Dick St. John Interview
("Dick and Dee Dee")
Dick St. John makes up one half of the popular singing duo - Dick and
Dick and Dee Dee began their recording career on Liberty Records in the
summer of 1961. Dick wrote "The Mountain High" in April and by
August it was Number One in the nation. This kicked off a recording career
that lasted well into the "British Invasion" and included 14 chart
More hit records followed with Liberty, and in 1963 they signed with Warner
Brothers where they continue to release a succession of chart-toppers including "Young
and In Love", "Turn Around", and "Thou Shalt Not Steal".
Their success took them around the world performing in concerts, clubs,
and television. Career highlights include a recording session with The Rolling
Stones. Sandy co-wrote the Number One song "Sweet Country Woman" for
Johnny Duncan with Chuck Tharp of The Fireballs and has gone on to write
for Cilia Black, Guy Mitchell, Tommy Overstreet, and Johnny Paycheck.
In 1993, Dick and Sandy wrote The Rock and Roll Cookbook (General Publishing
Group Inc.), which includes favorite recipes from a wide array of recording
Proceeds from the book will benefit The National Music Foundation, a non-profit
organization dedicated to American music and the people who bring it to
We spoke in-depth with Dick St. John about the career of Dick and Dee
Dee and rock 'n' roll.
Q: With all of the cookbooks on the market, how did you know a Rock 'n'
Roll Cookbook and later a country cookbook would appeal to people?
A: Well, because how many rock 'n' roll cookbooks or how many country
cookbooks are there really? Certainly country music is bigger than it's
ever been and rock ‘n’ roll fans are not only here but all over
the planet. So, we thought it would be a natural. There's never been a book
that's had 106 all-time famous Country music artists. We're talking about
the Country music artists. We're talking about the Country Music Cookbook
right now. Everyone from Roy Rogers and Dale Evans to Gene Autrey to Trisha
Yearwood to Clint Black and Lisa Hartman to Vince Gill. So, it was a real
broad ranging book to the same with the Rock 'n' roll cookbook. I mean,
we had everyone from Ray Charles and The Crew Cuts and The Marvelettes to
Nirvana and Soul Asylum to Iggy Pop. It also covered a tremendous width,
and depth. That's why we felt it would be something that would appeal to
a lot of fans.
Q: And the response to the books has been very good?
A: Absolutely. Yes.
Q: Was it hard to get these people in your cookbooks to respond with their
A: Well, most of the people in the Rock 'n' roll Cookbook, Sandy and I,
Sandy is Dee Dee when we do Dick and Dee Dee shows and gigs, and she's been
Dee Dee since the end of 68, beginning of 69, so it was her idea in the
first place, to do a rock 'n' roll cookbook. We do these shows every once
in awhile, usually in the Summer, sometimes in the Winter too though, you
know, where you touch base with artists you haven't seen in a longtime or
you have seen and every once in awhile, you do a show. It was an idea.
Let's start collecting recipes. So, we started many years ago collecting
recipes. We had all kinds of recipes. We actually had many that were left
out of the book. It was the publisher's idea to introduce us to Pamela Des
Barres who is a wonderful person and we've became very good friends with
Pamela. Pamela brought some of the more contemporary artists like Pearl
Jam, the B-52's, people that she knew. So, it also covers a very wide range
of people. Pamela used to be in a group of her own called The GTOS. She
brought Alice Cooper, people that she had known for a long time.
Q: I s there any doubt in your mind whatsoever that these are indeed the
personal recipes of the stars?
A: No. Not a doubt at all.
Q: These people didn't turn to their publicists
and say, "Give Dick
one of your recipes".
A: Well see, the thing that was really nice if you read the introduction
in the book, it's by Dick Clark, and Dick is the President of the National
Music Foundation and of course the Chairman of The Board, and so since the
proceeds from the Rock 'n' Roll Cookbook went completely to the National
Music Foundation, I've known Dick for years and years and he was very kind.
Dick Clark's right hand man over there, I don't know if he's still there,
Larry Cline, gave me numbers to everyone. As I said, I had collected most
of these recipes over years of time. I know it was Cher's own recipe. I
talked with Cher. I talked with James Brown. I talked with Frankie Ford.
Pamela knows Peter Frampton very well. Jan and Dean of course, we went to
the same high school. Jan and Dean both have their won recipe in the book.
The Kingsmen, Dick Peterson. I know The Kingsmen, Little Eva, Johnny Tillotson.
I mean, I can go on and on and on. I have personal home numbers of most
of these people. We've been friends over the years. They were all their
favorite recipe. A lot of them don't necessarily cook. Certainly Stevie
Wonder doesn't cook, but, that's Stevie' recipe, definitely, for cookies.
That was one that was harder to get because he kept giving me a recipe,
then taking it back. He's given me another one, and then take it back. They're
all the real thing. There was no need to fool anyone.
