Disco Duck  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

"Disco Duck" was 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 Chart for one week in October of 1976 (and ranked #99 out of the 100 most popular songs of the year according to Billboard Magazine). In addition it also made the top 20 on the Black 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.


Origin and storyline

Written by Dees, "Disco Duck" was inspired by a 1960s novelty dance song "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 else to actually perform it.

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 voice of Donald Duck in many Walt Disney cartoons. But on several occasions the Disney company asserted that Nash did not contribute to the record. That distinction belonged to an acquaintance of Dees named Ken Pruitt, as the label on the RSO release so reads.

Response and repercussion

Disco Duck became a nationwide hit by the early fall of 1976. Nationally it peaked at #1 on October 16, 1976 for one week, but held the #2 spot for the following four weeks and stayed in the Top 10 for ten weeks altogether.

For all its success, Disco Duck was shunned by radio stations in Memphis, including WMPS-AM, the station Dees worked for at the time. Station management expressly forbid Dees from playing the song on his own show, and rival stations refused to play it for fear of promoting the competition. When Dees talked about the song on his show one morning, the program director, citing conflict of interest, promptly fired him. But after a brief mandatory hiatus, Dees was hired by WHBQ-AM, WMPS's primary competition in Memphis.

By the time Disco Duck had become a hit, Dees and his "Idiots" starting making the rounds of the popular TV music shows to promote the song. On American Bandstand and other similar shows he lip-synched to the recording alone on stage with an unseen person performing the "duck" using a hand puppet, but when he appeared on The Midnight Special he gathered together a band, backup singers, and possibly even Pruitt, the voice of the duck on the record, and performed the song live.

Disco Duck even made a "cameo" appearance in Saturday Night Fever, in a dance club scene in which a group of senior citizens were learning to dance disco-style. According to Dees, his manager at the time made the unwise decision to halt plans to include the song on the film's soundtrack because of fears that it would compete with sales of Dees's own album. Had Disco Duck been included in the film's soundtrack, royalties would have theoretically earned Dees at least $3.5 million, as the soundtrack has sold over 35 million copies to date.

Inspirations and later uses

The 1979 Disney-produced album Mickey Mouse Disco, a late entry into the disco genre, 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.

Disco Duck was covered in 1977 by D.J. Scott and Willem; a German Parody Version called "Tarzan Ist Wieder Da", and would later become the theme song of the defunct Philippine reality TV show The Misadventures of Maverick And Ariel. Template:Fact

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

Disco Duck was also 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," from his 2002 album The Private Press.

The song is also used in a popular Las Vegas video slot machine called "Ducks In A Row". The song is played once the bonus function is activated by getting three bonus icons on active lines.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Disco Duck" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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