Dee Clark was born in Arkansas but spent most of his youth in Chicago. His mother was a gospel singer who encouraged Dee’s singing. By the age of 12, he had recorded a single with a group of teenagers. After that, he sang with several other groups until starting on a solo career in 1957.
His big break was similar to the start of Bobby Vee’s career. When Buddy Holly died in a tragic plane crash, Bobby Vee filled in for him at a few shows. Little Richard quit rock and roll and studied to become a preacher after a plane he was supposed to fly on crashed in 1957. Dee filled in for Little Richard at scheduled shows.
He began recording singles in 1958, and he finally reached the charts in early 1959 with Nobody But You. The single got to #21 on the Hot 100 but did even better on the R&B chart, where it reached #3.
His second single was Just Keep It Up. The record reached #18 on the Hot 100 and #9 on the R&B chart. It was also the first of two singles he recorded that made the UK charts.
Four more top forty records followed, including his number two hit, Raindrops, in 1961. He was never able to reach the top forty again in the US after that million-selling record although he kept recording for various labels for over a decade.
While it may have seemed like Dee’s career was down for the count, in 1975 he recorded a disco record. Ride A Wild Horse may not have done much in the US, but it reached #16 on the UK charts and briefly reignited his career there. Dee was pushed into the Oldie circuit when no other hit records followed that surprise success.
Dee died from a heart attack in 1990 at the relatively young age of 52.