RIP – ROBERT DEGEN


EXPIRED: 11/23/09 – Robert Degen, 104, never did the “Hokey Pokey” at his wedding. When he married Vivian, his wife of 74 years, he hadn’t yet gotten around to writing the song which is now – unfortunately –  known around the globe and danced, drunkenly, at nearly every wedding reception for the last 60 years.

  • For those who aren’t familiar, the “Hokey Pokey” asks for people to form a circle, names specific body parts which are then sequentially put into the circle, taken out of the circle, and finally wiggled around maniacally inside the circle.
  • Afterwards, participants raise their hands to the side of the head, wiggle them, and turn around in place until the next sequence begins, with a newly named body part.
  • Fun? You betcha.

    There’s a lot of controversy around the novelty song. The “Hokey Pokey” became popular in the USA in the 1950s. Larry LaPrise was granted the copyright for the song in 1950. According to popular legend he created the dance a year earlier as entertainment for the ski crowd at Idaho’s Sun Valley resort.

    But I like to root for the underdog, and since I’m looking for a hook for Bob Degen’s obit, I’ll bite on this one.

    The other (less) common belief is that Degen and his partner, Joe Brier, both of Scranton, Pennsylvania, were the original songwriters and got a copyright years earlier – back in 1946. Ray Anthony’s big band recording of the song turned it into a nationwide sensation by the mid-1950s when it appeared on the B-side of the single, “Bunny Hop.” Since both LaPrise and Degen & Brier had rights to the song, both teams made a little cash. The rights were purchased in the mid-1960s.

    Let’s not even get into the overseas where there are others who claim to be the authors of the songs named the “Hokey Cokey” and the “Hoey Oka” by British bandleader Gerry Hoey.

    For those of you who haven’t been to a wedding recently, you can thank Degen for the following:

    You put your left leg in
    You put your left leg out
    You put your left 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.

    READ THE OBIT

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