Hokey Pokey, aka Hokey Cokey, has no definitive answer about its origin. If we look through modern history, we find it somewhat convoluted. There are theories of origin that span centuries and oceans. It is said that the convoluted nature of history can not stop us from tracing the origin of something.
Speculations of origin
Like many innocuous dances and songs that you assume have begun, there is a belief that Hokey Pokey had a reasonably inauspicious beginning. Some people insist on the source of the song to be from the Scottish Puritans in the UK as an anti-Catholic taunt. The “hokey cokey,” song which is sung in the UK, these words are said to have come from the magician’s incantation “hocus pocus.” Recently in 2008, a few Catholic Church officials have considered “faith hate” as an example of “Hokey Pokey,” but it seems most of the people did not take these allegations seriously at all and there isn’t much in terms of documented evidence to back up this theory of “Catholic hate.”
The journey of Hokey Pokey
You must be thinking it’s just a nursery rhyme. Why are there so many disputes about it? So let us tell you that this song has been present for a long time. We can only tell you what we know about the song. It was in the year 1857 when two sisters from Canterbury, England, were visiting Bridgewater, NH, and it was when they brought a little Scottish-English ditty with accompanying gestures across the pond. The songs went a little something like this :
I put my right hand in,
I put my right hand out,
In out, in out.
Shake it all about.
This song is thought to be based on the Scottish song “Hinkum-Booby.” Later this song was continued with all other body parts being put in and out and shaken all about.
Jumping forward into the year of 1940, the time during Blitz in London, a Canadian officer asked to pen down an action song to Al Tabor, a famous English bandleader. “The Hokey Pokey,” was the label of the song, which is known to be produced to homage an ice cream vendor from Tabor’s own childhood days. He would call out, “Hokey Pokey penny a lump, have a lick make you jump.” Concerning this song, ‘Hokey Pokey Man’ was slang at the time for ice cream seller and ‘Hokey Pokey’ for ice cream. It is clear that it was taken from the above-mentioned ditty and was twisted in their own words. Instead of putting Hokey Pokey, he called it “Hokey Cokey” in the UK. He claims to have the name changed on the urge of the same Canadian officer who informed him “cokey” to be a Canadian slang for “crazy.” It was finally in the year 1942 when the sheet music of “The Hokey Cokey” was published.
It was later when Tabor and Jimmy were in a lawsuit where Jimmy’s claim to the song “Hokey Cokey” was filed, stating that Jimmy Kennedy was the primary author of the lyrics and not Al Tabor. It was Jimmy’s idea to go with the word “Cokey.” There is a story of the 1940s when “The Hokey Pokey Dance” was recorded for the entertainment of the summer crowds at Poconos resorts. It became a great hit, but still not the version we hear today.
It was in 1949, when Taft Baker, Larry Laprise, and Charles Mack came with their version of song named “The Ram Trio,” which is closer to the version we all love and know today.
As you can see, the story of “Hokey Pokey” is more intricate than a “General Hospital” storyline of the 1980s. In the end, it seems that the ultimate origin of “Hokey Pokey” appears to have been lost in the pages of history.