Decades before the arrival of electronic dance music, rock ‘n’ roll teenagers filled club floors
dancing to a seemingly endless supply of rhythmic styles.
Just as their predecessors had jitterbugged and lindy-hopped, so the youngsters in the late 50’s and early 60’s
were adopting songs and moves with quirky names such as the Flea, the Jerk, the Stomp, the Hully Gully, the Alligator, the Slop,
the Shimmy, the Mashed Potatoes, the Boogaloo, the Freeze and the Hitch Hike.
In 1957, Danny & The Juniors’ AT THE HOP became a call-to-arms anthem as it promised
‘Do the dance sensation that is sweepin’ the nation’.
Along came WILLIE AND THE HAND JIVE by The Johnny Otis Show,
THE WALK by Jimmy McCracklin
and THE STROLL by The Diamonds
all in ’58, the same year that Billy Graves issued his single that announced THE SHAG (Is Totally Cool).
The floodgates really opened around the time that Chubby Checker took Hank Ballard’s song THE TWIST
to the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 in September 1960. A zillion artists including Gary (U.S. Bonds), The Marvelettes
and Danny & The Juniors began recordingTwist-related songs and the market became over saturated with innumerable attempts
by non-rock performers to cash in on the craze; even Frank Sinatra hit a new low with a misconceived ditty called EVERYBODY’S TWISTIN’.
Not every dance song was based on pre-existing dance steps. Many songs such as THE LOCO-MOTION and THE TWIST
were created as original lyrical concoctions for which dance moves were devised afterwards.
In addition, a number of dances inspired more than just one hit;
for instance, two years prior to Dee Dee Sharp’s million-selling MASHED POTATO TIME,
there was a chart 45 called (Do The) MASHED POTATOES by Nat Kendrick & The Swans
and on their celebrated Motown hit DO YOU LOVE ME,
The Contours revealed “I can mashed potato, I can do the twist”.
Here is a group of American dance records from the early 60’s which specifically referenced individual dances…
(As always, please remember that this is not intended as a comprehensive list but rather a selection of 45’s that still resonate.)
(BABY) HULLY GULLY (Fred Smith/Cliff Goldsmith) by The Olympics (Arvee: 1959) US #72 Pop in ’60.
BAREFOOTIN’ (Robert Parker) by Robert Parker
Arr: Wardell Quezergue (Nola: 1966) US #2 R&B, #7 Pop & UK #24.
‘We’re doin’ a dance that can’t be beat, We’re barefootin’’
BRISTOL STOMP (Kal Mann/Dave Appell) by The Dovells (Parkway: 1961) US #2 Pop, #7 R&B.
Lead singer was Len Barry who later went solo and enjoyed his own #2 hit single with 1-2-3 in ’65. Additional dance songs created by Messrs. Mann & Appell included THE POPEYE WADDLE for Don Covay and THE CHA-CHA-CHA for Bobby Rydell, both in ’62.
C’MON AND SWIM (Sylvester Stewart/Thomas Coman) by Bobby Freeman/A Cougar Production
(Autumn: 1964) US #5 Pop https://youtu.be/S7cODJ7fHnw
Co-written by Sylvester Stewart aka Sly Stone. Bobby’s initial chart hit had been DO YOU WANT TO DANCE in 1958.
COOL JERK (Donald Storball) by The Capitols
Arr & Cond: Mike Terry/Pro: Ollie McLaughlin (Karen: 1966) US #2 R&B, #7 Pop
THE DUCK (Fred Smith/Earl Nelson) by Jackie Lee
Arr: Fred Hill/Pro: Fred Smith (Mirwood: 1965)
US #4 R&B & #14 Pop both in ’66.
EL WATUSI (Ray Barretto) by Ray Barretto
Pro: Teddy Reig (Tico: 1962) US #17 R&B & #17 Pop in ‘63.
This Latin American dance sensation launched conga drummer Ray Barretto’s career.
Fellow conga player Mongo Santamaria had scored a Top Ten hit in ’62 with Herbie Hancock’s jazz tune WATERMELON MAN.