Q: I've read that you and Sandy were friends from grammar school, and
another account says you were friends from junior high school. Which account
A: Sandy and I met when we were both just starting City College. 1960.
Q: Dee Dee's name is Sandy. Who came up with Dee Dee?
A: The original girl I sang with, Mary Sperling, Dick and Mary, Dee Dee
was Don Ralke's wife, Dietre. Don is our arranger, producer. They called
his wife Dita, but the nickname is Dee Dee. They wanted something catchy.
We didn't even choose the name. That's just what appeared on the record
when it came out. (Laughs). Hey, who is this? It's Dick and Dee Dee. Sounds
better than Dick and Mary. And, it did.
Q: In the Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll by Brown
and Friedrich, they state, "Like
so many of the early rock artists, the Dick and Dee Dee team was a freak
that was never supposed to happen".
A: See, that kind of stuff is insulting. I mean, who are they? How many
records did they have on the charts? How many songs of theirs did they write
that were played on the radio? How are they to say, "Oh, if you're
a freak act, you can have a record deal on a major label?" It's b.s.
It's ridiculous. It's ludicrous. It was just as hard then to get a record
deal as it is today, and maybe even harder in some aspects. They didn't
have hit albums. You only had hit 45's. There was a lot of money to be made
in a hit 45 record that got into the Top Ten in the nation and was played
all across the country. We made a record, "The Mountain's High" and
it was released on a small label in San Francisco called Lama Records, and
it was an instant smash hit. It went to Number One. There were several record
companies that wanted to distribute the master nationally. I was 19 at the
time. I was a teenager. But, I do know what was going down. Of course now,
I know even more of the details. But the people that were producing the
product, Wilders Brothers and Don Ralke, chose Liberty Records. Liberty
Records was a very hot label. It still is. But, it wasn't in the 80's. Things
change. It's owned by E.M.I. At that time "The Mountain's High" was
a big hit, Bobby Vee was a big star; he was on Liberty. Troy Shondell has
a record at that time called "This Time," and it was a big hit
on Liberty. Gary Lewis and The Playboys were on Liberty. And so I just take
offense when someone says, like many acts of that area, it was a complete
freak, fluke that they ever had a hit." Some record companies said
we'll pick up this master. We'll pay you X amount of thousand of dollars
because we want to hop on this fluke, freak trip. I mean, it doesn't make
sense. It's insulting. I don't think there's any artist who wouldn't think
well, what an insulting thing for some nobody who sits down and writes a
book about their opinions of records. This is the record that should be
in the Hall of Fame. This was accepted by 3 million. This one was a freak.
This one is a fluke. I mean it's ludicrous.
Q: Brown and Friedrich went on to describe how Don
Ralke brought you into the studio to record “I Want Someone”……
A: It's all wrong?
Q: "It needed a female voice and so Dick gave Dee Dee a call." Is
that really how you two came together?
A: It's just so funny that someone made up a story like that. It's all
wrong. If someone would research the song on the backside of "The Mountains
High," they would see it's written by Dick St. John and Mary Spearling.
That's Dee Dee. She wrote "I Want Someone." I wasn't singing a
song that needed a girl's voice on it. I wrote "The Mountains High" and
she had written this song "I Want Someone" which I said, "It's
good. Let me work on it. I'll make it better." I did make it better.
We thought that was the A side of the record actually. "The Mountains
High" was the A side. Don Ralke was a very talented arranger. Some
of Don's earliest hits were things like "Kookie, Kookie," "Lend
Me Your Comb," and Connie Stevens' "Sixteen Reasons." Did
all of the 77 Sunset Strip stuff, Birds and Bees, Jule Aikens. I think he
had about 90 chart records. Mary was not brought into the studio. That was
something we had practiced here in my house. I had a little tape recorder
that belonged to my Dad who, bless his soul, had passed away about 3 weeks
before the first record "The Mountain's High" was ever released,
I had the tape recorder and I would record us singing while I played the
piano and then we would sing back to the tape, and realized this is a harmony,
this is a sound. I didn't think it was a freak oddity or anything like that.
I thought it really was a sound. (Laughs). And it obviously was, I went
into a little studio in Hollywood that cost about $15 an hour back then
and we rehearsed it. I just said give me lots of echo. I’m going to
play the piano and we're gonna sing when I'm doing it and then we're gonna
come back and overdub the voices. It sounded very much like the record.
The drum beat wasn't there and of course there was no bass or guitar. It
was a very simple track. It was Don Ralke I played it for, and he said let's
do it. Both of these things sound like hits. See people wouldn't invest
money in anything that they thought was a total fluke. It doesn't matter
if it was $50 or $5,000.
Q: Who even knows what a fluke is?
A: No one knows what a hit is. No one knows.
Q: And on one knows how the public will respond.
A: And the timing of the record. There have been many hit records that
have been released that have not made it find then been re-released and
made it. It's so much the timing and the promotion man, who's going to be
promoting the record. In those days it was the 45. Get that 45 on the air.
