Ronnie Dee was 19 years old when his accompanied his parents from the Bronx, N.Y. – the only real home he’d ever known – to the complete unknown of Tampa Bay.
“They told me ‘you’re welcome to home or you’re welcome to stay, we understand,’” Dee recalled Friday on The Catalyst Sessions.
Dad was the family business. In the early ‘60s, Joey Dee had been out in front of the twist craze with a swingin’ group called the Starlighters. “Peppermint Twist” was a million selling chart-topper, and spawned two Starlighters movies. The Beatles opened a concert for him in Sweden.
(Jimi Hendrix, calling himself Jimmy James, was the band’s guitarist for a year.)
By the 1980s, the craze was long over, the stardom had dried up, but Joey Dee was making a decent living singing “Peppermint Twist” on the nostalgia circuit.
“And I was like, well, let’s see – I’m in your band, 200 nights a year, I’m not ready to be on the streets of New York by myself and not be in the band,” was Joey Dee’s son’s reaction. “I see what the calendar looks like – I want to do all that.”
Ronnie Dee cut his chops as a musician playing alto sax in his dad’s latter-period band.
On The Catalyst Sessions, he discussed not only the logistics of being Joey Dee’s son, but the path he took towards carving out a musical identity of his own, as the singing, songwriting and sax-blowing front man of the bay area’s high-energy funk and R&B band Ronnie Dee and the Superstars.
It’s a big, big band, the latest offshoot of a big, big Italian family. “We’ll get agents that will say ‘How much for a four-piece?’” Dee says. “And I say ‘Am I gonna tell my sister, my son, my cousin or my best friend to stay home? You tell me.’ I’m not gonna do that.
“So as much as I want to run all around town and steal everybody’s $200 gig, as a three-piece, I’m not gonna do that.”
Monday on The Catalyst Sessions: Dali Museum Executive Director Hank Hine.
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