Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Hucklebuck (Music, Song, & Dance)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post presents information about The Hucklebuck as well as two sound file of that Jazz tune and five videos of that Rock and Roll song & dance.

The content of this post is presented for historical, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

"Paul "Hucklebuck" Williams (July 13, 1915 – September 14, 2002)[1] was an American blues and rhythm and blues saxophonist and songwriter. In his Honkers and Shouters, Arnold Shaw credits Williams as one of the first to employ the honking tenor sax solo that became the hallmark of rhythm and blues and rock and roll in the 1950s and early 1960s.

After performing with Clarence Dorsey and King Porter he formed his own band in 1947. He was best known for his 1949 hit, "The Hucklebuck", a twelve-bar blues that also spawned a dance craze. The single went to number one on the U.S. Billboard R&B chart.[2] He used the billing of Paul Williams and his Hucklebuckers thereafter. Charlie Parker had four years earlier used the same riff for his "Now's the Time".

Williams' recording was covered by Tommy Dorsey and Frank Sinatra, as well as by R&B artists Roy Milton and Lionel Hampton, but Williams' Savoy recording was still the best-selling rhythm and blues song of the year. Shaw points out that "The Hucklebuck" was an early example of crossover from R&B to mainstream popular music. The Paul Williams version sold half a million copies by some estimates.[3] In later years, during the rock era, in 1960, Chubby Checker peaked at number fourteen with his version of the song,[4] while in 1963 Brendan Bowyer and the Royal Showband became the first Irish artists to top the Irish singles chart with their cover, staying at the top for seven weeks.[5]

British Rockabilly band Coast to Coast reached number 3 in the UK Singles Chart in 1981 with a cover called "(Do) the Hucklebuck".[6] In 2010, Crystal Swing had a hit with the song...

Do the Hucklebuck, do the Hucklebuck,
If you don't know how to do it, boy, you're out of luck,
Push your partner out,
Then you hunch your back,
Start a little movement in your sacroiliac,
Wiggle like an eel, waddle like a duck,
That's the way you do it when you do the Hucklebuck"
"...On February 20, 1948, the band played their first engagement outside of the Detroit area and broke all house records at the Royal Theater in Baltimore. It was Paul Williams’ cleverly reworked treatment of the 1928 Andy Gibson song, “D-Natural Blues,” that changed a whole generation of music, dance and Williams’ life. That tune, renamed “The Hucklebuck,” was a phenomenal success. It was recorded in December of 1948 on the Newark-based Savoy label, and it became an important precursor of rock ‘n’ roll. It hit number one in February 1949 and remained on the charts for thirty-two weeks. While the pop swing bands of the war years were disbanding or playing little more than background music for pop vocalists, “The Hucklebuck” sparked a dance craze and brought a danceable beat into the publics awareness. It was a shuffle-blues instrumental built around the sound of a furiously honking saxophone, it helped give impetus to the raucous variant of rhythm and blues that evolved into rock ‘n’ roll. It also gave Mr. Williams an identity: from 1949 until the end of his career, he was billed as Paul Hucklebuck Williams."
Here's a link to lyrics to "(Do The) Hucklebuck" as sung by Chubby Checker:
I gather from reading online posts about The Hucklebuck that how this dance is done has changed from a very risque partner dance to a line dance with usually very fixed steps. Here are links to articles about how The Hucklebuck was danced and is now danced, although I don't vouch for the authenticity of the contemporary instructions. Do The Hucklebuck! Hucklebuck Dance Steps
Here's a link to one of several YouTube videso of the Hucklebuck being performed as a fixed line dance: Huckle Buck

Also, a comment in a 1963 video of the Gospel group, The Clara Ward Singers, mentions that members of this group were doing a Holy dance step that reminded the commenter of a "Holy Ghost huckle buck". The commenter referred to the "dancing" at 1:38 of this video
Clara Ward - Swing Low Chariot [And Let Me Ride]

Example #1: Huckle Boogie - Paul Hucklebuck Williams

Uploaded by PaulHucklebuckWms on Oct 8, 2010

The song Huckle Boogie appears on one of three album recordings. Paul Williams The Complete Recordings Volume 1 1947 - 1949, Paul Williams The Complete Recordings Volume 2 1949 - 1952, and Paul Williams The Complete Recordings Volume 3 1952 - 1956.
Here's a comment from this video's viewer comment thread:
PaulHucklebuckWms, 2012

"The saxophone playing in this song is great. There is a second version of the song on Paul Williams The Complete Recordings Volume 2 1949-1952."

