“Nobody cares if you can’t dance well. Just get up and dance. ”
― Dave Barry
The Sixties was recognized as a decade of transition from the conservative Fifties and also the birth of revolutionary ways to live, Sixties Dancesthink, and create. In the entertainment industry, many changes happened in the world of dance. The Sixties was all about learning the newest dance craze and performing them on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. Dancing, was a driving force that brought people together in peace and happiness, and continues to be influential across the world today.
Looking back, there were so many great dance crazes from the Sixties that a few of our favorites have been somewhat lost to history. So the Dusty Old Thing website decided to compile them all in one place for your toe-tapping pleasure. Chances are you’ve heard of most of these great dance songs; if you’re old enough, you might even remember dancing along to a few of them!
1. The Twist
We would be remiss to not start off this list with Chubby Checker’s 1960 hit “The Twist.” We consider this to be the Godfather of dance crazes, and for good reason. “The Twist,” remains the only song to ever top the Billboard Hot 100 on two separate occasions — once in 1960 and again in 1962. The song was originally written and released by Hank Ballard and the Midnight’s in 1959, but didn’t reach a mainstream audience until Chubby Checker’s rendition.
2. The Watusi
The Watusi, or the Wah-Watusi, is next on the list. The dance comes from a song performed by The Orlons, a vocal quartet from Philadelphia. That song, “The Wah-Watusi,” debuted in 1962 and stayed on the Hot 100 charts for 14 weeks, peaking at the number two spot. Two other versions of the song also peaked on the charts. In 1963, dance craze master Chubby Checker’s rendition appeared on the Hot 100, as did Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’. The song was also covered by Annette Funicello, the Isley Brothers, and The Vibrations. In the following clip, you’ll see The Lennon Sisters, Norma Zimmer, Larry Hooper and Russ Klein perform the dance and the song on an episode of the Lawrence Welk Show from 1962!
3. The Hitchhiker
In 1962, Marvin Gaye released a song called “Hitch Hike,” that he co-wrote with Clarence Paul and William “Mickey” Stevenson. The song would spark the Hitch Hike dance craze when Gaye performed it on American Bandstand and did the dance move on stage (the dance move, as you might remember, consisted of making the hitch hike gesture a few times). The crowd started dancing along, and soon the nation had its next dance craze! Gaye also performed the song on the T.A.M.I. Show, which helped fuel the fad.
The single was successful, landing Gaye his first top forty pop single when it reached number 30 on the charts. The song was also covered by The Sonics, The Rolling Stones, and Alice Cooper (believe it or not). See his performance of the song and dance below from the 1964 T.A.M.I. Show, and just try not to dance along!
4. The Loco Motion
In 1962, Little Eva released her smash hit “The Loco-Motion.” Co-written by Carole King and her husband Gerry Goffin, the bubbly, catchy tune went perfectly with Little Eva’s harmonizing skills and The Cookies backing vocals. The song itself was quite successful, reaching number one on the Hot 100 in 1962. However, covers of the version also reached the Top 5 on the charts: Grand Funk Railroad’s version reached number one in 1974, and Kylie Minogue’s rendition made it to number three in 1988, making “The Loco-Motion,” the only song to appear on the Top 5 in three different decades. Though the song had no official dance accompanying it upon release, Eva Boyd created one for it after it became a smash hit.
5. The Stroll
OK, so technically “The Stroll,” was released in the late ’50s (December of 1957), but we definitely remember people dancing to it in the ’60s. Written by Clyde Otis and Nancy Lee, The Stroll is probably the slowest dance on this list. The dance itself was performed to many different songs, including “C. C. Rider,” by Chuck Willis on American Bandstand and Link Wray’s “Rumble.” The dance consists of two lines of dancers facing each other (men on one side and women on the other), with a paired couple stepping out to do a more elaborate step up and down the rows of dancers. In the following clip, you’ll see a group of youngsters performing the dance on a local television dance show in Idaho.
6. The Hully Gully
Another song released in 1959, “(Baby) Hully Gully,” by The Olympics peaked at number 72 on the Billboard Hot 100 in February of 1960. It wasn’t the most popular song, but it did well enough to inspire the Hully Gully dance craze! The song was written by Fred Sledge Smith and Clifford Goldsmith, and has been covered by at least 13 different artists. Some of the more notable renditions include Chubby Checker’s version from 1961, The Beach Boys version from 1965, and a live rendition by the Grateful Dead in 1981. Below you can see the Olympics perform the song on Hollywood A Go Go!
7. The Pony
You just knew he’d make another appearance on this list, right? Of course we’re talking about Chubby Checker! And while it wasn’t nearly as popular as “The Twist,” his follow up “Pony Time,” in 1961 still holds a place in our hearts. In fact, it was popular enough to reach number one on the Billboards, and inspire the Pony dance craze! Originally written by Don Covay and John Berry, the song didn’t find mainstream success until Checker covered it. The dance somewhat simulates riding a pony, as you’ll see in the following clip where Chubby Checker himself teaches us how to do it (he also performs “Pony Time,” while two young couples dance to it).
8. The Swim
This video gives you a little trip down memory lane, showing you what may be one of the most fun dances of the 1960s. The Swim originated from singer Bobby Freeman’s 1964 hit “C’mon and Swim.” Fun fact: the song was produced by the young Sly Stone (known then as Sylvester Stewart). This video shows some great characters having a good time doing the swim: we love the costumes most of all. Most of us remember this dance very well, but if you’d like a refresher, there are instructions. Some have said this dance was based on the Hully Gully, but others say that the two are fairly distinct. See for yourself and be the judge!
9. The Mashed Potato
Made popular by the dazzling dance moves of ‘The Godfather of Soul’ James Brown, The Mashed Potato swept the nation in 1962 thanks to hits like the following: “Mashed Potato Time,” by Dee Dee Sharp. Although that wasn’t the only song people did the Mashed Potato to. “Do You Love Me,” by the Contours, “Let’s Dance,” by Chris Montez, “Harry the Hairy Ape,” by Ray Stevens all referred to the dance. Also, Boris Pickett’s novelty hit “Monster Mash,” featured a similar dance to the Mashed Potato, but with monster gestures being made with the arms and hands. See Dee Dee Sharp’s version below and boogie on down!
10. The Jerk
Our last video on the list shows just how much fun American Bandstand was. On October 21st, 1964, The Larks came on the show to perform their hit song “The Jerk.” I definitely remember dancing along to this program, and you can see that the crowd was digging it too! The Jerk was danced to several other songs besides The Larks’, including “Come on Do the Jerk,” by The Miracles and “Cool Jerk,” by The Capitols. It was also covered by several bands including the Go-Gos.
Take a look at the fun performance of the song and dance below (including a classic introduction by Dick Clark) and let us know in the comments below whether or not we missed your favorite dance craze! We love hearing your memories.
(H/T Dusty Old Thing)