In the 1960s Dinah Lee was the most successful female singer in her New Zealand homeland (and “next-door” in Australia.)
Born Diane Jacobs, she began appearing at her father’s nightclub in Christchurch at the age of 15. She was also modelling by the time she went to Auckland.
Her big break came when the mother of Max Merritt’s main singer died and Dinah was asked to fill in for a tour.
Signed to influential local label Viking Records, Dinah entered the recording studios with Max and the Meteors to record her own versions of two soul/r&b songs she had heard on a Dee Dee Sharp record – Huey ‘Piano’ Smith’s Don’t You Know Yockomo and Jackie Wilson‘s Reet Petite.
Both songs became New Zealand number ones and Dinah became a pop sensation, heads above the other female singers of the day – Maria Dallas, Sandy Edmonds and Allison Durbin. She followed up with a third big hit, a Jamaican ska song Do The Blue Beat.
Performances on the rest of Australia’s pop TV shows followed. At the same time as Ray Columbus and The Invaders became the first New Zealanders to score a Number One record in Australia, Dinah was Top Ten with Don’t You Know Yockomo.
The Invaders’ hit She’s A Mod could easily have been about Dinah Lee herself. The fashion sense she brought into her pop career from her modelling days, made Dinah queen of the Mods, Australia’s most imitated female. Her next big hit was Reet Petite, backed by Do The Blue Beat.
Dinah now divided her time between both sides of the Tasman. In New Zealand she starred in two half-hour TV specials and had another hit with Who Stole The Sugar?.
Dinah was also the only Australasian to appear on America’s Shindig! show. On one of her two appearances, she joined Ray Charles, The Righteous Brothers and an unknown singer called Glen Campbell for a rendition of Ray’s Hit The Road Jack.
Dinah Lee spent the rest of the Sixties consolidating a lucrative nightclub career.