HARLEM SHUFFLE (Bob Relf/Earl Nelson) by Bob & Earl
Arr: Gene Page/Pro: Fred Smith, Bob Relf & Earl Nelson (Marc: 1963)
US #3 R&B, #44 Pop in ’64. UK #7 in ’69.
The Rolling Stones successfully charted with their faithful version years later in ’86.
THE HIPPY HIPPY SHAKE (Robert Romero) by Chan Romero
Pro: Bob Keene (Del-Fi: 1959)
Chan’s original version didn’t chart but a cover by British group The Swinging Blue Jeans
took the song to #2 in the UK in ’63.
THE HOOCHI COOCHI COO (Billy Myles/Hank Ballard) by Hank Ballard & The Midnighters (King: 1960)
US #3 R&B & #23 Pop in ’61.
In addition to THE TWIST and THE HOOCHI COOCHI COO, Hank wrote other dance tunes including
THE SWITCH-A-ROO, THE FLOAT (‘Now lift your arms just like a bird’) and also THE CONTINENTAL WALK
which producer Snuff Garrett covered with The Rollers.
LET’S STOMP (Jerry Goldstein/Bob Feldman/Richard Gottehrer) by Bobby Comstock
A Wes Farrell Production (Lawn: 1963) US #57 Pop
LET’S WADDLE (Robert DelDin/Larry Figueiredo)
by The Earls (Old Town: 1962)
THE LOCO-MOTION (Gerry Goffin/Carole King) by Little Eva
Pro: Gerry Goffin for Nevins-Kirshner
(Dimension: 1962) US #1 R&B, #1 Pop, UK #2.
The song received two very successful revivals, first by Grand Funk in ’74 and then by Kylie Minogue in ’88.
LOOP DE LOOP (Teddy Vann/Joe Dong) by Johnny Thunder
A Teddy Vann Prod. (Diamond: 1962) US #4 Pop & #6 R&B both in ’63.
An old children’s nursery rhyme dressed up as a new dance, it was name checked in SHAKE A TAIL FEATHER.
Under his real name Gil Hamilton, Johnny Thunder had earlier cut
TELL HER, the original version of the Exciters’ hit TELL HER.
LOOP DE LOOP was successfully covered in the UK in ’63 by Frankie Vaughan.
MASHED POTATO TIME (Jon Sheldon/Harold Land) by Dee Dee Sharp
Pro: Kal Mann (Cameo: 1960) US #1 R&B, #2 Pop.
Written originally by Kal Mann & Bernie Lowe under their pseudonyms Jon Sheldon and Harold Land
but because of its supposed similarity to the Marvelettes’ hit PLEASE MR. POSTMAN, the writers of the latter song are now
also officially credited. Dee Dee had previously duetted with Chubby Checker on his 1962 hit SLOW TWISTIN’ and among her other
solo dance 45’s were DO THE BIRD and RIDE!
THE MONKEY TIME (Curtis Mayfield) by Major Lance
Arr: Johnny Pate/Pro: Carl Davis (OKeh: 1963) US #2 R&B, #8 Pop.
MONKEY TIME launched Major’s solo career which also included
another noteworthy dance hit, THE MATADOR in ’64.
THE ORIGINAL POPEYE (Olner Brown/Charles Brown Jr./Dave Bartholomew/Wardell Quezergue)
by Wardell & The Sultans
New Orleans trumpeter Wardell Quezergue with a tune named after a local dance craze.
LET’S WADDLE (Robert DelDin/Larry Figueiredo) by The Earls (Old Town: 1962)
PEPPERMINT TWIST Part.1 (Joey Dee/Henry Glover) by Joey Dee & The Starliters
Pro: Henry Glover (Roulette: 1961)
US #1 Pop, #8 R&B & UK #33 all in ’62. Recorded live at the Peppermint Lounge in New York.
PONY TIME (Don Covay/John Berry) by Don Covay & The Goodtimers
(Arnold: 1961) US #60 Pop.
Song covered by Chubby Checker whose Parkway single hit #1 here in February ’61.
Two other standout Pony songs were RIDE! by Dee Dee Sharp and RIDE YOUR PONY by Lee Dorsey.
