The shady past of the Hokey Cokey

The Hokey Cokey is a song and dance combo often performed by small children and drunken adults. Many American noders have pointed out that they know the song as the Hokey Pokey; this is the version that I sang as a British child.

The history and origin of the song are a little hazy. It was reportedly created by Larry LaPrise, Charles P. Macak, Charles P. Mason, and Tafft Baker in roughly 1950.

When the Associated Press ran LaPrise's obituary in 1996, several World War II veterans stated they had danced the Hokey-Pokey in England in 1943, although the song was called the Okey Cokey. This may suggest that its roots lie in London, where the "H" is not pronounced. "Oh, 'okey, Cokey, Cokey!"

LaPrise supposedly wrote the song in the late 1940's and recorded it in 1949 with the Ram Trio. The rights were bought by Ray Anthony who recorded it as the 'B' side to "The Bunny Hop" in 1953. It seems that Larry just ripped off an old British folk song/dance and made it his own in America. Bob Dylan and Paul Simon have also produced dire cover versions.

The dance

To perform the Hokey Cokey, all participants should arrange themselves in a circle, hand-in-hand, facing into the middle. As the song is sung, the appropriate action should be performed, traditionally accompanied by a wiggle of the appendage in question and an inane grin.

The song

You put your left arm in, your left arm out;
In, out, in, out, you shake it all about;
You do the Hokey Cokey and you turn around;
That's what it's all about!

The next section is performed by everybody in the circle running towards each other for each "whoa-o", and back out again.

Whoa-o the Hokey Cokey!
Whoa-o the Hokey Cokey!
Whoa-o the Hokey Cokey!

Knees bent, arms stretched involved bending up and down with a straight back, like a cockney policeman in full "'ello 'ello, what have we 'ere?" mode. Feel free to swing your arms and sing along at the top of your voice.

Knees bent, arms stretched,
Raa! raa! raa!

Repeat with: right-arm, left-leg and right-leg, before the final verse. You put your whole self in by jumping forward. Expect to get sweaty.

You put your whole self in, your whole self out;
In, out, in, out, you shake it all about;
You do the Hokey Cokey and you turn around;
That's what it's all about!

Copyright

The Hokey Cokey was last copyrighted in the USA in 1971 by Acuff-Rose Songs. It is available from the BBC unattributed at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/tweenies/songtime/songs/t/thehokeycokey.shtml.

And finally...

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