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LaPrise reportedly wrote the song in the late 1940s for the après-ski crowd at a club in Sun Valley, Idaho. The song was first recorded by his group the Ram Trio (with Charles Macak and Tafit Baker) in 1949. They were awarded U.S. copyright in 1950.
The authorship of the Hokey Pokey is disputed, with British/Irish songwriter Jimmy Kennedy claiming to have written the original (entitled Cokey-Cokey) during WWII. Robert Degan sued LaPrise for copyright infringement of his 1946, The Hokey-Pokey Dance. They settled out of court.
After LaPrise's death, the following joke circulated on the Internet, comparing the Hokey Pokey to the process of placing LaPrise in his coffin.
With all the sadness and trauma going on in the world at the moment, it is worth reflecting on the death of a very important person, which almost went unnoticed last week.
Larry LaPrise, the man who wrote "The Hokey Pokey," died peacefully at the age of 83.
The most traumatic part was getting him into his coffin.
First, they put his left leg in. And that's when all the trouble started...