Dee Dee Sharp

Born Dione LaRue on September 9, 1945, Dee Dee Sharp played piano from an early age, and directed choirs at her grandfather’s and other churches in Philadelphia. After her mother suffered debilitating injuries from a car accident when LaRue was only 13, she gained a job as a background singer and developed the skills to work on sessions by Lloyd Price, Frankie Avalon, Fabian, Bobby Rydell, Jackie Wilson, and Chubby Checker.

Lady luck helped when her vocals were added to Chubby Checker’s “Slow Twistin’” (1962) making it a duet. Her first solo session was scheduled the next day — the “Mashed Potatoes Time” session — and at 17, Dione LaRue was became an overnight sensation. Producers Kal Mann and Bernie Lowe didn’t like LaRue’s name so they created Dee Dee Sharp, since everyone called her D and she sang in D sharp.

Smaller hits followed: “Gravy (For My Mashed Potatoes),” “Ride,” “Do the Bird,” “Wild,” “Willyam, Willyam,” “Never Pick a Pretty Boy,” and “I Really Love You” in 1965 — Sharp’s first R&B record. None sold like her first, but the young singer did all right. She appeared on American Bandstand to promote every release; Cameo promoted her as pop so she didn’t see much of the chitlin’ circuit; the label also sent her to modeling and charm school.