No other song seems to symbolize a good time for people and bring smiles to their faces to quite the same extent as “The Hokey Pokey.” But where did this quirky song come from? It’s complicated.
In 1942, Irish songwriter and publisher Jimmy Kennedy, best known for “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic,” created a dance, and an instructional song to go with it, called “The Hokey Cokey.”
Written to entertain Canadian troops stationed in London, the song was similar to the “Hokey Pokey” we all know today.
Composer Al Tabor was also entertaining Canadian troops in wartime London, and in 1942 he wrote a participation dance song called “The Hokey Pokey.” He claims the name came from the London ice cream vendors of his youth, called “Hokey Pokey Men.” The accompanying dance was very similar to Kennedy’s.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond…
In 1946, totally unaware of the British “Hokey Cokey” and “Hokey Pokey,” two Scranton, PA, musicians—Robert Degan and Joe Brier—recorded “The Hokey-Pokey Dance” to entertain summer vacationers at Poconos Mountains Resorts. The song was a regional favorite at dances and resorts for the rest of the ’40s, but that still isn’t the song we know today.
And another one…
To confuse matters even more, British bandleader Gerry Hoey also claimed to have authored a similar tune, “The Hoey Oka,” in 1940.
But the one we know today…
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