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Rock 'n' roll originated as a populist form of dance music. And while its elastic framework encompasses many genres which place little emphasis on a pronounced dance beat (e.g., ambient, avant garde), various dance forms have always figured prominently in rock history. With the possible exception of the disco era, greater attention was paid to this component in the early 1960s than at any time since the ascendancy of Elvis Presley.

Media coverage of the initial wave of rockabilly, r & b, and classic rock 'n' roll in the mid-1950s tended to focus on the musical and live performing attributes of major stars such as Presley, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Bill Haley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Buddy Holly. The sheer theatrical virtuousity of these artists rendered discussion of other rock industry phenomena to a secondary level. Nevertheless, these years were marked by a number of important dance-related developments. The lindy hop, a 1950s variation of popular swing era steps, was popularized by the TV program, American Bandstand, which shifted from a Philadelphia- based market to national syndication in 1957. Elevating a number of talented local teen dancers to the status of regular cast members, host Dick Clark also provided an outlet for exposing new dances to young viewers across the nation. With Bobby Freeman ("Do You Wanna Dance") Danny and the Juniors ("At the Hop"), and other artists extolling the virtues of dancing in general, individual steps such as the stroll were able to achieve maximum saturation through this venue.

Motivated by a desire to maintain higher viewer ratings and exploit his other music business interests, Clark was constantly on the lookout for new trends. When an obscure b-side of a Hank Ballard single, "The Twist," became associated with an emerging new dance, Clark encouraged local Philadelphia label, Cameo/Parkway, to issue their own version of the song. A new singer, Chubby Checker, with only one minor hit to his credit up to that time ("The Class"; 1959), was tapped to cut the song. Released in the summer of 1960, "The Twist" zoomed up to the top of the singles chart. The dance's simplicity--almost anyone not possessing a lower back ailment could do it in convincing fashion--caused it to catch on not only with teens but adults as well. By late 1961, the jet set crowds were photographed dancing the twist at New York's famed Peppermint Lounge. Countless twist songs were recorded, many of them entering the bestselling charts.

Even before the fad had run its course, record companies began issuing recordings featuring new (or revived) dances. American Bandstand and other media outlets rush to promote these releases, thereby ensuing a steady succession of fresh dance sensations. Cameo/Parkway--led by Checker himself, Bobby Rydell, Dee Dee Sharp, the Orlons, and the Dovells--was most directly associated with the dance craze movement. However, the phenomenon cut across the entire pop music industry. Across the Atlantic, British beat bands such as the Beatles ("Twist and Shout") and the Swinging Blue Jeans ("Hippy Hippy Shake") found it expedient to cut dance material. Although new dances continued to appear in pop recordings throughout the 1960s, the movement's momentum was severely disrupted by the British Invasion, followed by American Renaissance trends, including soul, folk rock, and assorted West Coast styles. By the mid-1960s dance music had gone underground, predominantly to the discotheques. When it re-entered the American pop music mainstream as disco in the 1970s (the rise of the hustle, the bump, and the freak, notwithstanding), dancing tended be more of a generic, free-form affair.


Top Artists and Their Recordings

Steve Alaimo--"Mashed Potatoes" (1962)

The Applejacks--"Mexican Hat Rock" (1958); "Rocka-Conga" (1958/59); "Bunny Hop" (1959)

Hank Ballard and the Midnighters--"The Twist" (1959; 1960); "Finger Poppin' Time" (1960); "The Hoochi Coochi Coo" (1960/1); "The Continental Walk" (1961); "The Switch-A-Roo"/"The Float" (1961); "Do You Know How to Twist" (1962)

Ray Barretto--"El Watusi" (1963)

The Beatles--"Twist and Shout" (1964)

Archie Bell and the Drells--"Do the Choo Choo" (1968)

Bill Black's Combo--"Twist-Her" (1962); "Twistin'-White Silver Sands" (1962); "Monkey-Shine" (1963)

Gary "U.S." Bonds--"Dear Lady Twist" (1962); "Twist, Twist Senora" (1962)

Al Brown's Tunetoppers--"The Madison" (1960)

James Brown--"Mashed Potatoes U.S.A." (1962); "The Popcorn" (1969)

Dave Brubeck Quartet--"Bossa Nova U.S.A." (1963)

Ray Bryant Combo--"Madison Time" (1960)

Cannibal and the Headhunters--"Land of 1000 Dances" (1965)

