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Shim-Sham Shimmy Dance History Origin Page
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Streetswings Dance History Archives: Shim Sham
Group Shim Sham Shimmie dance history page photo
Shim Sham Shimmy

       The "Shim Sham" or "Sham" was originally a pre Tap dance routine done by Vaudeville performers in the early 1900's and consisted of a mixture of standard steps but done in no particular order. The Shim Sham-Shimmy is said to be the creation of Willie Bryant and Leonard Reed and was changed to accommodate a larger group in the theatres they were working at the time, some say around 1927. The "Three Little Words" saw it and performed it in 1931 at Connie's Inn when they got everyone involved in doing it at the end of the show, which is how they got the credit for it says Leonard. Vin and Roberto based a whole act upon the Shim-Sham and were known as one of the best dance teams around at the time (1935).

    The Shim Sham was changed somewhat by Bryant and Reed over the years into the Shim Sham Shimmy for swing dancers and is done by lindy dancers today, similar to a type of Line Dance today ... Originally the Shim Sham >&nbsp;<Shimmy could be done as a solo, couple or group dance (2 or 3 couples up to the whole room), and as a group each person's arms were around the next (see above photo) but today is done apart. The Sham was done at one time at the Savoy ballroom to the song entitled "The Song of the Freaks," written by Luis Russell. The music usually builds in intensity as do the dancers making a sort of Crescendo and Diminuendo.

    The Sham's basic is the "Time Step" that is done by Tap dancers, except the dancers use a more shuffled rhythm

than lifting of the feet then add a double shuffle, the cross-over step, the Tack Annie, Shorty George and Falling off the log . The Sham also incorporates the "break" (or stop-time) which can be as short as 3 beats and as long as a minute. Usually the dancers would sing along with the music, such as "Oh, Shim-Sham --->&nbsp;<Shimshamshimmy! >&nbsp;<shim >&nbsp;<sham --->&nbsp;<ShimShamShimmy!" When the dance would end everyone would "truck" back to their tables etc. Around the early 1930's the Shim Sham Shimmy became a favorite Finale on the Vaudeville stage. This is just a basic idea as there are many variations of this dance done from town to town, state to state.

Cab Calloway's "Jittering-Jitterbugs" musical short has the original group form of the shim sham shimmy routine and is led by Calloway. Dean Collins can be seen doing it on the Marv Griffin Show as well.

Birth Place

Creation Date


Dance Type

New York 1927 Reed / Bryant Jazz / Swing

Swing Posters, Lobby Cards etc.

Sheet Music Covers


Music Titles

Black Thunder Swing Sugar Hill Shim Sham
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1933 >&nbsp;<Shim Sham Shimmy Dance (Wiliams Jug Band)
Cabin in the Sky (Swing Movie) Video Clip not available at this time 1937 >&nbsp;<Shim Sham Shimmie At The Cricket's Ball (Osborne)
Chick Webb and Ella Savoy (Swing)
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1954 >&nbsp;<Shim Sham Shimmy (Champion Jack Dupree)
Daddy-O (Swing Movie)
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1999 Shim Sham Shimmy ( Dupree & Zwingenberger)
Groovie Movie (Swing Movie) Video Clip not available at this time 1966 >&nbsp;<Shim Sham Shuffle (Lyons)
Hellzapoppin'(Swing Movie Poster) 2 Video Clip not available at this time David's Dance (Shim-Sham)
HI-DE-HO (Cab Calloway) Video Clip not available at this time Doin the Shim-Sham
Hot Mikado (Swing Play)
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Shim Sham Shimmy (The Big 6)
Juke Girl (Swing Movie)
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Shim Sham Shimmy (Dorsey Brothers)
Keep Punchin' (Swing Movie)
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Shim Sham Shimmy (Ronnie Dawson)
Micheux Swing (Swing Art Print) Video Clip not available at this time Sugar Hill Shim Sham (Ellington)
Prisoner Of Swing (Swing Movie) Video Clip not available at this time The Song of the Freaks (Russell)
Private Buckeroo (Swing Movie) Video Clip not available at this time Shim Sham Shimmy Dance [MP3]
Rock, Rock, Rock (ECS Swing Movie)
Video Clip Pop-Up Window
Sugarhill Shim Sham (Rex Stewart)
Shag The Movie (Shag Dance) Video Clip not available at this time Up in Harlem every Sat. Night
Stormy Weather (Bojangles, Horne) Video Clip not available at this time
The Girl Can't Help It (Swing Movie) Video Clip not available at this time
Video Clip not available at this time

