Short career summation on Dick and Dee Dee
Dick and Dee Dee are an American R&B/pop duo of singer-songwriters who reached the peak of popularity from the early to mid-1960s with hits that include the #2 hit “The Mountain’s High” (1962). Dick & Dee Dee reflected the mixture of influences that characterized the early ‘60s American pop music scene, combining elements of doo-wop, soul and R&B; in their sound. They toured with the Beach Boys and Rolling Stones.
In 1961 their debut single “The Mountain’s High” first became a regional hit, and Liberty Records secured the right to distribute the single nationally. It went to #2 on the Hot 100 for two weeks, and also charted on the UK singles chart. As they achieved stardom, the two went to tour with the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones. They released some other singles that did well: “Tell Me,” “Young and In Love,” “Turn Around” and “Thou Shalt Steal,” among others. Dick and Dee Dee were regulars of the TV show Shindig and in the original pilot for the television show, “Where the Action Is.” The duo appeared numerous times on American Bandstand and in the movie, “Wild, Wild Winter.” They made one Scopitone (similar to today’s music videos), shot at Santa Monica pier.
The duo contributed their voices to numerous tunes that also featured instruments and backing vocals by the Rolling Stones during a recording session in London in 1964 that was overseen by Rolling Stones producer Andrew Oldham. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wrote the songs “Blue Turns to Grey” and “Something’s Just Stick in You Mind,” which were chosen as Picks of the Week on Shindig but never reached the top of the national charts.
In 1961 their debut single “The Mountain’s High” first became a regional hit, and Liberty Records secured the right to distribute the single nationally. It went to #2 on the Hot 100 for two weeks, and also charted on the UK singles chart. As they achieved stardom, the two went to tour with the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones. They released some other singles that did well: “Tell Me,” “Young and In Love,” “Turn Around” and “Thou Shalt Steal,” among others. Dick and Dee Dee were regulars of the TV show Shindig! They broke up professionally in 1969, although they were not romantically involved with each other. St. John then started touring with his wife Sandy as the second revival of Dick and Dee Dee. Five years after his death his former musical partner Dee Dee then teamed up with Michael Dunn in 2008 as the latest reincarnation of Dick and Dee Dee.
Formation of Dick and Dee Dee
Dick and Dee Dee is a musical duo, originally consisted of Dick St. John (born Richard Gosting in 1944) and Dee Dee Sperling (born Mary Sperling in Santa Monica, Californa). The two met while they were still junior high school students in Los Angeles, California, and encountered each other again after their high school graduation (from different schools this time). St. John and Sperling, who was quickly renamed “Dee Dee” by the label, joined an eclectic roster that ranged from early rock ‘n’ roll to country music and included such stars as Willie Nelson, June Carter, Bobby Vee, Johnny Burnette, The Rivingtons and Jan and Dean.
However, they did not become romantically involved with each other, even when they became Dick and Dee Dee.
The duo proved themselves to be really versatile, as they could perform a variety of genres that included teen idol fare, pop, R&B and blue-eyed soul. This made the duo unique and rather difficult to be pigeonholed. Dee Dee’s high, rather screechy vocals (in a good way) led listeners to mistakenly conclude that they were black.
The duo’s biggest hit with “The Mountain’s High”
The duo’s first record was “I Want Someone” b/w “The Mountain’s High,” released on Lama label in 1961. However, the flip side was inadvertently played by an unknown radio disc jockey in San Francisco, and “The Mountain’s High” ended up as an immediate hit with local listeners. Because of the growing popularity of the record, Liberty Recods signed on Dick and Dee Dee’s record for national distribution.
“The Mountain’s High,” which was written by St. John, reached climbed high indeed on the Billboard Hot 100, ending up at its peak position of #2. It also reached #37 on the UK singles chart. The single sold over a million copies, and was awarded with a gold disc. Because of the rising popularity of the song, Sperling quit college to tour with St. John not only across the United States, but also in Europe and Japan.
Touring with the established stars and the duo’s other singles
In the United States early on in their career, Dick and Dee Dee performed at California high school assemblies with the upcoming surf band the Beach Boys. They toured in almost all of the US states, performing with such luminaries as Roy Orbison, Ike and Tina Turner, The Righteous Brothers, Dionne Warwick, Patti LaBelle, Ben E. King, Jan and Dean, Jackie Wilson, Sonny and Cher, and many others. The highlight of their touring came when they opened for the Rolling Stones in the band’s first tour in 1964 and also for the Beach Boys. Dick and Dee Dee also became regulars in the TV show Shindig! from 1964 to 1966.
Dick and Dee Dee released other singles, but none of them were as successful as “The Mountain’s High.” However, they still performed neatly on the charts, and they include: “Tell Me” (#22 pop), “Young and in Love” (#17 pop, #6 adult contemporary), “Turn Around” (#27 pop, #15 adult contemporary), the very soul-ish single “Thou Shalt Not Steal” (#13 pop) and other very minor hits. Many of these singles were either written by St. John (billed as “Dick St. John”) or by St. John and Sperling (billed as “Dick Gosting and Dee Dee Sperling”).
Disbandment and reincarnation
In 1969 Dick and Dee Dee disbanded and led separate lives. Dee Dee married their manager in 1965 but divorced in the early 1970s. She remarried for a second time. Dick St. John, meanwhile, revived Dick and Dee Dee in the 1980s with his wife Sandy. On December 27, 2003, St. John died from injuries he sustained after falling from a ladder outside his Pacific Palisades home.
Dee Dee Phelps’ autobiography, Vinyl Highway, was published in 2007. At book signings and presentations, admirers expressed to the author how much they valued the music of Dick and Dee Dee and how much they would give to hear those songs performed live once more.
Now as Mrs. Dee Dee Phelphs, she began performing with actor/singer Michael Dunn, but still as Dick and Dee Dee. They’ve been performing live since 2008. After five years of performing in Doo Wop and Rock & Roll shows, Michael left for Indonesia and Dee Dee started rehearsing with Jan (Deke) Detanna, lead singer of Deke and the Blazers. Dee Dee and singer Michael Dunn reconciled in 2015. They gave a performance at the Stafford Center for the Performing Arts Ultimate Doo Wop Show on February 21 in Houston.