Dee Dee Sharp is often associated her one giant hit, but in reality she recorded many songs. Dee Dee had four top ten hits on the pop chart before she was out of her teens.
She was born Dione LaRue in 1945 in Philadelphia, and began singing at her grandfather's church as a child. At age 13 she answered a newspaper ad seeking someone who could read music, sing and play piano. By 1961 she was an established back-up singer on the Cameo label in Philadelphia, joining recording sessions of notables such as Frankie Avalon, Freddie Cannon, Chubby Checker, Fabian, and Lloyd Price .
In early 1962 Slow Twistin' entered the chart with lead vocals by Chubby Checker, and backed up by Dee Dee Sharp, the name by which Dione was now known (given to her by record producers Bernie Lowe and Kal Mann because she sang in a key of D sharp, and everyone called her D anyway). It was released on the Parkway label. Dance tunes were in vogue, and the day after she recorded her duet on Slow Twistin' 17-year-old Dee Dee recorded a dance tune of her own. Written by Jon Sheldon and Harry Land, Mashed Potato Time became a smash hit, climbing all the way to #2. It was her first solo effort, and Dee Dee's name became known everywhere. She appeared on a number of television programs and in the 1962 motion picture Don't Knock The Twist.
The Mashed Potato is a dance, and the lyrics of the song refer to other rock-and-roll songs of the era, to which one can do the dance, according to the storyline in Mashed Potato Time. These songs are The Lion Sleeps Tonight, Please Mr. Postman, and Dear Lady Twist. Dee Dee got busy, recording for Cameo. Within a year's time following the success of Slow Twistin' and Mashed Potato Time, she had three more records join those two as top ten entries: Gravy (For My Mashed Potatoes), Ride!, and Do The Bird. She continued recording, having her final top forty hit -- at the age of 18! -- with Wild! in late 1963. It was quite a run for two years, but then the British Invasion arrived and the pop music scene began to change quite rapidly. She still was making records, however, and some that were not quite the hits that her earlier records had been included Willyam, Willyam, Never Pick a Pretty Boy and I Really Love You.
Dee Dee toured quite often in the United States and Europe with Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars, and that put her in touch with a number of the great rock-and-roll performers of the 60's, a list that includes Little Anthony & The Imperials, Len Barry, Jerry Butler, Little Eva, Chuck Jackson, Bobby Rydell and the Shirelles. She became active on the night club circuit, appearing with a wide variety of artists, among them Tom Jones, Gizelle McKenzie, Donald O'Connor, and Lou Rawls.
In 1967 she married millionaire record producer extraordinaire Kenny Gamble. Along with Kenny and his partner, Leon Huff, Dee Dee started Gamble Records that year. She recorded at times, under the name Dee Dee Sharp-Gamble. In the 1970's she assisted Kenny, working as the head of Huga Management, lending assistance to budding recording artists who went on to become stars, such as Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, The O'Jays, Billy Paul and Teddy Pendergrass. Dee Dee continued to record albums in the 1980's, still with a very good voice. Perhaps some of her best recordings were made during this era.
Her marriage to Kenny Gamble ended in divorce after thirteen years, and later she married again. Dee Dee continued performing to some extent, often at casinos. She has been active one way or another in the music field for decades, and her music is part of several motion pictures, most memorably Sister Act. She maintains a web site at www.deedeesharp.com and lives with with her husband Bill Witherspoon in Medford, New Jersey.
Dee Dee Sharp was prominent on the pop charts in 1962 and 1963, and her hit Mashed Potato Time is an all-time rock-and-roll great.
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