Night Clubs



Apollo Theatre (NY) Apollo Theatre (NY) USA
Cotton Club (NY) Empire Theatre (1935)
Club Ritz (Reno, NV) Nixon Theatre (Philly 5/1938)
Club Southtown Lafayette Theatre (NY)
Club Zig-Zag (IL)
Connie's Inn (NY)
Dickie Well's Shim Sham Club (NY)
Grand Terrace (IL)
Martin's Tavern (TX)
Pine Grove Inn (Middleton, NY)
Savoy Ballroom (NY)
Shim Sham Club (San Diego, CA)
Video Clips (pop-up)


Ballets / Stage

Video Clip Pop-Up Window
Al Minns and Leon James: Shim Sham Shimmy 1928 >&nbsp;<Blackbirds (Doin' the shim-sham)
Video Clip not available at this time Calloway's "Jittering Jitterbugs" 1930s>&nbsp;<Rhythm Bound
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Dean Collins / Bart Bartalo: Shim Sham 1935 >&nbsp;<Hot Cha Review (Vin and Roberto)
Video Clip not available at this time Follow the Fleet ? (Lindy, Taxi and Shim dancers were hired) Shim-Sham Follies (Burlesque)
Video Clip not available at this time History of the World pt.1 (Ethiopian Shim Sham >&nbsp;<Gregory Hines aka Sand Dance)

Instructional Videos


Shim Sham-Shimmy [DVD] (by Leonard Reed) 7/1/1920 >&nbsp;<Syracuse Hearld (The Shim)
12/22/1933 >&nbsp;<Hammond Times (Kitty O'Dare is said Sham inventor)
7/31/1935 >&nbsp;<Daily Gleaner (Carol McKay Shim Sham)
12/11/1935 >&nbsp;<Daily Gleanor (Vin and Roberto)
2/1939 >&nbsp;<Esquire Magazine

Other Related Dances of the time...

Apple Jacks Eagle Rock Peelin' The Peach Snake Hips
Balboa Funky Butt Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition Soft Shoe
Ballin' The Jack Jazz Suzy-Q
Big Apple Jitterbug Shag Tap
Black Bottom Lindy Hop Shimmie Truckin'
Breakaway Little Apple Shorty George
Charleston Mooch

Dancers, Choreographers etc.


Al Minns $ Leonard Reed n/a
Alice Whitman (sisters) Leonards Reedettes
Bojangles Norma Sedan (Pine Grove Inn)
Cab Calloway Ozie Anderson (Club Southtown)
Carol McKay Sammy Davis Jr.
Cholly Atkins Savoy and Stawych (Martins Tavern)
Dean Collins Sherry Adair (Club Zig-Zag)
Evelyn Mann (The Ritz) Trudy Calville (1935)
Frankie Manning Vin and Roberto
Grant Sisters (1935) Virginia O'Brien
Helen Hendricks (1937) Willie Bryant
Kitty O'Dare (1933) Williams and Williams
Leon James  

Books, Magazine Articles on the dance...



Date Published





Poets / Writers

Chick Webb (1909-1939) Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996) n/a
Clarence Williams (1898-1965) Ma Rainey (189?-1937)
Count Basie (1904-1984)
Duke Ellington (1899-1974)
J. Geils Band
Johnny Brandon
Luis Russell (1902-1963)
Rachel Rachel (Davids Dance)
Ricky Lyons (c.1960s)
Will Osborne Orch. (c.1937)

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

Cramp Roll Time Step
Shuffle off to Buffalo

Related Shim Sham Items

wingin' at the Savoy by Norma Miller (one of the Whitey's Lindy Hoppers)
$ Read about the
Savoy Ballroom
Leonard Reed's Shim Sham Shimmy dvd
Leonard Reed's
Shim Sham Shimmy


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Created April 19, 2013