[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.
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.