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Land of a Thousand Dances



"Land of a Thousand Dances" (or "Land of 1000 Dances") is a song written and first recorded by Chris Kenner in 1962. The song is famous for its "na na na na na" hook, which Cannibal & the Headhunters added in their 1965 version, which reached number 30 on the Billboard chart. Thee Midniters, an American group out of East Los Angeles, was one of the first Chicano rock bands to cover "Land of a Thousand Dances", scoring a local hit in 1965. The song was also covered by Danny & the Memories, British group The Action, Ted Nugent, the J. Geils Band, and the stars of the 1980s-era World Wrestling Federation. Ike & Tina Turner often performed this song live and it was released on their 1971 album Live In Paris. The song's best-known version was Wilson Pickett's 1966 recording, which became a Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs No. 1 and his biggest ever pop hit. Some releases of the song credit Antoine "Fats" Domino as a co-author of the song with Kenner. Domino agreed to record the song in exchange for half of the song's royalties. One of the earliest covers of the song is on Major Lance's debut album on Okeh, The Monkey Time (1963).

The "na na na na na" hook happened by accident when Frankie "Cannibal" Garcia, lead singer of Cannibal and the Headhunters, forgot the lyrics. The melody to this section was also created spontaneously, as it is not in Chris Kenner's original track.

The original Chris Kenner recording, which peaked at No. 77 on the Billboard chart in 1963, mentions 16 dances: the Pony, the Chicken, the Mashed Potato, the Alligator, the Watusi, the Twist, the Fly, the Jerk, the Tango, the Yo-Yo, the Sweet Pea, the Hand jive, the Slop, the Bop, the Fish, and the Popeye. Kenner's original recording included a brief, gospel-influenced, a capella introduction with the words: "Children, go where I send you / (Where will you send me?) / I'm gon' send you to that land / the land of a thousand dances." This 18 seconds was left off the single release to facilitate radio airplay, and the phrase "Land of 1000 Dances" never appeared in any subsequent recording.

Wilson Pickett version



Wilson Pickett recorded the song during his first set of sessions at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, backed by the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and the Memphis Horns. (He had previously recorded in Memphis.) His recording was released as a single and appeared on his album, The Exciting Wilson Pickett. The single became his third Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs No. 1 hit and his biggest ever pop hit, peaking at No. 6. In 1988 a re-recorded version by Pickett was featured in the end credits for The Great Outdoors. In 1989, the earlier Pickett version was ranked number 152 on Dave Marsh's list of The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made. Pickett's version appears in a 2017 TV commercial for Hulu.

Personnel

  • Vocals: Wilson Pickett
  • Guitar: Chips Moman, Jimmy Johnson
  • Keyboards: Spooner Oldham
  • Drums: Roger Hawkins
  • Bass: Junior Lowe or Tommy Cogbill
  • Tenor sax: Charlie Chalmers, Andrew Love
  • Trumpet: Wayne Jackson
  • Baritone Sax: Floyd Newman

    Charts

    Chris Kenner versionCannibal and the Headhunters versionWilson Pickett versionTed Nugent version