FRANCIS KAYE traces the origins of a song – and dance – that defined a generation of Irish music lovers and fans of the Showband era and will always have its place in the annals of pop music

It was such a huge hit in Ireland in 1964, one might be forgiven for thinking that The Hucklebuck hadn’t been around before the recording by Waterford’s Royal Showband with featured vocalist Brendan Bowyer. But it had.

Not alone had it been around, there had been at least 20 different recordings of The Hucklebuck before 1964!

Written by Roy Alfred to a melody by Andy Gibson, it was first recorded as an instrumental entitled D-Natural Blues by Paul Williams and His Hucklebuckers on 15th December, 1948.

At a rehearsal for a concert in Baltimore, he heard Lucky Millinder and his band playing a tune, originally known as “D’Natural Blues”, that had been written for Millinder by Andy Gibson. Williams began performing Gibson’s composition, and at a show in Pennsylvania, he noticed that audience members were performing a new dance, called the Hucklebuck, to it.

Williams renamed the tune ‘The Huckle-Buck’, and his recording, made in Detroit in December 1948, rapidly rose to the top of the R&B chart. It reached the No. 1 spot in March 1949, staying in that position for 14 weeks, and spending a total of 32 weeks on the chart. It reportedly sold half a million copies.

‘The Huckle-Buck’ established Williams’ popularity, and he was billed as Paul ‘Hucklebuck’ Williams for the remainder of his career.

Albert (Andy) Gibson was an American jazz trumpeter, arranger, and composer. Gibson played violin early on before settling on trumpet. He quit playing in 1937 to arrange and compose full-time, working with Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Cab Calloway, Charlie Barnet, and Harry James.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own (Issue 5572)