Disco Duck

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"Disco Duck"
Disco duck.jpg
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)"
ReleasedSeptember 4, 1976
Recorded1976 in Memphis, Tennessee
GenreDisco, novelty
LabelFretone (initial release)
RSO (wide distribution)
Songwriter(s)Rick Dees
Producer(s)Bobby Manuel
Rick Dees & His Cast of Idiots singles chronology
"Disco Duck"

"Disco Duck" is a satirical disco novelty song performed by Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots. At the time, Dees was a Memphis disc jockey. It became a number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100 for one week in October 1976 (and ranked #97 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 it was later released by RSO Records for national and international distribution. The song earned a 1977 People's Choice Award for Favorite New Song.[1]

Origin and storyline[edit]

Written by Dees, "Disco Duck" was inspired by a 1960s novelty dance song called "The Duck", recorded by Jackie Lee (Earl Lee Nelson) in 1965.[2][3] According to Dees, it took one day to write the song, but three months to convince anyone to perform it.[4]

Combining orchestral disco styles with a Donald Duck-esque voice as the main plot point, the story within "Disco Duck" centers on 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.

Duck voice[edit]

A misconception about "Disco Duck" is that the voice of the duck 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 record. 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.

In fact, the voice emulates that of Yakky Doodle, a Hanna-Barbera animated duck who appeared on TV in 1960 and 1961 and was still seen regularly on afternoon TV cartoon shows in the late 1970s. He even parodies Yakky's signature phrase, "Are you my mama?", saying "I've got to have me a mama!"[5][6]

Response and impact[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 10 weeks.[7]

For all its success, "Disco Duck" got very little airplay in Memphis, including at WMPS, the station Dees worked for at the time; Dees was forbidden by station management to play the record on his own show, and rival stations refused to play it for fear of promoting the competition. When Dees merely mentioned the song on his show one morning, WMPS management fired him citing conflict of interest. After a brief mandatory hiatus, Dees was hired on at WMPS' primary competition, WHBQ, who gave him permission to play his song.[4]

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 record. 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. 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 went on a live tour along the East Coast, he hired a band, backing singers and a commercial artist, Michael Chesney, to perform the duck vocals, and they did everything live.

"Disco Duck" 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 to the PG-rated 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 extremely unwise decision to deny use of the song on the film's soundtrack album because of fears that it would compete with sales of Dees's own record.[8] The Saturday Night Fever soundtrack has now currently sold 40 million copies worldwide, and is the second best-selling soundtrack of all time.

Irwin the Disco Duck, also called Irwin the Dynamic Duck, a fictional character who was featured on a series of children's records from Peter Pan Records, was inspired by this record.[9]

Chart performance[edit]


Region Certification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada)[28] Platinum 150,000^
United States (RIAA)[29] Platinum 2,000,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.


  1. ^ "1977 Nominees & Winners". Archived from the original on May 9, 2016. Retrieved October 13, 2019.
  2. ^ Jackie Lee - The Duck on YouTube
  3. ^ "Jackie Lee - The Duck". Discogs.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ "Yakky Doodle". TV Tropes. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  6. ^ "Yakky Doodle". Cartoon Scrapbook. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  7. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2001). Billboard Top 10 Singles Charts, 1955-2000. New York: Billboard Publications. pp. 305–307. ISBN 0-89820-145-4.
  8. ^ Boucher, Geoff. "A New Dees Dawn", The Los Angeles Times, September 23, 2006.
  9. ^ "Peter Pan Records Discography". forbiddeneye.com.
  10. ^ "Rick Dees And His Cast Of Idiots – Disco Duck" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  11. ^ "Rick Dees And His Cast Of Idiots – Disco Duck" (in French). Ultratop 50.
  12. ^ "Hit Parade Italia - Indice per Interprete: D". Hit Parade Italia. Retrieved July 6, 2012.
  13. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 46, 1976" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40.
  14. ^ "Rick Dees And His Cast Of Idiots – Disco Duck" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  15. ^ "Rick Dees And His Cast Of Idiots – Disco Duck". Top 40 Singles.
  16. ^ "Rick Dees And His Cast Of Idiots – Disco Duck". VG-lista.
  17. ^ "Rick Dees And His Cast Of Idiots – Disco Duck". Singles Top 100.
  18. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 22, 2016. Retrieved December 14, 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  19. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – Rick Dees And His Cast Of Idiots – Disco Duck". GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved March 2, 2020.
  20. ^ "Kent Music Report No 183 – 26 December 1977 > National Top 100 Singles for 1977". Kent Music Report. Retrieved June 13, 2021 – via Imgur.com.
  21. ^ "Jaaroverzichten 1976". Ultratop. Retrieved December 12, 2021.
  22. ^ "Top Singles – Volume 26, No. 14 & 15, January 08 1977". RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Archived from the original on March 19, 2016. Retrieved June 13, 2016.
  23. ^ "Top 100-Jaaroverzicht van 1976". Dutch Top 40. Retrieved December 12, 2021.
  24. ^ "Jaaroverzichten – Single 1976". dutchcharts.nl. Retrieved December 12, 2021.
  25. ^ Musicoutfitters.com
  26. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on October 20, 2018. Retrieved December 14, 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  27. ^ "Billboard Hot 100 60th Anniversary Interactive Chart". Billboard. Retrieved December 10, 2018.
  28. ^ "Canadian single certifications – Rick Dees – Disco Duck". Music Canada.
  29. ^ "American single certifications – Rick Dees – Disco Duck". Recording Industry Association of America.

External links[edit]