Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Hokey Pokey (1944)

The Hokey Pokey, the perennial song of birthday parties, weddings, and roller skating in your youth was actually composed by two Scrantonians -- although the question of its true authorship caused a small controversy in 1996.

Robert P. Degan, a former guitarist and former salesman in the old Home Furniture store in Scranton, wrote and copyrighted the song with fellow Scranton songwriter Joseph P. Brier in 1944. The full proper title of the song when copyrighted was “The Hokey Pokey Dance Song.”

In 1996, Scranton Times writer Joseph X. Flannery wrote two editorials (April 20, 1996, p. 5 and May 11, 1996, p. A5) after a Boise, Idaho newspaper incorrectly identified a different musician as the writer of the song. However, the copyright form at the U.S. Copyright Office correctly states that Degan and Brier are the true songwriters.

The Local History Vertical File (LHVF) for “Music – Hokey Pokey Dance Song” includes both of Flannery’s editorials, as well as a photocopy of a letter to Degan from the US Copyright Office confirming its true authors. The LHVF can be viewed in the Reference Department of Albright Memorial Library.

So the next time you shake your butt to the Hokey Pokey, remember that one of our own (make that two of our own) has made this ditty a celebrated classic of epic proportions.

Don't take our word for it - click here to hear the Ray Anthony Band's version of The Hokey Pokey.

Much thanks to Judi K. for this entry.