There is something in the air in this town that makes you want to really sing. That, coupled with the good vibrations which rise up out of the ground hereabouts, have been the cause of a disproportionate number of fabulous singers and musicians whose hometown was Belleville. The list is imposing. Just to drop a few names, there was big band crooner Vincent (Jidge) Riccio who sang with Les Brown's Band of Renown under the stage name of Jack Carroll, there was town sweetheart Connie Francis and Four Seasons singer Tommy DiVito. The list goes on, but the focus of this essay will be those three deliciously pretty teenagers from the Class of '62, Lee, Peg and Dee known together as The Delicates.
If you were there at Belleville High during the early '60s, you knew them well. "Beep, beep, beep, beep Thunderbird ! (yeah)." They blended their voices with a touch of attitude that was cool, sophisticated, with moves and a style that made the guys melt in their shoes. And, did I mention that they were pretty? Their string of New York area smash hits included "Black and White Thunderbird", "Ronnie is My Lover" and "Meusurry" the theme song which they wrote and performed for famous New York 1010 WINS DJ, Murray the K.
The story of the Delicates; Denise Ferri, Peggy Santiglia and Arleen Lanzotti, is a Belleville story through-and-through in which the plot played out during one of Belleville's several golden ages, the 1950's and early '60s. Your author-here-present has never encountered anyone who experienced this time and place who would not quickly acknowledge the value of growing up here in those wonder years.
For our story, we must drift back to those gentle "Leave It To Beaver" days and call up an image of three young ladies, classmates at School 8 on Union Avenue, who, from as early as second grade, became fast childhood friends. They liked to sing. They especially liked to sing together. Playtime was a time for piecing together songs and harmonies of their own invention which they sang just for the joy of it. When you sing for joy, it adds a quality to your music that might otherwise be missing. Now, extraordinary talent can never go unnoticed, because even ordinary people can sense it. And indeed, our young ladies were found out early. From a reading of their memoirs, we learn that their first performance as a trio occurred in fifth grade when their teacher, Mrs. Eleanor W. Arthur, organized a talent show one Friday night and invited the girls to sing. A career was born that night.
That was just the beginning. It was Denise's father who contacted Ted Mack of "Amateur Hour" fame. A father's pride is understandable, but no father would subject his daughter to possible embarrassment, so it is clear to the observer that he saw and understood the blossoming talent and felt entirely confident that something good was going to happen. It did. A talent scout heard the audition. The girls were whisked off to New York City. Stardom came quickly after that.
It was at the tender age of 14 when the girls were invited to write and perform the theme song for "Murray the K and his Swingin' Soiree". There came in rapid succession appearances on Dick Clark's American Bandstand, the Clay Cole Show and the legendary stage shows at the Brooklyn Fox and Brooklyn Paramount theaters. And there were the tours, tours with the best known DJs of the time including Cousin Brucie and Alan Freed. Still, there was no less demand for them back home. One of my favorite anecdotes is this excerpt from Peggy's memoirs -
I remember my mom waking me up saying, "Quick, call Dee and Lee, Mayor Padula won and they want you to sing it at city hall".
It almost sounds like a fairy tale story, but then again, this sort of thing happens all the time in Belleville. Best of all, their story is not over. They will be performing this summer at the Meadowlands. You won't want to miss that. Serious rock and roll aficionados will want to learn more about the Delicates than this brief essay can provide. Here is a list of sites worth visiting :
The Delicates own website - http://www.thedelicates.com/ where you can hear their music, see photos and read those great memoirs. (Perhaps they can be persuaded to publish their extended memoirs. It is said they kept a journal of their adventures.)
and their Facebook page,
A sample video is here -
It is a special treat for your author-here-present to highlight the career of these delightfully attractive ladies, first because they give so much credit for their success to their upbringing here in Belleville and also because I, too, was a graduate of Belleville High School, Class of '62. It was a VERY good year.
If you graduated from Belleville High in 1962, the Class Reunion Committee wants to hear from YOU. The plans are well under way for our 50 year class reunion and we need to hear from you. Even if you don't think you can attend the reunion, at least let us know you are still alive and kicking (or at least breathing). Sad to say, that's not true of all our classmates. Stop in at the Class Reunion Facebook page, catch up on the news and gossip about your classmates and be counted.
Or, email me directly at