Pop Archives

Jimmy Hannan - Hokey Pokey Stomp (1964)

(Larry La Prise - Charles Macak - Taftt Baker)
Australia Australia
#17 Sydney #14 Brisbane

Single on Reg Grundy’s RG label, issued by Festival, March 1964.

See also the co-charting B-side You Make Me Happy which has quite a history.

Jimmy Hannan (1934-2019) was best known as a television compere and entertainer, seen on numerous programs from the early 60s.

Hokey Pokey Stomp is a rearrangement of the old dance song, updated to exploit surf music’s stomp dance craze.

The summer of 1963-64 was the summer of surf music in Australia. The surf craze enjoyed one season at the peak before being toppled by The Beatles and Beatlemania. The Stomp was the dance of the summer, with local beaches featuring in songs such as ‘Bondi Stomp’ and ‘Avalon Stomp’.

Kyle Doherty “Surf Music Summer” at NSFA

No arranger or additional writer is credited for Jimmy Hannan’s Australian variation of Hokey Pokey:
• The sheet music for Hokey Pokey Stomp credits British songwriter Jimmy Kennedy.
• The label of the 45 credits the American writers LaPrise, Macak & Baker of The Sun Valley Trio.

The origins of Hokey Pokey lie in traditional songs, dances and games that predate any of the versions that were copyrighted and recorded from the mid-20th century.

In England and in the United States there was a copyright dispute amongst claimants who openly acknowledged the traditional sources of the song. Each country’s dispute appears to have been quite separate from the other’s.

1940 According to bandleader-songwriter Al Tabor, he created and performed Hokey Cokey in this year.
1942 Cokey Cokey copyrighted by songwriter Jimmy Kennedy
194? Al Tabor claimed authorship but forfeited to Kennedy
United States:
1944 Hokey Pokey Dance copyrighted by Joe Brier & Robert Degen
1951 Hokey Pokey copyrighted by Larry LaPrise, Charles Macak & Taftt Baker.
1956 Brier & Degen successfully litigated for a share of royalties for Hokey Pokey

Johnny Chester With The Thunderbirds - The Hokey Pokey (1961)

(Jimmy Kennedy)
Australia Australia
#8 Melbourne

B-side on W&G, May 1961.

Listen at YouTube

This was the first release in the long recording career of Johnny Chester, here backed by the major Melbourne live band of the day The Thunderbirds.

Melbourne singer, guitarist and songwriter Johnny Chester (b.1941) started out with the Chessmen (originally known as The Jaywoods) in the late 1950s, performing at dances he organised in the northern suburbs. Signed to Melbourne’s W&G label, he had a number of Top 10 hits in Melbourne from 1961: see, for example, Shame And Scandal (In The Family) (1972, #1 Melbourne, also #2 Brisbane #2 Perth).

Chester“Chess” to his fans – became a disc jockey with Top 40 station 3UZ in 1966. He has also hosted TV shows and broadcast on Radio Australia. 

He built a successful national career in country music from the 1970s, taking out Male Vocalist of The Year for three years in a row 1981-83 in country music’s Golden Guitar Awards. He wrote Rebound: The Musical, staged in the early 2000s.

Further reading: 1. Other Johnny Chester records featured at this site. 2. More records by The Thunderbirds. 3. Johnny Chester biography and timeline at JohnnyChester.com.

Ray Anthony And His Orchestra - The Hokey Pokey (1953)

(Larry La Prise - Charles Macak - Taftt Baker)

B-side on Capitol by trumpeter, bandleader and actor (b.1922), the longest surviving member of the Glenn Miller Band.

Vocals on this track are by Jo Ann Greer (1927-2001), versatile singer known for her years with Les Brown And His Band of Renown, and for her work dubbing the singing voices of major film stars.

The New York Times obituary of copyright claimant Robert Degen suggests that the release of Ray Anthony’s version encouraged Degen and his collaborator Joe Brier to sue successfully for royalties, based on their publication of Hokey Pokey Dance in 1944.

[T]he song and dance became a popular phenomenon in the United States after [The Hokey Pokey] was recorded by Ray Anthony and his orchestra… By the mid-1950s it was known by every child in the nation…

Bruce Weber, “Robert Degen, 104, Dies; Had Hand in Hokey Pokey”, NY Times, 6 Dec 09; more here.

The Sun Valley Trio - The Hokey Pokey (1950)

(Larry La Prise - Charles Macak - Taftt Baker)
Original version with these lyrics

78 rpm disc on 4 Star, recorded in Salt lake City. This is the first version with the title as Hokey Pokey, the name of the dance in USA , Australia and other countries. In the UK the dance is called the Hokey Cokey.

The Sun Valley Trio had a residency for many years at the Sun Valley ski resort near Ketchum, Idaho.

Library of Congress, Catalog of Copyright Entries Jan-Jun 1951

Hokey Pokey was formally copyrighted in 1951 by the members of the trio, Larry LaPrise (aka Robert L. LaPrise), Charles Macak (aka Mason), and Taftt Baker.