POP POP POP-PIE (John Madara/David White) by The Sherrys
An M.W.B. Production (Guyden: 1962) US #25 R&B, #35 Pop
SHAKE (Sam Cooke) by Sam Cooke
Pro: Al Schmitt (RCA: 1965) US #2 R&B, #7 R&B.
Famously covered & charted in ’67 by Otis Redding on a track
recorded during the Stax/Volt Revue concerts in London.
SHAKE A TAIL FEATHER (Otha Hayes/Andre Williams/Verlie Rice) by The Five Du-Tones
Pro: Otha Hayes & Andre Williams) (One-derful!: 1963) US #28 R&B, #51 Pop.
https://youtu.be/XaKVs5mJ4Bg Successfully revived by James & Bobby Purify in ’67, the song was performed
by Ray Charles & The Blues Brothers in Universal’s 1980 film “The Blues Brothers”.
Co-writer Andre Williams had scored with his own dance song BACON FAT back in ’57.
THE TWIST (Hank Ballard) by Chubby Checker
Pro: Kal Mann (Parkway: 1960) US #1 Pop, #2 R&B, UK #2.
Song originally recorded by Hank Ballard & The Midnighters whose version on King charted R&B in early ’59.
Chubby’s 1960 version was reissued in ’61, hitting the #1 position on Billboard’s Hot 100 once more in early ’62.
Chubby Checker charted with a succession of other dance songs including PONY TIME(mentioned above), LET’S TWIST AGAIN,
THE FLY and LIMBO ROCK; he even breathed new life into Paul Williams’ 1949 winner THE HUCKLE-BUCK.
TWIST AND SHOUT (Bert Berns/Phil Medley) by The Isley Brothers
A Ludix Producion/Pro: Bert Berns (Wand: 1962)
US #2 R&B & #17 Pop in ’62, UK #42 in ’63.
Song first recorded by the Phil Spector-produced Top Notes on Atlantic in ’61. The Beatles cut a version in early ’63
and it reached #2 here in April ’64. The Isleys’ original was eclipsed in the UK by a local cover by Brian Poole & The Tremeloes.
Successful TWIST AND SHOUT revivals have included singles by Salt-N-Pepa in ’88 and by Chaka Demus & Pliers in ’93.
Under his alias Russell Byrd, Bert Berns cut his own dance song HITCH HIKE Pts.1 & 2 in on Symbol in ’62.
TWISTIN’ MATILDA (And The Channel) (Norman Span) by Jimmy Soul
Pro: Frank Guida (S.P.Q.R.: 1962) US #22 Pop & #20 R&B.
TWISTIN’ MATILDA was adapted from the calypso song MATILDA
recorded in ’56 by Harry Belafonte.
TWISTIN’ THE NIGHT AWAY (Sam Cooke) by Sam Cooke
Orch Cond: Rene Hall/A Hugo & Luigi Production (RCA: 1962)
US #1 R&B, #9 Pop, UK #62.
THE WAH-WATUSI (Dave Appell/Kal Mann) by The Orlons
(Cameo: 1962) US #5 R&B, #2 Pop
WALKING THE DOG (Rufus Thomas) by Rufus Thomas
(Stax: 1963) US #5 R&B, #10 Pop.
https://youtu.be/zyoXMXjWP4Y Rufus later charted with other dance songs including
DO THE FUNKY CHICKEN, DO THE FUNKY PENGUIN and (Do The) PUSH AND PULL.
THE WATUSI (Shirley Hall/Leslie Temple/James Johnson) by The Vibrations
(Checker: 1960) US #13 R&B & #25 Pop in ‘61.
Finally, here are three classic 45’s without specific dances in their titles:
DANCING IN THE STREET (William Stevenson/Marvin Gaye) by Martha & The Vandellas
Prod: William Stevenson (Gordy: 1964)
US #2 Pop, #8 R&B, UK #4.
Song famously revived in ’85 as a duet by Mick Jagger & David Bowie.
LAND OF 1000 DANCES (Chris Kenner) by Chris Kenner
(Instant: 1962) US #77 Pop in ’63
The most successful hit version was by Wilson Pickett in ’66.
LET’S DANCE (Jim Lee) by Chris Montez
(Monogram: 1962) US #4 Pop, #15 R&B, UK #2.
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