Disco Duck

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"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 September 4, 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(s) 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.

Origin and storyline[edit]

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[edit]

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. For the live tour, the duck vocals were handled by Michael Chesney, another acquaintance of Dees.

Response and repercussion[edit]

"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 where Dees was living in 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" had 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 puppeteer Rickey Provow animating a duck puppet that he had made. Ironically, this appearance was never seen in the Memphis area due to then-ABC affiliate WHBQ-TV pre-empting Bandstand for wrestling[clarification needed] at the time and for the aforementioned Memphis radio avoidance reasons. But when Dees appeared on The Midnight Special and a live tour up the East Coast he gathered together a band, backing singers and a commercial artist, Michael Chesney to perform the duck vocals and did everything 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]

Charts[edit]

Chart (1976) Peak
Position
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[6] 3
Canada Top Singles (RPM) 1
Germany (Media Control AG)[7] 7
Italy (FIMI)[8] 4
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[9] 4
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[10] 7
Norway (VG-lista)[11] 3
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[12] 3
UK Singles (The Official Charts Company) 6
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 1
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

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Sales/shipments
Canada (Music Canada)[13] Platinum 150,000^
United States (RIAA)[14] Platinum 2,000,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone

References[edit]

  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: Billboard Publications. pp. 305–307. ISBN 0-89820-145-4. 
  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. Retrieved December 22, 2010. 
  6. ^ "Ultratop.be – Rick Dees And His Cast Of Idiots – Disco Duck" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  7. ^ "Die ganze Musik im Internet: Charts, News, Neuerscheinungen, Tickets, Genres, Genresuche, Genrelexikon, Künstler-Suche, Musik-Suche, Track-Suche, Ticket-Suche – musicline.de" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH.
  8. ^ "Hit Parade Italia - Indice per Interprete: D". Hit Parade Italia. Retrieved July 6, 2012. 
  9. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Rick Dees And His Cast Of Idiots search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40.
  10. ^ "Charts.org.nz – Rick Dees And His Cast Of Idiots – Disco Duck". Top 40 Singles.
  11. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – Rick Dees And His Cast Of Idiots – Disco Duck". VG-lista.
  12. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – Rick Dees And His Cast Of Idiots – Disco Duck". Singles Top 60.
  13. ^ "Canadian single certifications – Rick Dees – Disco Duck". Music Canada. 
  14. ^ "American single certifications – Dees_ Rick – Disco Duck". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH