Throughout time, folks have danced to an enormously wide
range of styles and music and the 1960’s were no exception.
In fact, as the 50’s gave way to a new era, it was the Twist that broke wide
open. sending record producers and songwriters to create a non-stop explosion
of similar teen dance styles such as the Pony, the Fly, the Jerk, the Frug,
the Shimmy and the Hully Gully.
These were the days before the record album
format had come into its own and kids were spending
pocket money on 45 rpm singles.
Even though both Hank Ballard’s record and Chubby Checker’s cover
cover first appeared on the charts in 1960, the derivation of the original
Twist song dates back to 1958.
As lead singer of The Midnighters on King’s sister label Federal,
Hank had written “Work With Me Annie” which, despite its sexually-implied
lyric and its subsequent ban by countless radio stations, blasted to the top of
the R&B chart in 1954.
It was also the song that started a whole slew of ‘Annie’ sequel songs.
The Midnighters were on a roll yet by 1958, their sales were slowing
and they were on the cusp of being dropped by Federal. Hank liked the
song “What’cha Gonna Do” by Clyde McPhatter & The Drifters and said
that it influenced him to write a tune called “The Twist”.
He cut a demo version and pitched it without success to Vee-Jay Records.
King got wind that Hank had this new song and re-signed him and
the Midnighters who cut “The Twist” ,but when it was released as a single,
Syd Nathan of King Records put all the promotion on the flip side tone
“Teardrops On Your Letter” written by producer Henry Glover.
Even so, when Hank & The Midnighters performed “The Twist”
during a week’s engagement at Baltimore’s Royal Theater,
the kids in the audience got up and began this ‘new’ dance in
which you didn’t need to even touch your partner!
Here’s the original King version:
by Hank Ballard & The Midighters
Pro: Henry Glover
The story goes that despite this, Dick Clark of the highly influential
‘American Bandstand’ TV show refused to have Hank and the guys perform
on the show and decided to suggest to Cameo-Parkway Records that they cut a
cover version. Chubby Checker was already a Parkway artist and he recorded a
virtual note-for-note copy of Hank & The Midnighters’ track. Chubby topped
the Hot 100 in September 1960 and Hank’s version which had charted at
#16 R&B in ’59 and then #6 in ‘60, hit #28 Pop that same month.
Once the floodgates were open, there was a seemingly endless supply of
Twist songs ranging from “Peppermint Twist”, “Twistin’ With Linda” and
“Twistin’ Postman” to “Twist Around The Clock”, “Twistin’ U.S.A.” and of course
“Twist & Shout”.
There was also a whole slew of Twist instrumentals by such as
Bo Diddley, King Curtis, Ray Bryant and Bill Black’s Combo.
Certain dance songs included verbal instructions on the records themselves
(as in “The Original Popeye” below)
and descriptive illustrations on the 45 sleeves.
So, along with YouTube audio clips,
here’s my selection of a few of the many dance songs of the 60’s
that charted plus a group of rarities.
I hope you enjoy them…
(Jackie Wilson/Alonzo Tucker)
by Jackie Wilson
Pro: Nat Tarnopol
Chorus & Orch Dir: Dick Jacobs
“Put your hands on your hip and let your backbone slip”
In additional to his dynamic vocals, Jackie was also a superb dancer,
a quality that inspired some of Michael Jackson’s early moves.
Alonzo Tucker also co-wrote “Get It” with Hank Ballard
when they were both members of The Royales in ’53.
by Robert Parker
Whurley-Burley ProdArr: Wardell Quezergue
BAREFOOTIN’ was released on Nola
(named for New Orleans Louisiana),
the label owned by the Crescent City’s
legendary recording engineer Cosimo Matassa.
THE BRISTOL STOMP
(Kal Mann/Dave Appell)
by The Dovells
Five-man vocal group of which Len Barry was lead singer.
This record hit #2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in October ’61.
Len later went solo and enjoyed a chart-topping hit with “1-2-3” in ’65.
(Do The) MASHED POTATOES
by Nat Kendrick & The Swans/Vocal: King Coleman
Part 1 (Dade: 1960)
Nat Kendrick & The Swans were really the James Brown band
(Nat Kendrick was the drummer) but this was recorded for Henry Stone’s
Miami-based label Dade because King Records’ Syd Nathan didn’t want
James recording dance instrumentals. The pianist on the session was James Brown
himself and the vocal was by former DJ King Coleman.
DO YOU LOVE ME
by The Contours
Pro: Berry Gordy
This was the debut hit by the six-man group The Contours; it took them
to #3 on the Hot 100 in October ’62 and is also memorable for its false ending.
DO YOU LOVE ME was one of Motown founder Berry Gordy’s
most successful compositions along with his various co-writes of million-sellers
such as The Jackson 5’s “I’ll Be There” and “ABC” both in ’70 plus Barrett Strong’s
“Money (That’s What I Want)” in ’60 and The Miracles’ “Shop Around” in ’61.
THE HIPPY HIPPY SHAKE
by Chan Romero
Like his idol Ritchie Valens, Chan Romero was a young Latino rocker
whose song THE HIPPY HIPPY SHAKE became a huge success in the UK
when The Swinging Blue Jeans’ cover version reached #2 there in January ’64
and The Beatles also performed the song on radio.
However for me, Chan’s original still has then edge.
