The official superstars of the Class of 1962
For many of us, our first introduction came at a high school talent show; y'know one of those affairs with performances by piano or violin soloists, baton twirlers and modern dance recitals, .. yes. And, at one point, three young ladies stepped out onto the stage. They were going to sing for us, .. o.k., they were certainly pretty. But then, something different and unexpected happened. First, about five seconds into their number, they had everyone's rapt attention. Then, about ten seconds later, they were rockin' the joint. Wait a minute, this wasn't talent show talent, this was really good, seriously professional. 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. The old auditorium walls had never echoed with a sound like this before. Do you remember the buzz in the halls after the show? Wow ! .. who were those girls ?? .. the Delicates ? .. yeah!
Some of us were then just learning about their spectacular talent .. pay attention, Class of 1962, you have rock stars among you .. others already knew about it. It had all begun much earlier.
The story of the Delicates; Denise Ferri, Peggy Santiglia and Arleen Lanzotti, is a Belleville story in which the plot played out during one of Belleville's golden ages; one of those "so good to grow up in" times, the 1950's and early '60s. For our story, we must drift back to those gentle, "Leave It To Beaver" days and call up an image of three very young ladies, classmates at School No. 8 on Union Avenue, who, from as early as second grade, had become 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. It is true, 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 on that night.
The Brill Building
It was at the exciting and crazy 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, a town from where there is an impressive list of famous entertainers. Best of all, the Delicates story is not over. They performed in concert this summer at the Meadowlands and their career is moving forward.
There is much more to know about The Delicates' career than this brief essay can provide. Here is a list of sites worth visiting :
The Delicates own website -
where you can hear their music, see photos and read those great memoirs. (Perhaps they can be persuaded to publish a book of their extended memoirs. It is said they kept a journal of their adventures.)
Also try their Jersey Girls page,
and their Facebook page,
or their Wikipedia page,
To visit the Delicates Audio Gallery and listen to some of their greatest hits, click here.
Today, they are still pretty, they still sing, they still rock the joint .. they are still - The Delicates. Chalk one up, a big one, for the Class of '62. [yeah !]
The Delicates, back in Belleville, where it all began.