Saturday, August 21, 2010

They did the Pony (like Phoney Moroney)

Ever do the Mashed Potato?

The Jerk?

The Watusi?

The Fish?

Neither did we, but Cannibal and the Headhunters rolled all those dances -- and a dozen more -- into a memorable song that still resonates every time we hear it. And it's been 45 years!

Somehow "Land of 1000 Dances" never rose above No. 30 on the Billboard pop chart in 1965 despite almost constant radio play.  (Wilson Pickett would take it to No. 1 on the R&B chart.)  Surely you've heard the "na na-na-na-na" hook that became part of the Headhunters' version because Frankie "Cannibal" Garcia forgot the lyrics.

(To start an argument and possibly win a bet, here are the 16 dances mentioned in the song: Pony, Chicken, Mashed Potato, Alligator, Watusi, Twist, Fly, Jerk, Tango, Yo-Yo, Sweet Pea, Hand Jive, Slop, Bop, Fish, and Popeye.)

Garcia died in 1996, the same year the East L.A. group was inducted in the Chicano Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Now this week we lost Richard 'Scar' Lopez, another founding member who died of cancer at 65.  These guys opened for the Beatles and Rolling Stones and we never got a chance to ask them what that was like. Amazing...


  1. Either it should have been called Land of 16 dances, or you're 984 dances short.