It was a lot of competition. If you even remember all of the investigations
about payola, because there was a lot of money to be made. I'm sure payola
still goes on. Somewhere.
Q: Is it true you got the idea to write "The Mountain's High" because
of a sketch you looked at of a mountain?
A: Well, see that was another story that came off of a bio. at one time
that Liberty Records put out, because someone in the publicity department
needed a story on Kick and Dee Dee. I was an art major in school. So what
they had heard about me and Dee Dee, and of course when the first pictures
were taken, we were students. I'm a student. I'm a car major. Oh, Dick was
painting a picture about a mountain. That's how that happened. It's easier
than asking me, you know. It was so weird. People write stuff. But you're
asking me, but a lot of people haven't.
Q: Did you ever meet people like Elvis, Roy Orbison, or Buddy Holly?
A: I met Elvis one time. Sandy, my wife, met Elvis many, many times and
went to Elvis's house and knew Elvis very well. I didn't know Buddy Holly.
He had already died. I did three different shows with Roy Orbison. He was
a wonderful, wonderful person. I still have a flyer that shows Roy Orbison,
Johnny Burnette, and Dick and Dee Dee. It was like maybe the fourth show
we ever did, but I thought it was very exciting.
Q: You went on these Dick Clark Rock 'n' roll Caravan Tours didn't you?
A: Of course. Everyone at that time that was on the charts did it, because
that's the only way people ever got on the Dick Clark Caravan Shows. It
was at a time in the record industry when the William Morris Agency or whatever
the agencies were at the time, we were with William Morris, they would book
the acts right off of the charts. Of course, Dick only wanted the Top 15
acts. So, that's why his shows would change and he'd always have who you'd
be hearing on the radio that summer.
Q: You toured the world with Dick Clark?
A: Oh no, that was just the States.
Q: You toured by bus?
A: By bus. Caravans of buses.
Q: What was it like? Who did you go on tour with?
A: Well, let's see, a big show would be Gene Pitney, Johnny Tillotson,
The Crystals, The Devells, Paul and Paula, Dick and Dee Dee, Lou Christine.
Maybe a guy named Kirby St.Romaine, Barbara Lewis. That was one big tour.
Q: Was a lot of time spent traveling on the buses?
A: Of course. You had to sleep on the buses, most of the time. Sometimes
the dates were 700 hundred miles in between.
Q: That's kind of ridiculous isn't it?
A: Not really because they had the bus driver and there were like three
buses and a big equipment bus. The bus drivers would sleep while we were
there doing the shows. They just kept it going. They were very professional.
But, it was rough you know. When you're a kid and you do it, it's not that
hard. To do something like that now, well no one would do it now. You would
never book the Top 15 acts in the nation and put them on a bus. Let alone
with the way the music is on the radios right now, you might have a gang
Q: You had a recording session with The Rolling Stones.
A: In England, in 64.
Q: How did that come about?
A: We were the opening act for the Rolling Stones in Los Angels and Long
Beach, and San Francisco when they came to California, the very first time
in 1964. In 1964, music was really being totally influenced by England.
It was very powerful. All the acts were happening, that were from England
at the time, if you look back on the charts. We had been on a t.v. show
called Shindig! before, which was very successful here in the United States.
We were semi-regulars on Shindig! When the Stones were coming to America
it was worked out through William Morris that we were an opening act. Everybody
wanted to see The Rolling Stones. They'd never been here. But, it was fun,
and we met the Stones. December ('64) was when we went to London to record.
Andrew Oldham was their producer at the time. He liked Dick and Dee Dee
and said, the Stones were not the phenomenon they are now o.k.? They were
The Rolling Stones. They were a band. A rock 'n' roll band that had had
a lot of hits at the time, maybe 3 or 4, but nothing like 34. Mick and Keith
had written 3 songs and they thought we would sound good on them, and they
would play the music. So we said sure. Warner Brothers Records worked it
Q: What do you remember about Brian Jones?
A: Well, when I knew Brian Jones he was very young and very happy. I didn't
know Brian through the heavy drug times of his life, 1964; we just laughed
and had a good time. When Brian would come here to L.A. they (The Stones)
would stay at the Ambassador which is not even there anymore. We'd call,
and it was so different. They'd say "Come and take us to some clubs." So
we'd go to Gazzari's, Whisky A Go Go, and those kind of things. Mostly Gazzari's.
Q: No one would flock around you?
A: Oh yeah, a few people would. It was different. Brian did say to me
once when we were in England; we were there for 2 weeks, he said, "Hey,
want to have some fun? Watch this school bus coming on the corner." Mind
you, he said school bus. I said o.k. It's Brian and me on the corner and
he goes on the school bus and says "Hey, hi!" And they all started
screaming and yelling. Then he started to run. He said, "C'mon let's
run." So, then we started running. The bus emptied, and all the kids
were chasing us. I was just following.
© Gary James All Rights Reserved