Still Sharp after all these years

The motivation here:

[Kenny] Gamble says he wrote the words to “Expressway to Your Heart” while on an actual expressway: the Schuylkill (“Sure-Kill”) Expressway through Philly. He had a date that night with Dee Dee Sharp (“Mashed Potato Time”), about whom I haven’t written nearly enough.

So let us address this deficiency. Sixteen-year-old Dione LaRue was working on a budding career as a background singer when Cameo-Parkway Records, arguably the biggest label in Philadelphia in 1962, brought her in to play off their biggest star, Chubby Checker, on yet another Twist record:

You’ll note that this was on Parkway, where Chubby ruled the world, and Dee Dee Sharp, as she was now known, was uncredited on the label. But the company hedged its bet and put out an actual Dee Dee single on Cameo:

“Slow Twistin'” and “Mashed Potato Time” hit the charts at the same time; Dee Dee alone outpointed Dee Dee and Chubby by one position: Number Two versus Number Three. (Jon Sheldon, with a writer credit on both, was actually label founder Kal Mann.) The genius of “Mashed Potato Time” is that everybody who was doing the song “looked for records they could do it to,” and verses followed quoting “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” “Please, Mr. Postman,” and “Dear Lady Twist.” Whether the “Postman” reference was intended to obscure the similarities between Dee Dee’s song and the Motown smash, it’s hard to say. Motown certainly thought it was.

Dee Dee Sharp shakes that thing

Dee Dee Sharp smiles for the camera

Dee Dee Sharp just kept on making records

In 1967, she and Kenny Gamble were wed — they split in 1980 — and after the expiration of her Cameo contract and a brief stint with Atco, she signed with Gamble-Huff’s Philadelphia International/TSOP operation. One track from the 1975 Happy ‘Bout the Whole Thing album made the R&B charts: a cover of 10cc’s “I’m Not in Love.” Yes, really:

Dee Dee Sharp is seventy-two today, and not officially retired yet.





4 comments »

  1. Roger O Green »

    11 September 2017 · 10:20 am

    I love the race up the charts for Mashed Potato Time
    4/14 Johnny Angel, Good Luck Charm, Slow Twistin’, Mashed Potato
    4/21 Good Luck, Johnny Angel, Mashed, Slow
    4/28 Good Luck, Johnny Angel, Mashed, Soldier Boy
    5/5 Soldier Boy, Mashed, Johnny
    Soldier Boy stayed number #1 as Stranger On The Shore replaced Mashed for #2 on 5/19

  2. Roger O Green »

    12 September 2017 · 9:12 am

    Someone corrected your pronunciation of “Shul-kul” in your original post; I concur, BTW.

  3. nightfly »

    12 September 2017 · 10:13 am

    It is crazy the kismet going on in my world right now – The Haunted iPod started off my day with The Sound of Philadelphia, and over at the Bleat, a remark about phosphorescent fish reminded me of the Underwater Fantasy clip from Animalympics.

    That last is pertinent. It’s a fine little film that has an astonishing range of talent behind it: Brad Bird was one of the animators; the vocal talent included Billy Crystal, Gilda Radner, and Harry Shearer; and the music was composed by Graham Gouldman and performed by most of his band – 10cc.

    I should just go back to bed now. I don’t think anything is going to top this today.

  4. September rambling #2: Len Wein | Ramblin' with Roger »

    20 September 2017 · 7:46 am

    […] Dee Dee Sharp – Mashed Potato Time and other tunes […]

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