Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Land of a 1000 Dances

Dance Crazes: Part 2

OK, so it's been over month since we started this series, but we're finally finishing up our Dance Craze posts.
This next one is more of a novelty dance that came from one of our British Invasion bands. As frontman for the Manchester group Freddie & The Dreamers, 5-foot-3 Freddie Garrity was known for hopping around onstage, flapping his arms and legs. Following their #1 hit "I"m Telling You Now" in 1965, their next biggest US hit was "Do the Freddie," which was intended to inspire 'The Freddie' dance craze. The accompanying album included diagrams from dance instructor Arthur Murray on how to perform the routine. Now you try to sing this live and kick your legs this high!

 From Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, The Dovells were an a cappella singing group (with member Len Barry, prior to his '65 solo hit "1-2-3") known for the million-selling "Bristol Stomp." Reaching #2 in 1961, this song was written about teenagers who were dancing to a new step called "The Stomp" at dances. Written by Kal Mann and Dave Appell, two executives with the Cameo-Parkway record label, it refers to Bristol, Pennsylvania, which was a blue collar suburb of Philly. The lead vocal was recorded by Matthew Cavallaro, a short-time member who was forced to leave the group because of military obligations, however, Len Barry takes the lead in this performance.

Formed in 1957 by lead singer Walter Ward, The Olympics were an American doo wop group known for their 1959 recording of " Hully Gully," which initiated the hully gully dance craze. This unstructured type of line dance actually did not originate in the '60s however, as it was a dance common to black juke joints some forty years prior. In its modern form, the dance consists of a series of steps that are called out by the emcee. Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs' hit "Wooly Bully" was originated titled "Hully Gully" and written as a tribute to the dance, but the record label made Sam change the title and lyrics.  

From Detroit, Michigan, R&B/soul singer and songwriter Wilson Pickett was a major figure in the development of American soul music, and one his biggest hits was his version of "Land of a 1000 Dances." Reaching #6 in 1965, this song itself isn't a dance craze tune but the lyrics mention 16 dances including the Pony, the Chicken, the Mashed Potato, the Alligator, the Watusi , the Twist, the Fly, the Jerk, the Tango, the Yo-Yo, the Sweat Pea, the Hand Jive, the Slop, the Bop, the Fish, and the Popeye! Originally recorded by Cannibal & The Headhunters earlier that year, the song's memorable "na na na na na" hook was initiated by accident as Cannibal had forgotten the actual lyrics to the song.

And as we began this series with the King of Dance Crazes, we'll also conclude with one more Chubby Checker number, the 1961 "Pony Time" in particular. His second #1 US single after "The Twist," this song introduced a new dance style, The Pony of course, in which the dancer tries to look like they are riding a horse. Sounds easy enough but Mr. Checker gives a little instruction at the beginning of this (unfortunately out-of-sync clip), just in case. Thanks to this guy's series of upbeat dance tracks and dance-related singles in the early '60s, he pretty much changed the way we dance to the beat of music, a major contributor to pop culture.

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