Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Willie and the Hand Jive

Written and originally recorded by The Johnny Otis Show (US #9/R&B #5 1958).
Other hit versions by The Strangeloves (US #100 1966), Eric Clapton (US #26 1974), George Thorogood (US #63 1985).

From the wiki: “The origin of the song came when one of Otis’ managers, Hal Zeiger, found out that rock’n’roll concert venues in England did not permit the teenagers to stand up and dance in the aisles, so they instead danced with their hands while remaining in their seats. The music was based on a song Otis had heard a chain gang singing while touring, combined with work Otis did as a teenager when he was performing with Count Otis Matthews and the West Oakland House Stompers.

“At Otis’ concerts, performers would demonstrate Willie’s ‘hand jive’ dance to the audience, so the audience could dance along. The dance consisted of clapping two fists together one on top of the other, followed by rolling the arms around each other. Otis’ label, Capitol Records, also provided diagrams showing how to do the hand jive dance. Otis’ performance of ‘Willie and the Hand Jive’ was included in Clint Eastwood’s 1971 film Play Misty for Me.

“Despite the song’s references to dancing, and despite the demonstrations of the dance during performances, would-be censors believed that the song glorified masturbation. As recently as 1992, an interviewer for NPR asked Otis ‘Is ‘Hand Jive’ really about masturbation?’ Otis was frustrated by this misinterpretation.

“In 1965, The Strangeloves covered the song (as ‘No Jive’) on their album I Want Candy (as song itself that bears more than a passing resemblance to ‘Hand Jive’). Released as a single in 1966, their version only graced the Billboard Hot 100.

“Eric Clapton covered ‘Willie and the Hand Jive’ for his 1974 album 461 Ocean Boulevard, returning the song into the US Top 40. Music author Dave Thompson claimed that Clapton’s ‘live versions almost get you learning the [hand jive] movements all over again.'”

The Strangeloves, “No Jive” (1966):

Eric Clapton, “Willie and the Hand Jive” (1974):

George Thorogood, “Willie and the Hand Jive” (1985):

Eric Clapton, “Willie and the Hand Jive” live BBC-TV performance (c. 2010):

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