A Guy Named Sloppy Joe

‘Mashed Potato Time’ is a single that was written and composed by Kal Mann and Bernie Lowe, and performed by 17-year-old Dee Dee Sharp (from Philadelphia, PA whose real name Dione LaRue), on her debut album It’s Mashed Potato Time. The song refers to the Mashed Potato dance move which was a fad at the time.  The song reached No. 1 on the U.S. R&B chart in 1962, as well as No. 2 on the pop chart.  The song went to #1 on the R&B Chart and it reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100.  It sold more than one million copies and earned an RIAA gold record.  Sharp soon followed this song with ‘Gravy (For My Mashed Potatoes)’, which also charted at #11 on R&B and #9 on Billboard Hot 100.  Famous dances in the sixties were often associated with a song and compared to many dances of the previous decades, partners were no longer needed to join in on the fun.  In some cases, the lyrics instructed listeners in how to perform the dance, however in other situations dancers were implored to do the name of dance by the singers.

Some other dance songs from the 60s include The Freddie, The Frug, The Hitch-Hike, The Loco-motion, The Shimmy, The Swim, The Twist, The Watusi, The Boogaloo, The Bristol Stomp, The Funky Chicken, The Drag, The Flick, The Hully Gully, The Jerk, The Limbo, The Monkey, The Pony, The Strut, The Bird and The Tighten Up.  The “Mashed Potato” first came to prominence with the 1962 song, ‘Do You Love Me?’, written by Berry Gordy and recorded by The Contours.  James Brown made the moves famous a few years earlier when he performed the song ‘(Do The) Mashed Potatoes’ that was credited to his drummer Nat Kendricks.  Other MASH songs included ‘Monster Mash’ by Bobby “Boris” Pickett, ‘Mashed Potato Limbo’ by Chubby Checker, ‘Mashed Potato Party’ by Link Wray and ‘Mashed Potato Twist’ by B.B. King.  I found it interesting that The Beatles song ‘Revolution 9’ mentions The Watusi and The Twist and that Neil Young has a song titled ‘T-Bone’ with the lyrics “Got mashed potatoes Ain’t got no T-Bone”.

At the young age of 13, Dee Dee Sharp worked as a background singer which exposed her to pop legends such as, Lloyd Price, Frankie Avalon and Chubby Checker and she became the first black female teen idol.  Dee Dee Sharp’s musical career virtually ended in the 80’s although the performer stayed in the mainstream of consciousness by regularly debuting and guest starring in television and film including, Desperately Seeking Susan, Hairspray, Troop Beverly Hills and Sister Act.

Her producers Kal Mann and Bernie Lowe took her nickname ‘D’ and combined it with the fact that she sang in ‘D Sharp’.  Kal Mann was an American lyricist who is best known for penning the words to Elvis Presley’s ‘Teddy Bear’, plus ‘Let’s Twist Again’, sung by Chubby Checker.  Mann began his career in entertainment as a comedy writer for Danny Thomas, Red Buttons and Jimmy Durante, until his friend and songwriter, record producer, arranger, pianist and bandleader Bernie Lowe, encouraged him to try writing lyrics for the music industry.  Lowe launched the career of Dee Dee Sharp, along with Bobby Rydell, The Orlons, The Dovells, and The Tymes.

The lyrics in this song reference ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ by The Tokens, ‘Please Mr. Postman’ by The Marvelettes, and ‘Dear Lady Twist’ by Gary U.S. Bonds.  In order to do The Mashed Potato dance move, you position one of your feet slightly behind your other (stationary) foot.  With the weight on the ball of your foot, you step backward with your heel tilted inward, then swivel your heel outward.  Follow this process with both of your feet, step back and behind with your heel inward, then pivot heel out, and so on for as many repetitions as desired.

It’s the latest, it’s the greatest
Mashed potato, ya, ya, ya, ya
A Mashed potato started long time ago
With a guy named Sloppy Joe
You’ll find this dance is so cool to do
Come on baby, gonna teach it to you
Mashed potato, feel it in your feet now
Mashed potato, come on get the beat now
Baby, come on honey, come on baby, ya, ya, ya, ya
And then they dance it through and through
They look for records they can do it to
They got a dance was outta sight
Doin’ the lion sleeps tonight
ya a weem o wep a weem o wep
(Mashed potato) ya, ya, ya, ya
(It’s the latest) oh, baby
(It’s the greatest) come on, honey
Ya, ya, ya, ya
Now everybody is doin’ fine
They dance alone or in a big boss line
And they discovered it’s the most man
The day they did it to Please Mr. Postman
wait a minute, wait a minute
(Mashed potato) deliver the letter
(It’s the latest) oh, baby
(It’s the greatest) come on, honey
Ya, ya, ya, ya
Well they got with more and more
Ya ought to see ‘em around the floor
The mashed potato long long list
They even do it to Dear Lady Twist
get up on your tail now
(Mashed potato) ya, ya, ya, ya
(It’s the latest) come on, baby
(It’s the greatest) oh, honey
Ya, ya, ya, ya
feel the groovy beat now

Written for Song Lyric Sunday where the theme is Bounty/Dessert/Eat/Feast/Food/Hungry/Turkey.

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