As in the UK, the authorship of the song was disputed. Joe Brier and Robert Degen (1905-2009) had copyrighted Hokey Pokey Dance in 1944. By the time they sued for a share of the royalties in 1956, the song had been recorded by the Ray Anthony Orchestra and had become familiar throughout the US.

Library of Congress, Catalog of Copyright Entries 1944

In 1992 LaPrise told an Idaho newspaper1 that the idea came from a French song that his father used to sing to him.

It goes back a long ways… It’s been handed down over the years… We just put English words to it and changed the tune to suit the group.

Larry LaPrise to Times-News, Twin Falls Idaho, 1992

Brier and Degen successfully claimed an undisclosed share of the royalties after the case was settled out of court, according to the New York Times obituary of Robert Degen (2009).2

1. Steve Crump, “Hokey Pokey’s” amazing journey from Idaho to fame, The Times-News, Twin Falls, Idaho, 6 February 2009, page 3.
2. Bruce Weber, Robert Degen, 104, Dies; Had hand in “Hokey Pokey”, New York Times, 6 December 2009, Section B, page 19.
NOTE: These two newspaper stories are well-researched and written but they include some minor errors that don’t detract from their reliability.

Harry Leader And His Party Dance Orchestra - The Cokey Cokey (1947)

(Jimmy Kennedy)

78 rpm disc on Parlophone. This side of the record is labeled Party Dances (No. 1) and the B-side, a medley of three songs, is Party Dances (No.2).

Bandleader, multi-instrumentalist and teacher Harry Leader (1906-1987) had a long career on radio, TV and at major venues across England. According to the Masters of Melody website he appeared on the BBC’s radio show Music While You Work 215 times from 1941 to 1966.

The vocalist is Dick James. He was later a successful music publisher over many years, operating Dick James Music from 1961. He also formed the publishing house Northern Songs with Brian Epstein and The Beatles. Earlier, his voice had become familiar in Australia (and in the UK and USA) when he sang the theme to the popular British TV series The Adventures of Robin Hood.

Further reading: 1. Masters of Melody’s page on Harry Leader is the best source I’ve seen. 2. Dick James page at The Beatles Bible.

Listen at YouTube

Josephine Bradley And Her Ballroom Orchestra - The Cokey Cokey (You Put Your Left Arm Out) (1945)

(Jimmy Kennedy)

78 rpm disc on Decca. Born in Dublin but raised in England, Josephine Bradley MBE (1893-1985) was a champion ballroom dancer and a distinguished dance teacher. In the mid-1930s she started her recording dance orchestra to rival the big names of a field dominated by Victor Silvester and other male danceband leaders. Although the foxtrot was her favourite, she happily accommodated jive and rock’n’roll when they came along.

Further reading: 1. Josephine Bradley article at Wikipedia. 2. Obituary: Miss Josephine Bradley, The Times, 22 February 1985 (accessible via Gale).

Listen on YouTube (with spoken introduction)

Lou Preager And His Orchestra - The Cokey Cokey (1945)

(Jimmy Kennedy)
Original version

B-side on 78 rpm Columbia disc by British bandleader (1906-1978),

Vocals are by Paul Rich (1921-2000), Preager’s long-standing vocalist who later became a prominent music publisher.

Full title: The Cokey Cokey (Novelty Dance) (You Put Your Left Arm Out).

The song is also known as Hokey Cokey (UK) and Hokey Pokey (USA, Australia).

The exact origin of the published song is difficult to establish. Every source seems to have a different story.

Wikipedia’s detailed article on the Hokey Cokey cites traditional forms of the song (with the left foot in, left foot out structure) as early as 1826.2 A familiar example, lyrically, is the children’s action song Looby Loo : You put your right hand in / You take your right hand out / You give your hand a shake, shake, shake / And turn yourself about!

British bandleader Al Tabor claimed to have created the popular modern song and to have performed early versions of it with his band in London venues from 1940.

This led to a dispute with the songwriter Jimmy Kennedy (known for the lyrics of Teddy Bears’ Picnic) who copyrighted Cokey Cokey in 1942.

In a letter to the Financial Times in January 2009,1 Kennedy’s son Jimmy Jnr repeats his father’s story about basing Cokey Cokey on a traditional Canadian children’s song and game. He saw it being played at London club Murray’s by Canadian servicemen on leave in 1942.

So when I got back to my hotel, I wrote a chorus based on the feet and hand movements the Canadians had used, with a few adaptations. A few days later, I wrote additional lyrics to it but kept the title ‘Cokey Cokey’, and, as everybody knows, it became a big hit.

Jimmy Kennedy quoted by his son, Financial Times, 20 Jan 09, and in The man who wrote the Teddy Bears’ Picnic (2011)

Interestingly, Jimmy Kennedy Jnr notes that Kennedy Sr went to Murray’s Club because his “old friend” Al Tabor’s band was playing there. He mentions Tabor’s claim of authorship in passing but does not go into details.

1. Jimmy Kennedy Jnr, “Hokey Cokey was founded on a traditional Canadian song“, Letter to the editor, Sunday Times, 20 January 2009. The quoted words are also in Kennedy Jnr’s account of the composition of the song in his book (as J.J. Kennedy) The man who wrote the Teddy Bears’ Picnic : how Irish-born lyricist and composer Jimmy Kennedy became one of the twentieth century’s finest songwriters (2011), p.167.
2. Wikipedia’s article also gives details of Tabor’s claim to authorship and his relationship with Kennedy, but no sources are cited.

