The passing of Dick Clark, and before that, Don Cornelius, hit particularly hard for the “kids” of my generation. There were two things we did every weekday—go to school and then come home to watch “American Bandstand.” “American Bandstand,” “Soul Train” and the dances they inspired were truly our brands at that time.
So how did those funny dances we did get their names? Here’s a summary.
The Stroll. “The Stroll” was the mainstay of both shows. It was both a dance and a song that was popular in the late 1950s and 60s. The dance called the Stroll began in African-American communities to the song C.C. Rider by Chuck Willis. The song “The Stroll” was later recorded by the Canadian group The Diamonds.
The Twist. This became the first worldwide rock and roll dance craze in the 60s, and is undoubtedly the most enduring. The word “twist” in dance goes back to 19th century minstrel shows. In the 1930s, Jelly Roll Morton sang “Mama, mama, look at sis, she’s out on the levee doing the double twist.” But come on baby, it was Chubby Checker who made the dance immortal with the song “The Twist” in 1960.
Mashed Potato. This was a dance craze in the early 60s. James Brown had two songs with “Mashed Potatoes” in the title in the late ‘50s. The dance was made popular by Dee Dee Sharp’s “Mashed Potato Time” in 1962.
The Funky Chicken. Rufus Thomas Jr., a Stax Records R&B singer, popularized this dance. He recorded several songs with this word in the title before releasing “Do the Funky Chicken” in 1970. In 1972, he released “Do the Funky Penguin.” Rufus was one funky dude.
The Pony. This was another Chubby Checker inspiration, danced to his hit song “Pony Time.”
So, who remembers how to do these dances?
In an interview that Dick Clark gave a few years back, he said that he didn’t know how to dance. But we did thanks to him and American Bandstand.
Rest well, Mr. Clark.
Jeff Lapatine is group director, Naming and brand architecture, for the Siegel+Gale New York office.