THE HOOCHI COOCHI COO
(Hank Ballard/Billy Myles)
by Hank Ballard & The Midnighters
Co-written with singer Billy Myles, this rose to #3 on Billboard’s R&B chart in ’61.
Hank’s other dance songs included “The Switch-A-Roo” and “The Coffee Grind”.
Billy Myles had earlier success writing “Tonite Tonite” which was a hit by
The Mello-Kings in ’57.
by The Larks
Pro: Don Julian
Singer/guitarist Don Julian had previously fronted The Meadowlarks
doo-wop group. Two of those guys formed The Larks with Don
and this track topped the R&B chartsin early ’65.
Dancing was still firmly in Don Julian’s mind when his later releases
included “Soul Jerk”, “Philly Jerk”, “The Duck” and “The Skate”!
LAND OF 1000 DANCES
by Chris Kenner
Pro: Allen Toussaint
The song was a bigger hit for other artists including
Cannibal & The Headhunters in ’65 and Wilson Pickett the year after.
Chris drew his inspiration from an old spiritual song “Children Go Where I Send You”
which you can hear him sing in this unaccompanied opening where he also mentions
“Land Of A Thousand Dances” but for the single version, Instant omitted the intro.
The 45 that charted therefore began with Toussaint’s piano
and the song title is never mentioned in the lyric on any of the hit recordings.
(Jerry Goldstein/Bob Feldman/Richard Gottehrer)
by Bobby Comstock
Pro: Wes Farrell
This proverbial hand-clapping stomper became a hit in ’63, the year that
writers Messrs. Goldstein, Feldman & Gottehrer topped the charts for the first
time with their girl group favorite “My Boyfriend’s Back” by The Angels.
THE ORIGINAL POPEYE
(Charles Brown Jr./Olner Brown/Wardell Quezergue)
by Wardell & The Sultans
Pro: Dave Bartholomew
The Popeye dance was named after the sailor comic strip cartoon character
and, according to New Orleans music historian Jeff Hannusch, it was initially
popularized in the Crescent City by kids dancing to “Something You Got” by
Chris Kenner in late ’61.
Among the other Popeye-influenced songs were
“Check Mr. Popeye” by Eddie Bo, “Popeye Joe” by Ernie K-Doe,
“Popeye Waddle” by Don Covay and Pop-Eye by Huey Smith.
(Dave & Wardell had earlier written “New Orleans Twist”, one of
four songs recorded by Blazer Boy for Imperial in November ’61.)
QUARTER TO THREE
(Frank Guida/Gene Barge/Joseph Royster/Gary Anderson)
by Gary U.S. Bonds
A Frank Guida Prod.
The tune was based on “A Night With Daddy Gee” by The Church Street Five.
“Don’t you know that I danced, I danced till a quarter to three’ sang Gary Anderson
(aka Gary U.S. Bonds) on this, his biggest hit which topped the charts here in June ’61.
His later 60’s hits included “Dear Lady Twist” and “Twist Twist Senora”
and in the early 80’s, he collaborated with Bruce Springsteen. Gary was also
the first artist to put Frank Guida and his Norfolk, Virginia-based label
Legrand on the map.
THE SPIDER WALK
by Johnny Darrow
Johnny Darrow was a pseudonym used by Johnny Moore who was
one of the fine lead vocalists with The Drifters, most memorably on
“Under The Boardwalk” in ’64.
(Jr. Walker/Harvey Fuqua/Robert White)
by Jr. Walker & The All Stars
Saxman Jr. Walker’s first instrumental single for Harvey Fuqua’s
own label prior to switching to Motown’s Soul imprint in ’64.
Lackawanna is a county in Pennsylvania.
TWISTIN’ MATILDA (and the channel)
by Jimmy Soul
Pro: Frank Guida Prods.
In addition to Gary U.S. Bonds, Frank Guida also discovered Jimmy Soul
and adapted the 1956 Harry Belafonte calypso “Matilda” into this Twist mover
which charted in ’62. Jimmy went on to hit #1 on the Hot 100 with another calypso
update “If You Wanna Be Happy” in ’63.
TWISTIN’ THE NIGHT AWAY
by Sam Cooke
A Hugo & Luigi Prod.
Orch cond: Rene Hall
(RCA Victor: 1962)
This single hit #1 R&B & #9 Pop in ’62.
Revived by Rod Stewart in ’73 and by
Divine in ’85.
WALKING THE DOG
by Rufus Thomas
There was already a Dog dance before Rufus Thomas released
his own “The Dog” in early ’63 which he followed with this all-time classic.
He stayed on that theme with such songs as “Can Your Monkey Do The Dog”
and “Somebody Stole My Dog” but later created other dance moves including
“Do The Funky Chicken”, “(Do The) Push And Pull” and even
“Do The Funky Penguin”.
(Kal Mann/Dave Appell)
by The Orlons
The group members were Marlena Davis, Rosetta Hightower,
Shirley Brickley & Steve Caldwell when they cut this dance favorite which
climbed to #2 on the Hot 100 in the summer of ‘62. Rosetta and Shirley also
sang backup vocals on Dee Dee Sharp’s smash 45 “Mashed Potato Time”
along with Shirley’s sister Audrey.
As in all my postings, the recordings listed and referenced above
are in no way intended as definitive collections.
Please send any comments or suggestions to
© Alan Warner, 2021.
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