In 1964 Diane Renay reached #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 with her recording of "Navy Blue." That's impressive. But she would have reached #3 were it not for four guys who got in her way!
Diane, originally from South Philadelphia, began singing at an early age and took lessons from Artie Singer, an appropriately-named voice teacher who also taught Bobby Rydell and managed Danny and the Juniors of "At the Hop" fame. He was extremely impressed by Diane's ability and encouraged her to pursue a recording career.
Diane's dad owned a family jewelry store and record producer and songwriter Pete DeAngelis was a frequent customer there. Her parents arranged an audition for him and Pete liked what he heard and got Diane signed to the Atco label. Pete produced her first single, a recording of the standard "Little White Lies" released when Diane was 16 years old, and it got some regional attention. For her second Atco recording session Jerry Wexler, the president of the label, decided to call in Bob Crewe, arguably the hottest record producer at the time, to be her producer and songwriter. That session resulted in her second single release, "Tender" which, like the first one got some regional attention. But Diane's blockbuster signature song was one release away and it's incredible success was a big surprise.
Bob Crewe, who had written and produced material for Diane's second recording session, signed her to a new recording contract with a different label: 20th Century-Fox. Her first release on that label came late in 1963 when Diane was 17 years old. It had a Phil-Spector-ish "Unbelievable Guy" (written by Bob Crewe and Larry Santos) as the A-side and a story song "Navy Blue" (written by Eddie Rambeau, Bud Rehak and Bob Crewe) as the B-side. Whether by accident or on purpose, a deejay named Dick Smith on WORC in Worcester, Massacusetts played the "Navy Blue" side on his show and the phones lit up like Christmas trees. Possibly that reaction came about because the song struck a nerve: it told the sad story of a girl who was lonely for her steady boyfriend who had, to her chagrin, joined the "Nay-ay-vee." Once word got around about the reaction to the airplay, other deejays followed suit.
"Navy Blue" roared up to its peak position of #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 during the initial burst of Beatlemania. That was a good thing and bad thing. The good thing was that more people paid attention to the charts because the Beatles were dominating them and therefore more people noticed "Navy Blue." The bad thing? Were it not for the Beatles, "Navy Blue" would have been a top-three record. On the March 14, 1964 Hot 100, this was the top six: (1) I Want To Hold Your Hand - The Beatles (2) She Loves You - The Beatles (3) Please Please Me - The Beatles (4) Dawn (Go Away) - The 4 Seasons (5) Java - Al Hirt (6) Navy Blue - Diane Renay. So Diane was both "Blue Navy Blue" and "Blue Beatle Blue"! Still she could take solace knowing that at the height of the Beatles initial dominance, she was the #1 female vocalist on the chart. Her recording of "Navy Blue" DID make #1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary Chart. And, astoundingly, that recording spend 12 weeks at #1 in Japan!
Diane followed up "Navy Blue" with an album of that title with liner notes by Dick Smith, the deejay most responsible for turning it into a hit. It included her follow-up single called "Kiss Me Sailor," a sequel co-written by Eddie Rambeau and Bud Rehak, that climbed to #29 on the Billboard Hot 100. Here's a 1964 promotional performance video of that song.
In 2001 Diane released a still available double-CD entitled "Some Things Old & Some Things New" which contained 35 of her recordings, including some previously unreleased ones. Here's a promotional video for that CD created by video master (now) Ed Rambeau.
In 2009 Diane released a still available CD entitled "Navy Blue: 25 Super Tracks" which contained 25 of her recordings, including several of which were not available on previous albums and one previously-unreleased song called "Ok With Me." Here's a promotional video for that CD created by video master Ed Rambeau.
Diane's official website
Diane's Facebook page