Disco Duck

Disco Duck
"Disco Duck"
Single by Rick Dees & His Cast of Idiots
from the album The Original Disco Duck
A-side Disco Duck (part one)
B-side Disco Duck (part two)
Released 1976
Format 7" and 12" single
Recorded 1976 in Memphis, Tennessee
Genre Disco
Length 3:17
Label Fretone (initial release)
RSO (wide distribution)
Writer(s) Rick Dees
Producer Bobby Manuel
Certification Platinum (RIAA)[1]
Rick Dees & His Cast of Idiots singles chronology
"Disco Duck"
(1976)
"Dis-Gorilla"
(1976)

"Disco Duck" is a satirical disco novelty song performed by Memphis disc jockey Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots. It became a number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 for one week in October 1976 (and ranked #99 out of the 100 most popular songs of the year according to Billboard magazine). It also made the top 20 on the Billboard Hot Soul Singles chart, peaking at number 15. "Disco Duck" was initially released in the south by Estelle Axton's Fretone label but was later released by RSO Records for national and international distribution.

Contents

Origin and storyline

Written by Dees, "Disco Duck" was inspired by a 1960s novelty dance song called "The Duck", recorded by Jackie Lee in 1965. According to Dees, it took one day to write the song, but three months to convince anyone to perform it.[2]

Combining orchestral disco styles with a Donald Duck-esque voice as the main plot point, the story within "Disco Duck" centers around a man at a dance party who is overcome by the urge to get up and "get down" in a duck-like manner. When the music stops, he sits down, but when he decides to get up and dance again, he finds that everyone in the room is now doing his dance.

The voice of the duck

A misconception about "Disco Duck" is that the voice of the duck itself was provided by Clarence Nash, the original voice of Donald Duck in many Walt Disney cartoons, but on several occasions the Disney Company maintained that Nash never contributed to the song. The voice of the duck was performed by Ken Pruitt, an acquaintance of Dees, as stated on the label of the RSO release.

Response and repercussion

"Disco Duck" became a nationwide hit in the United States by September 1976. On the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, it peaked at number one on October 16, 1976, for one week, held the number-two spot for the following four weeks and remained in the Top 10 for a total of ten weeks.[3]

For all its success, "Disco Duck" was shunned by radio stations in Dees hometown of Memphis, including WMPS-AM, the station Dees worked for at the time. Station management forbade Dees from playing the song on his own show and rival stations in the city refused to play it for fear of promoting the competition. When Dees talked about (but did not play) the song on his show one morning, his boss fired him citing conflict of interest. After a brief mandatory hiatus, Dees was hired by station WHBQ-AM, WMPS's primary competition in Memphis.[2]

By the time "Disco Duck" become a hit, Dees and his "Idiots" started making the rounds of the popular TV music shows to promote the song. On American Bandstand (and similar shows), Dees lip-synched to the recording, alone on stage with an unseen person animating a duck hand puppet (Ironically, this appearance was never seen in the Memphis area due to then-ABC affiliate WHBQ-TV pre-empting Bandstand for wrestling at the time and for the aforementioned Memphis radio avoidance reasons). But when he appeared on The Midnight Special he gathered together a band, backup singers and possibly Pruitt, the voice of the duck on the record, and performed the song live.

"Disco Duck" even made an appearance in the film Saturday Night Fever, in a dance club scene in which a group of senior citizens were learning to dance disco-style. It was also featured in a deleted scene added back to the PG version. As it stands, Dees could have made an even more substantial amount of money from the song. According to Dees, his manager at the time made the unwise decision to deny use of the song on the film's soundtrack because of fears that it would compete with sales of Dees's own album.[4] The Saturday Night Fever soundtrack has now currently sold 40 million copies worldwide, and is the second best-selling soundtrack of all time.

Although "Disco Duck" hit #1 on the charts, Matthew Wilkening of AOL Radio ranked the song at #54 on his list of the 100 Worst Songs Ever, stating that "six million people bought this piece of duck droppings in 1976. Not one of them would admit to doing so today."[5]

Inspirations and later uses

The 1979 Disney-produced album Mickey Mouse Disco featured a track called "Macho Duck", (inspired mostly by the Village People hit, Macho Man) with the voice of Nash on the track, in response.

In 1979, Kermit the Frog sang a song called "Disco Frog" on Sesame Street, which he also later sang on The Muppet Show, and was most likely inspired by "Disco Duck".

"Disco Duck" was covered in 1977 by D.J. Scott and Willem, a German Parody Version called "Tarzan Ist Wieder Da".

Also in 1977, Peter Pan Records put out a series of children's records featuring Irwin the Disco Duck.

In 1989, Grandmaster Chicken & D.J. Duck included a sample of the song in the 12" version of Check Out The Chicken.

"Disco Duck" was referenced in an episode of Animaniacs when the Warner siblings attend a karaoke club and Dot Warner flips through the book, saying "See if they have Disco Duck."

In the Beverly Hills, 90210 episode, "Duke's Bad Boy", Steve Sanders insults David Silver's producer by asking if his last hit was "Disco Duck".

DJ Shadow sampled "Disco Duck's" trademark riff on the track "Right Thing/GDMFSOB", on his 2002 album The Private Press.

References

  1. ^ RIAA Gold and Platinum Searchable Database - "Disco Duck". RIAA.com. Retrieved 2010-02-12.
  2. ^ a b Bronson, Fred (1992). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, 3rd Edition. New York, New York: Billboard Publications. p. 445. ISBN 0-8230-8298-9. 
  3. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2001). Billboard Top 10 Singles Charts, 1955-2000. New York, New York: Billboard Publications. pp. 305–307. ISBN 0-89820-145-2. 
  4. ^ Boucher, Geoff. "A New Dees Dawn", The Los Angeles Times, September 23, 2006.
  5. ^ Wilkening, Matthew (September 11, 2010). "100 Worst Songs Ever -- Part Three of Five". AOL Radio. http://www.aolradioblog.com/2010/09/11/100-worst-songs-ever-part-three-of-five/. Retrieved December 22, 2010. 


Preceded by
"A Fifth of Beethoven" by Walter Murphy and the Big Apple Band
Billboard Hot 100 number-one single
October 16, 1976
Succeeded by
"If You Leave Me Now" by Chicago

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