The Curious Case of The Hokey Pokey

Written By: Tipsy Table - Sep• 29•14

For a period of time, a favorite joke at Tipsy Table concerned The Hokey Pokey and we would send it along to friends on their birthdays as it is a good, clean joke and appropriate for most ages.

With all the sadness and trauma going on in the world at the moment, it is worth reflecting on the death of a very important person, which almost went unnoticed last week. Larry LaPrise, the man who wrote ‘The Hokey Pokey’ died peacefully at the age of 93. The most traumatic part for his family was getting him into the coffin.

They put his left leg in. And then the trouble started.

Left or right, much controversy surrounds the origins of The Hokey Pokey. It’s a fractured history with facts in and out, lawsuits, and a dance floor of folks, and even nations, taking credit for The Hokey Pokey. Music historians have documented versions in Denmark, Philippines, Australia, and New Zealand, and United Kingdom’s Jimmy Kennedy, author of another perennial children’s favorite “Teddy Bear’s Picnic” copyrighted The Hokey-Cokey in 1942. Some versions of the lyrics date back to the 17th century,

Addicted Hokey PokeyMotivational speakers have used The Hokey Pokey as a metaphor for developing life goals. A bumper sticker and even Jimmy Buffet asks the question on his album Far Side of the World, “What if the Hokey Pokey is what it’s all about.” Etymologists study the title’s meaning—is it a reference to hocus-pocus? Does cokey relate to cocaine, or the Canadian slang for “crazy.” Or was hokey-pokey just slang for ice cream?

What we do know is that Larry LaPrise is a real person who was awarded the US copyright to “Do the Hokey Pokey” in 1950. Wikipedia states that LaPrise sold the rights to Roy Acuff’s music publishing company Acuff-Rose, which in 2002 was sold to Sony/ATV Music Publishing.We also know that Ray Anthony released a version of “The Hokey Pokey” on the B side of “Bunny Hop.”

To Tipsy Table’s LaPrise surprise, Larry apparently created the dance at The Sun Valley Lodge, just up the road from our Hailey, Idaho home. Larry worked at the Ketchum Post Office, and later moved to Gooding, Idaho where he died at age 82, not 93 as in the joke.

Hhokey pokey risizeIncluded in the book Sun Valley, An Extraordinary History by Wendolyn Spence Holland, is this photo on page 271.

Yes, although not tippling the last time we shook The Hokey Pokey at age five, we agree it is a dance that most likely lends more fun when alcohol is involved. We are fairly certain most remember how to dance The Hokey Pokey, but we found this detailed description in the Wikipedia entry almost as entertaining, and as long as, the dance itself:

The dance follows the instructions given in the lyrics of the song, which may be prompted by a bandleader, a participant, or a recording. A sample instruction set would be:

You put your [right leg] in, You put your [right leg] out; You put your [right leg] in, And you shake it all about. You do the hokey pokey, And you turn yourself around. That’s what it’s all about!

Participants stand in a circle. On “in” they put the appropriate body part in the circle, and on “out” they put it out of the circle. On “And you shake it all about”, the body part is shaken three times (on “shake”, “all”, and “-bout”, respectively). Throughout “You do the hokey pokey, / And you turn yourself around”, the participants spin in a complete circle with the arms raised at 90° angles and the index fingers pointed up, shaking their arms up and down and their hips side to side seven times (on “do”, “hoke-“, “poke-“, “and”, “turn”, “-self”, and “-round” respectively). For the final “That’s what it’s all about”, the participants clap with their hands out once on “that’s” and “what” each, clap under the knee with the leg lifted up on “all”, clap behind the back on “a-“, and finally one more clap with the arms out on “-bout”.

THokey Pokey SV triohe body parts usually included are, in order, “right leg”, “left leg”, “right arm”, “left arm”, “head”, “buttocks, “backside”, and “whole self”; the body parts “right elbow”, “left elbow”, “right hip”, and “left hip” are often included as well.

The final verse goes:

You do the hokey pokey, The hokey pokey, The hokey pokey. That’s what it’s all about!

On each “pokey”, the participants again raise the arms at 90° angles with the index fingers pointed up, shaking their arms up and down and their hips side to side five times.

As mentioned at the beginning of this ramble, we would send the joke to friends on their birthdays. This wonderful and apt response came from our dear friend, The Barrister of Southern Illinois, in late 2008 when the US economy began to collapse and shook the country, and then the world, into The Great Recession.

The same thing happened in the financial industry.  They put the high risk in, and the subprime loan in and the subprime loan rate recalculation triggers in and the depreciating real estate market in and the resultant packaged debt securities in and the negative savings rate of the entire population in and the national debt in and the depreciating dollar in and the cyclical economic downturn in and the lack of transparency in and they shook it all around and that’s what it’s all about–financial hokey pokey.  Or is that financial hocus pocus?

As the joke goes…”and then the trouble started.”

HP what its all about

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