectively) and the Peppermint Lounge; its release capitalized on the current Twist craze and brought the once-obscure Lounge into the forefront. The movie and soundtrack album did their part in making the Peppermint Lounge a world-famous venue. Hit singles spawned from Hey, Let’s Twist were the title track and “Shout – Part I,” which became the group’s second-biggest selling record. Other albums released during this time period 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.

In 1962, Joey Dee and The Starliters starred in their second motion picture, Two Tickets to Paris, along with Gary Crosby, Jeri Lynne Fraser and Kay Medford. One of the songs from this film, “What Kind Of Love Is This,” penned by Johnny Nash, was released in September of that year and became a Top Twenty hit. In December of 1962, the original Starliters did their final recording session as a group, turning out “Help Me Pick Up the Pieces,” also composed by Nash, and “Baby, You’re Driving Me Crazy,” written by Joey Dee and Henry Glover. In 1963, Joey Dee recorded an album entitled Dance, Dance, Dance, with The Ronettes as his backup group. In 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. The label later released “Ya Ya” and “Fannie Mae” from the same album. In November of ‘63, The Starliters toured Europe with The Beatles as their opening act. During 1964, Joey Dee toured with various Starliters including Cornish, Cavaliere, and Eddie Brigati. Other group members at different times included Hendrix, Neville, drummer Jimmy Mayes and singer Tommy Davis.

Later historyDee 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.

During 2001, the group was featured on a PBS special, Rock, Rhythm and Doo-Wop, and in 2005 they appeared on the Jerry Lewis Telethon for Muscular Dystrophy.

As of 2009 Joey Dee and The Starliters consists of Dee sometimes performing with Bob Valli (brother of Frankie Valli) and original Starliter David Brigati and at other times with the original Soul Survivors Charlie and Richie Ingui, with the three singers taking the lead and performing their own hits as well as covers. Joey’s son Ronnie DiNicola often plays saxophone and sings back up vocals for his father.


7 responses to “The Peppermint Lounge

  1. Hi,

    Great look back at one of the most fascinating times of musical
    history. I am one of the Original Peppermint Lounge Twisters
    along with those gals that were dancing with Ringo. (We were the
    originators of Go-Go dancing)

    Do you happen to have any more footage from the “Pep”?
    I did notice that I was spliced in toward the end there with Tyree Glenn &
    the Imperials. Doing the Monkey !

    Please dont hesitate to contact me, I have some momentos that may interest you too. Tom Wolfe wrote about us in one of his books and we
    write back and forth to one another now too.

    Sincerely yours,

    • Hi Misty,
      I came to find this post because I have seen the video clip of The Beatles at the Peppermint Lounge in ’64 and am dying to track down the band who was playing the song “Money” in the clip. I don’t think it’s Joey Dee because the vocalist has a deeper voice. Any ideas? Cheers and thanks!


      • Hi Heather,

        Nice to meet you ! The band that was playing Money was Tyree Glenn and the Imperials. They moved to Germany, rather many of them did. You may
        be able to track so,e jistory there too.

        They were a great band and what a bunch of great guys. They were at the Pep for years.

        Any other questions , please dont hesitate to ask.


  2. Heather, that should read “You should be able to track history there too.

  3. mistake — “…some of the Musicians who WHERE Starliters at one time or another..” should be WERE

  4. Pingback: The Peppermint Lounge / Misty | Russ & Gary's "The Best Years of Music"

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