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Mess Around Origins Photo
The Mess Around

            A African-American Vernacular Dance. The first written mention of 'the Mess Around' in song came from Perry Bradford in 1912, however Bradford is quoted as saying that it was around for a few years before he wrote the song. The song became a small hit when Ethel Waters sang it on the T.O.B.A. Circuit. The song suggest the dance came from a gal named the Mojo Queen, the shimmyist Gal ever seen... Went down to the Virgin Islands and learned the native style.

    This dance consists of a rather complex step rather than a dance routine. The key movement is the 'Twist': Your hands go on your hips, the pelvis or backside, then move your hips in a wide horizontal circular motion, all the while doing a rhythmic bounce on the ball of the feet .... trying to keep the rest of the body quiet (still) that's the Mess Around.

   The dance was used alot by many dancers and singers of the day in their performances as well as the general African-American dance population. The Black Bottom song written in 1926 by DeSylva, Brown and Henderson mentions the Louisiana Mess Around which is the same as above only done on the Heels rather than the balls of the feet.

    The dance became extremely popular over the years and was revitalized in the 1950s by Ray Charles in his version of the song. The Swing dance version is basically a lean forward towards your partner, they lean away, for eight (8) counts, then repeat other direction, both leans using a slight bounce with a slow contra body hip roll, can be done in double time rhythm as well, arms can be up, middle or down or mixture, plus other variations can be done.

 

Birth Place

Creation Date

Creator

Dance Type

Virgin Islands pre 1912 n/a Swing / Folk
 

Posters, Lobby Cards etc.

Sheet Music Covers

Other

n/a n/a n/a
             
             
             
Music preview clip

Various Music Titles

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All I Want Is To Mess Around (M.Cee)
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Mess Around (Animals)
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Mess Around (Professor Longhair)
Video Clip not available at this time Black Bottom (Mentions the dance)
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Mess Around (Alvin and the Chipmunks)
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Mess Around (Rhythm 55) Rockabilly
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Beale Street Mess Around (Memphis Jug Band)
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Mess Around (Bobby Freeman) Video Clip not available at this time Messin' Around [mp3] (Slim)
Video Clip not available at this time Come On Boys Let's Do That Messin' Around (Blake)
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Mess Around (Dr. John) Video Clip not available at this time Messin' Around - take 1 (Trixie Smith)
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Dance the Mess Around (Checker)
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Mess Around(Ray Charles) 1953 [mp3] Video Clip not available at this time Messin around with the blues(Waller)
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Dance this Mess Around (b-52's) Video Clip not available at this time Messin' Around (Bradford) [mp3] Video Clip not available at this time Messin' 'Round With The Boogie (Cheatham)
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Don't Forget to Mess Around (Louis Armstrong)
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Mess Around (Marmalade) Video Clip not available at this time That Dance Called Messin' Around (Martin)
Video Clip not available at this time Ev’rybody Mess Aroun’ (Strutters)
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Mess Around (John Mayall)    
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Fourth Street Mess Around (Sausage Grinder)
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Mess Around (Larry Harlow)    
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Gonna Boogie Down & Mess Around(Backwell) 1978
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Mess Around (Paolo Nutini)    
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Mess Around (Algirdas Suminskas & Keksi)        
           
 

Night Clubs

Theaters

Locations

n/a *Hudson Theatre n/a
                 
                 
 

Films / Movies

Stage

Devil In A Blue Dress (Song featured only) *1929 - Messin' Around (4/22/1929-5/1929)
Mod Squad (Song Featured only)      
       
 

Instructional Videos

Publications

n/a n/a
       
       
       
 

Other Dances of the time...

