You might not know Denise Ferri by name. But you know her by voice. She sang on some of the most iconic records of the 1960s. We were fortunate enough to talk to her about those times and are proud to publish her interview below.
Kyler:Your first group was The Delicates and you made several records with them. Can you pick a favorite? Maybe you can share some experiences or memories you had with them?
Denise:My favorite record was “Black and White Thunderbird”, it was on the Unart label.We recorded it in 1958 while still in grammar school, we also wrote it. We toured a lot with that recording and it became a big hit on the east coast. It made so much noise that as a result we were invited to appear on “American Bandstand” .Lots of groups have covered that song over the years, and Disney/Pixar chose it to be part of the CD “Lightning McQueen’s Fast Tracks’ inspired by the film “Cars”. We are very proud of that song.
Kyler:As The Delicates, you were the official dancing girls for the infamous Murray The K. What was he really like??
Denise:Murray was a no nonsense guy, and a good friend. We became very close to him and he invited us to appear everywhere with him. We were the “original” dancing girls, and appeared on his 1010 Wins New York Radio show many times. We also wrote and recorded his radio show themes .including “the Swingin’ Soiree” Red, Hot and Blue” theme and the ever so popular “Submarine Race Watcher’s Theme.
Kyler:Also, while in The Delicates, you got a chance to perform back ups live for many of the stars of the day including Jackie Wilson, Bobby Rydell, Connie Francis, and many more. Would you appear onstage or behind the curtain? How did you like working on those types of shows.
Denise:Some were backstage in the wings at the Brooklyn Fox, and Paramount Theaters…I remember we backed Bobby Vee singing “bouncy bouncy” to his wonderful “Rubber Ball”. We also did a lot of studio work .making .demos and major recordings. I loved working those stage shows ..five shows a day for 10 days straight, with an incredible roster of stars. We were blessed to work on the Clay Cole Christmas Show at the Brooklyn Paramount. That show broke all exsisting records.
Kyler: You did many studio sessions as a background vocalist singing on so many records we here at Rare Rockin’ Records can’t count!! Would it be OK if I mentioned some of the artists you sang with in the studio, and then you could tell me a little bit about each session/person??
Kyler:OK, here we go. I was fascinated to learn that you sang on some of Allan Vallone’s records…..while he wasn’t a big star, we just love his music! Can you tell us more?
Denise:Allan Vallone, great singer, great guy. We recorded “The Hurt Goes On and On”..he had something very special and should have been bigger than he was. It was a fun session. I just recently found the song on Youtube, I haven’t heard it in over 40 years it sounded great!
Kyler:How About Patty Duke? Her biggest hit at the time was “Please Don’t Just Stand There”.
Denise:Patty Duke was wonderful. The nicest person you could ever meet, you would never know she was a huge star and an Academy Award winning actress. We did sessions with her that lasted several days. We recorded at least five songs for an album. She was so down to earth and treated us like old friends. We were all in the same recording booth so we had lots of time in between takes to chat and shared lots of laughs...That was an experience I will treasure forever.
Kyler:Next -The Jersey Boy – Frankie Valli. Which records did you back him up on?
Denise:Our relationship goes back almost fifty years with Frankie. We came from the same hometown of Belleville New Jersey. We worked a lot with the Four Seasons, especially with my lifelong friend Tommy DeVito, doing tons of recordings. We backed Frankie on three of his solo hits. “The Proud One”, “Cry For Me” which is featured in Jersey Boys, and “You’re Ready Now” which became a hit all over again in the UK. It is now considered a Northern Soul Anthem. We see Frankie often, he looks great and is still a great entertainer.
Kyler:Finally, the man himself, Lightnin’ Lou Christie! Your “buppee ahh ooos” and various girl group sounds made some of Lou’s MGM records some of his biggest hits and best songs. What were those sessions like? From the looks of some of the pictures, you guys had a ton of fun!
Denise:We had a ball and what can I say about Lou?? Only that he is one of the nicest human beings on the planet. Working those sessions with him was a great experience. It took months of rehearsals and recordings. We even helped Lou create some of the back up words and sounds. Lou and his writing partner the late Twyla Herbert wrote the best songs. they were ahead of their time. “Rhapsody in the Rain “was banned because Lou sang “we were makin out in the rain, and in this car our love went much too far” So we had to go back in the studio and record it over again to tone down the meaning, those were the 60’s. Lou is a very talented artist. Today Lou sings his hits in the same key he did back in the day. Singing with Lou was magical, I loved the blend we had together. .I think we were on all but one tune on his “Lightning Strikes ‘ album., along with many singles. Last December we appeared with Lou in a show at the Maltz Jupiter Theater in Florida….we sang “Lightning Strikes”, and it rocked!!!! ”BUPPY AH OOH”
Kyler:Of course I missed many! What are your other favorite records you sang on?
Denise:One was our very first backup experience. It was with the late, great Al Martino, a song called “Journey To Love”., written by Teddy Randazzo and produced by the great Don Costa. Working with Teddy was so special, at the time he was a teen movie heart throb. girls our age got to dream about him, and we got to meet and work with him.
Another very special recording was one where. we didn’t sing at all, but clapped.
It was an instrumental called “I’ll Walk The Line” by Don Costa. It was a big hit
It was after one of our own sessions with Don when he decided to add clapping to his track so he asked the Delicates and my mom and two brothers to clap!!!! It was sensational, and I get quite a feeling when I hear that recording ..it’s truly a family affair.
Kyler:Thanks Denise for taking the time to do this interview! The final question is, what feelings to you have when you look back at all the great work you did, on stage and on record, in the 60s?
Denise:That I was truly blessed to be there at the best time in Rock and Roll history . There will never be another time like it.
Doing this interview was my pleasure. Thank you!!
You can find out even more by heading to jerseygirlssing.com. Check it out!