Hokey Pokey Controversy

I knew nothing about the Hokey Pokey song-and-dance routine, but am amazed by not only it’s backstory but also the controversy surrounding said creation.

Popular as the song is, its authorship has long been in dispute, with the credit usually going to Larry LaPrise, who as part of a musical group, the Ram Trio, is said to have created it in Sun Valley, Idaho, as a novelty number to entertain vacationing skiers. The trio, whose other members were Charles Peter Macak and Tafft Baker, recorded the song, “The Hokey Pokey,” in the late 1940s.

There are many reasons to question this version of the song’s provenance, however. Among them is that a very similar song, “The Hokey Pokey Dance,” was copyrighted a few years earlier, in 1944, by a club musician from Scranton, Pa., named Robert Degen. Mr. Degen — who claimed for decades that Mr. LaPrise had stolen his song — died in Lexington Ky., on Nov. 23, his 104th birthday. (Mr. LaPrise died in 1996, and the two men never met.)

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