The lyrics

On this original version by Lou Preager (1945), a series of verses are heard first (around 0:33 on the YouTube video):

Everybody nowadays
Knows about the latest craze,
It’s a little thing
That I could dance and sing,
It’s called the Hokey Cokey.
Everybody on their toes,
This is the way it goes.

The Harry Leader version (1947) replaces that with a much shorter introduction:

Now make yourselves a ring
And don’t forget to sing
It’s your left arm out

Later British and American versions tended to go straight into the familiar chorus with the dance instructions: You put your left arm out. Some versions start on the right. (Probably not political, and it is very even-handed, after all.)

Al Tabor And His Band - The Hokey Cokey (1940)

(See notes on attribution)

First live performance?

British bandleader Al Tabor (Alfred Taboriwsky, 1898-1983) asserted that he had performed Hokey Pokey or Cokey Cokey with his band in 1940, having based it on a “hokey pokey” rhyme he had heard from ice cream vendors in Boston during World War 1.1 He later withdrew his claim, and the credit remained with his friend Jimmy Kennedy.

The competing claims have continued, though, and it seems to be a family matter.

In January 2009, a letter in the Financial Times by Jimmy Kennedy Jr reasserted his father’s authorship of the song (see above).2

Nine days earlier, a letter from the Tabor side had been in The Sunday Times, stating that the man who wrote the Hokey Cokey was my grandfather – Al Tabor, a well-known bandleader of the 1930s and 1940s.3

The grandson who wrote that letter was Alan Balfour who also wrote The Hokey Cokey Man, a play about his grandfather that had a season at Hampstead’s New End Theatre in June 2009. An excellent site about Al Tabor and the play is defunct but accessible at The Internet Archive.

In a 2011 Sunday Times profile, pianist and agent Sarah Balfour acknowledges the inspiration of her grandfather, Al Tabor, a bandleader in the 1940s who wrote songs such as the Hokey Cokey. “He sold the rights for very little money back then, so he didn’t win the recognition he should. I felt as if I should earn back some recognition for him…”4

1. Patricia Averill has a succinct account of the song and the UK and USA authorship disputes in Camp songs, folk songs (2014), pp.519-521. She also cites the children’s action song “Looby Loo” as an antecedent.
2. Jimmy Kennedy Jnr, “Hokey Cokey was founded on a traditional Canadian song”, Letter to the editor, Sunday Times, 20 January 2009.
3. Alan Balfour, “Hokey Dokey”, Letter to the editor, Financial Times, 11 January 2009, p. 20
4. Kiki Loizou, “Music Maestro Inspired by Her Bandleader Grandfather”, Sunday Times, 13 November 2011, p.12.

Slade - Okey Cokey (1979)

(Jimmy Kennedy)
Later version

Single on manager Chas Chandler’s Barn label by pop-rock band fronted by Noddy Holder.

Slade, formed in 1968, were popular throughout the 70s when they had 18 Top 40 records including six at #1 and three at #2. As Douglas Clarke puts it in his Encyclopedia, Slade capitalised on [their] skinhead image, though skins’ alleged fondness was for reggae, while Slade delivered pile-driving rock’n’roll.

Released early in December 1979, this Christmas Record didn’t make the Top 50. The Snowmen did a little better two Christmases later (see below).

View at YouTube

Further reading: Full story at The Slade Discography’s page Okey Cokey (1979).

The Snowmen - Hokey-Cokey (1981)

(Jimmy Kennedy - Martin Kershaw - Nick Portlock)
Later version
#18 UK

Single on Slack by anonymous band with the voice of Martin Kershaw, or so the consensus seems to be. Slack was a one-off Stiff Records label just for this record.

This is an example of a Christmas record, a revered British tradition associated with The Christmas Number One. The whole phenomenon is dramatised in a sub-plot of Love Actually that features Christmas Is All Around [YouTube], a reworking of a familiar old Troggs song. Unlike the aging pop star in Love Actually, The Snowmen only managed a #18.

Black Lace - Hokey Cokey (1985)

(Jimmy Kennedy)
Later version
#31 UK

Single on Flair Records by enduring British band formed 1975 specialising in upbeat party songs. Their biggest hit Agadoo (1984 #2 UK, #16 Australia, #9 NZ) was voted 4th most annoying song of all time by readers of the defunct site Dotmusic.

Judge Dread - The Hokey Cokey (1978)

(Jimmy Kennedy)
Later version
#59 UK


Comic version on festive “DOUBLE A SIDE” single on EMI November 1978: The Hokey Cokey and Jingle Bells get the Judge Dread treatment.

This British reggae/ska artist and deejay, real name Alex Hughes (1945-1998), was successful in Jamaica as well as in the UK. His records tended to be on the cheeky side, and were routinely banned for radio play in Britain.

See also his version of Je t’aime… moi non plus.

Chart position from The Guinness Book of Hit Singles.

Listen at YouTube