An Interview with Diane Renay
She scored a top ten hit in 1964, joined the Supremes and the Rolling Stones on tour, and worked with one of the best producers in the biz.
While I'd rather let Diane Renay tell you the story herself, for those who have never had a spin of "Navy Blue" or "Watch Out Sally," allow me to briefly fill you in on the background of Diane Renay and her days as a chic sixties girlpop singer. During the height of the girl group era, in-demand producer/writer Bob Crewe (most notable for his work with Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons) spent his days off dabbling in the girl group sound. As a result, acts like the Rag Dolls, Tracey Dey, and Diane Renay all got their chance to work with one of the finest pop craftsmen the sixties had to offer - the guy just had a undeniable knack for pop! The partnership of Diane and Bob was magical (as Diane will tell you!) and it resulted in the release of ten fab girl pop records from 1962-1965.
In 1964, Diane finally reached her moment of fame when her sailor anthem "Navy Blue" hit #6 in the Billboard pop charts. Its success yielded an album three months later (also titled Navy Blue) and "reinvented Diane Renay as The World's Most Famous Naval Base Groupie." Following up on the navy craze, Bob Crewe suggested "Kiss me Sailor" for the next release. It reached as high as #29 in the charts before Bob and Diane ditched the navy theme and looked to other subjects for inspiration. Perhaps Diane's most exciting moment was when she took on "Watch Out Sally." With power in her lungs and that certain oomph in her voice, Diane rips and roars through this unconventional slice of pop. Mind you, she's out to get her man so you can bet she's furious when she finds out her mama's getting in the way! And you thought the Shangri Las were bad.
When Diane Renay contacted me about getting an issue of Cha Cha Charming, I jumped at the opportunity of requesting an interview. She was more than enthusiastic about the interview; not only did she answer my questions with great detail and honesty, but she supplied all the beautiful photos as well. An enormous thanks goes out to Diane for this opportunity.
CCC: How did you get into show business? When did you get involved with Bob Crewe?
Diane: When I was 15, I was entered into a local beauty pageant and was a runner up. However, the MC of the show was dabbling in the recording industry and asked me if I would like to cut a record. Nothing came about from that situation, however it led me to meet other people in the industry. My father had a jewelry store in center Philadelphia, and one of his customers was a first cousin to a very well known arranger, writer, producer....Pete De Angelis. He produced for Frankie Avalon (Venus) and Al Martino amongst other renowned recording artists. My father didn't believe I had enough talent to make anything out of my singing. But to satisfy my imploring that I wanted to cut a record- and to satisfy his own curiosity as to whether or not I was good enough- he asked his customer to arrange a meeting with Pete De Angelis to get his opinion of whether or not I had what it takes!
After that meeting he told my parents that he thought I was very talented and that he wanted to write some songs for me to sing. He would be willing to produce me himself and get me a record contract.
We recorded my first single; the remake of "Little White Lies" and it was released on the Atco record label. For my second recording session, Jerry Wexler, the president of Atlantic Records, hired Bob Crewe to come in and work with me. Bob would be writing material for me to sing and he also produced the session. So that's how I met Bob. After two single releases that only charted here and there, but not nationally, Atco decided not to pick up the option to record me again. Bob Crewe stepped in and asked my father if he would allow Bob to put me under contract to him for production and management. The rest is history. The next single out was "Navy Blue," which Bob co-wrote and produced. I was 18 years old when it became a hit.