Example #2: Pinetop Perkins - The Hucklebuck.wmv

laercon, Uploaded on Dec 21, 2009

Pinetop Perkins - The Hucklebuck - Montagem feita em cima de um desenho antigo da Betty Boop
Click for information about Pinetop Perkins.

Example #3: Chubby Checker - The Hucklebuck

Uploaded by OpDePlanken on Oct 7, 2008

Live On Stage

Example #4 CHICK WILLIS EXCLUSIVE How To Do The Hucklebuck (Remix)

Blues Hunter, Uploaded on Nov 17, 2010
… taken from CD, "The Best Of So Far"
I’m particularly interested in the music and the vintage dance films that are included in this video, though I’m unsure if any of them were of people dancing the Hucklebuck.

Editor's Note:
Although these next three videos aren't by Black performers as per the overall mission of this blog, they certainly are a noteworthy part of the Hucklebuck culture. And I believe that visitors to this blog will enjoy watching them, as I have.

Example #5: Hucklebuck

Ron R, Uploaded on Feb 1, 2009

Norton teaches Ralph how to dance
Here's information about that version of The Hucklebuck:
Regarding the version that was used in the Honeymooner episode:
"It was done by Kay Starr….The version played on the show was a slightly different version than the one that actually came out…
posted by powbangzooom0, 01-08-2007,

Example #6: Coast To Coast - (Do) The Hucklebuck (1981) HD

BadCovers0815007, Uploaded on Aug 11, 2010

Example #7: Crystal Swing doing huckle buck on late late show

jryantime, Uploaded on Jul 6, 2011

Crystal swing gets the crowd going by doing the huck bckle on the late late show. The huckle buck was made famous in the showband era by brendan boyer

Click this link to a page of my Jambalayah cultural website that features a compilation post of other Rock and Roll dances (dances prior to 1970):

Thanks to the composers of these songs, and all of the musicians, vocalists, and other performers in the featured videos. My thanks also to the authors of the articles that are quoted in this post, and the uploaders of these featured sound files and videos.

Also, thank you for visiting pancocojams.

Visitor comments are welcome


  1. Apparently, a number of people recorded the Hucklebuck tune that Paul Hucklebuck Williams first recorded.

    But I'm wondering whether there were any other tunes or songs that people danced the Hucklebuck to.

    And if not, wasn't that strange? For instance, think of all the songs that were recorded to take advantage of the popularity of the early 1960s dance craze "The Twist". Hank Ballard was the first to record that Twist song in 1959, and then Chubby Checker recorded basically the same song -I think. But then he and other people recorded a different Twist song, not their version of the same song.

    But come to think of it, maybe the difference between the 1940sn and the 1960s with regard to music recording was that the copyright laws were stricter and people couldn't get away with recording covers of already existing records. So that's why recording artists had to come up with new songs that they could copyright but that people could do that currently "in" dance to.

    I guess that's a good thing, even if a lot of the dance songs that have been composed to take advantage of the latest dance craze aren't at all good.

  2. Really nice blog. I thoroughly enjoyed & learned a lot from your writing on this as well as other posts on this blog.

    I also have a music blog, but it's just exclusive about African American culture, it's just rock n' roll. But I have to admit there would be no rock n' roll if it wasn't for African American like Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy.

    In fact, you could make the case that if it wasn't for Chuck Berry in particular, there would be Beatles, Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin.

    I've wrote an article about the inception of rock n' roll in the US through the influence of the Black artists:

    Check it out and feel free to let me know what you think of it.


    1. Thanks for your comment,

      I appreciate you taking the time to add it.

      I read your post, and agree with you about the musical significance of 1950s Rock N' Roll music.

      However, I don't agree with some of the points that you made. For example, I don't agree that "Rock N' Roll" is a "White guy singing like a black guy". I also don't agree that Chuck Berry was "the Black guy who sang like a White guy".

      However, that's your take of that music & those musicians/vocalists, and each person is entitled to his or her opinions.

      Thanks again!