Aeroplane Waltz Charleston Grizzly Glide LuLu Fado Shimmy
Apache Dance Chicken Flip Hesitation Waltz March Shiver Shake
Argentine Ardor Collegiate Hippohop Maurice Tango Skirt Dance
Arizona Anguish Collegiate Foxtrot Honey Bug Maxixe Slow Drag
Bacchanalian waltz Collegiate Shag Hooche Cooche Mooch, the Syncopated Canter
Baltimore Buzz Dewey Dip Horsetrot Mooch and Sugar Tango
Bambuca Dizzy Drag Hug-Me-Tight Necktie Waltz Terripan Toddle
Big Apple Eagle Rock Innovation One Step Texas Tommy
Boll Weevil Wiggle Echo, The Jazzarimba Ostrich Stretch Toddle
Boston Dip Fado Foxtrot Kangaroo Canter Pavlova Gavotte Turkey Trot
Break away Foxtrot Kangaroo Waltz Peabody Two-Step
Bunny Hug Funky Butt Kitchen Sink Pickaninny Dandle Varsity Drag
Buzzard Lope Fuzzy-Wuzzy Lambeth Walk Pollywog Wiggle Walkin' The Dog
Cabbage Clutch Gaby Glide Lame Duck Puppy Snuggle Waltz
Camel Walk Georgia Grind Lemon Squeeze Quickstep Whirlwind Waltz
Cantor Waltz Gilda Glide Lindy Hop Salome dance Wiggle-de-Wiggle
Cartel Waltz Grizzly Bear Love Dance Shadow Dance  
Castle Walk        
 

Dancers, Choreographers etc.

Political

Buddy Bradley Cora La Redd n/a
Ethel Waters Queenie Price  
Ulysses S. Thompson    
 

Books, Magazine Articles on the dance...

Title Author Date Published Publisher
$ Jazz Dance: The Story of American ... Stearns, Marshall 1994 Da Capo Press
Low Down Dancing Elsie Marcus 1920s? ??
       
       
 

Musicians/ Bands

Composers

Singers

Poets / Writers

Animals, the Jack Cortes Bobby Freeman n/a
B-52's $ Perry Bradford (1893-1970) Chubby Checker    
Big Joe Turner   Ethel Waters    
Blind Blake     Sammy Davis Jr.    
Doc Cook's Dreamland Orchestra     Sara Martin    
Fats Waller     Suzi Quatro    
Freddie Keppard            
Georgia Strutters            
Ivan Matias (Mod Squad Soundtrack)            
Jeannie & Jimmy Cheatham            
John Mayall            
Memphis Slim            
Professor Longhair            
Ray Charles            
Red Beans & Rice            
 

Misc. Research Words that may be related ... to help your searches

Vernacular Dances      
Voodoo dances      
       
 
Other...
Original Song Lyrics: (12 bar blues style)"#CCFF66">by Perry Bradford
Verse:
"Mojo Queen, the shimmyist Gal ever seen...Went down to the Virgin Islands and learned the native style" Chorus:
Now anyone can learn the knack,
Put your hands on your hips and bend your back,
Stand in one spot, nice and light,
Twist around with all your might,
Messin' round, they call the messin' round. Ray Charles 'Mess Around' Lyrics: Ah, you can talk about the pit, barbecue,
The band was jumpin', the people too,
Ah, mess around,
They doin' the mess around,
They doin' the mess around,
Everybody doin' the mess around,
Ah, everybody was juiced, you can, bet your soul,
They did the boogie-woogie, with a steady roll,
They mess around,
They doin' the mess around,
They doin' the mess around,
Everybody doin' the mess around,
Now, ah, when I say stop don't you move a peg,
When I say go, just ah, shake your leg,
And do the mess around,
I declare, do the mess around,
Yeah do the mess around,
Everybody's doin' the mess around,
Now let me have it there boy, [Piano Solo]>
Now you got it boy>...
[Sax Solo] (Yeah, ah, mess around, go on mess around)
(Mess around, boy)
Now this band's goin' to play from, 9 to 1,
Everybody here's gonna have some fun ,
Doin' the mess around,
Ah, doin' the mess around,
They doin' the mess around,
Everybody doin' the mess around,
Now you see that girl, with that, diamond ring,
She knows how to, shake that thing,
Mess around,
I declare, she can mess around,
Ah, mess around,
Everybody do the mess around,
March 19, 2013!
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