The Capitols--"Cool Jerk" (1966)

Chubby Checker--"The Twist" (1960; 1961/62); "The Hucklebuck" (1960); "Pony Time" (1961); "Dance the Mess Around" (1961); "Let's Twist Again" (1961); "The Fly" (1961); "Twistin' U.S.A." (1961); ""Slow Twistin'" (1962); "La Paloma Twist" (1962); "Dancin' Party" (1962); "Limbo Rock" (1962); "Popeye the Hitchhiker" (1962); "Let's Limbo Some More" (1963); 'Birdland" (1963); "Twist It Up" (1963); "She Wants T' Swim" (1964); "Let's Do the Freddie" (1965); "Hey You! Little Boo-Ga-Loo" (1966)

The Contours--"Can You Jerk Like Me" (1964/5)

Sam Cooke--"Twistin' the Night Away" (1962)

Don Covay--"The Popeye Waddle" (1962/3)

Danny and the Juniors--"Twistin' U.S.A." (1960); "Twistin' All Night Long" (1962)

The Dells--"(Bossa Nova) Bird" (1962)

The Diamonds--"The Stroll" (1958)

The Dovells--"Bristol Stomp" (1961); "Do the New Continental" (1962); "Bristol Twistin' Annie" (1962); "Hully Gully Baby" (1962); "The Jitterbug" (1962); "Stop Monkeyin' Aroun'" (1963)

Fantastic Johnny C--"Boogaloo Down Broadway" (1967)

Freddie and the Dreamers--"Do the Freddie" (1965)

Bobby Freeman--"(I Do the) Shimmy Shimmy" (1960); "The Mess Around" (!961); "C'mon and Swim" (1964); "S-W-I-M" (1964)

Ernie Freeman--"The Twist" (1962)

The Goodtimers--"Pony Time" (1961)

The Isley Brothers--"Twist and Shout" (1962); "Twistin' With Linda" (1962)

Ernie K-Doe--"Popeye Joe" (1962)

Nat Kendrick and the Swans--"(Do the) Mashed Potatoes (Part 1)" (1960)

Chris Kenner--"Land of 1000 Dances" (1963)

King Curtis--"Do the Monkey" (1963)

Major Lance--"The Monkey Time" (1963)

The Larks--"The Jerk" (1964/5)

Little Eva--"The Loco-Motion" (1962); "Let's Turkey Trot" (1963); "Old Smokey Locomotion" (1963)

Herbie Mann--"Philly Dog" (1966)

The Mar-Keys--"Pop-Eye Stroll" (1962); "Philly Dog" (1966)

The Marvelettes--"Twistin' Postman" (1962)

The Miracles--"Mickey's Monkey" (1963); "Come On Do the Jerk" (1964/5)

The Olympics--"(Baby) Hully Gully" (1960); "Shimmy Like Kate" (1960); "The Bounce" (1963); "Baby, Do the Philly Dog" (1966)

The Orlons--"The Wah Watusi" (1962); "Shimmy Shimmy" (1964)

The Pastel Six--"Cinnamin Cinder (It's a Very Nice Dance)" (1963)

Bobby "Boris" Pickett--"Monster Mash" (1962)

Wilson Pickett--"Land of 1000 Dances" (1966); "Funky Broadway" (1967)

Elvis Presley--"Bossa Nova Baby" (1963); "Do the Clam" (1965)

The Rollers--"The Continental Walk" (1961)

Bobby Rydell--"The Cha-Cha-Cha" (1962)

Santo and Johnny--"Twistin' Bells" (1960)

Dee Dee Sharp--"Mashed Potato Time" (1962); "Gravy (For My Mashed Potatoes)" (1962); "Ride!" (1962); "Do the Bird" (1963)

The Sherrys--"Pop Pop Pop-Pie" (1962)

Huey "Piano" Smith and the Clowns--"Pop-Eye" (1962)

Jimmy Soul--"Twistin' Matilda" (1962)

Rufus Thomas--"The Dog" (1963); "Walking the Dog" (1963); "Can Your Monkey Do the Dog" (1964); "Somebody Stole My Dog (1964); "Do the Funky Chicken" (1970); "(Do the) Push and Pull, Part 1" (1970); "Do the Funky Penguin" (1971)

The Vibrations--"The Watusi" (1961)

Junior Walker and the All Stars--"Do the Boomerang" (1965)