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November 28: The Dance Crazes of Kal Mann

Lawrence Bush
November 28, 2016
Song lyricist and record producer Kal Mann (Kalman Cohen), whose hits included “The Bristol Stomp,” Elvis Presley’s “Teddy Bear,” Bobby Rydell’s “Wild One,” and Chubby Checker’s series of “Twist” songs, died at 84 on this date in 2001. Mann began his career writing comedy sketches for Danny Thomas and Red Buttons, among other radio comedians, then switched to writing rock and roll numbers in collaboration with composers Dave Appell and Bernie Lowe, with whom he cofounded the Philadelphia record label Cameo/Parkway. The label had close ties to Dick Clark’s American Bandstand television show (also based in Philadelphia) and used it to help shape the dance crazes of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Mann discovered Chubby Checker while the singer was working in a poultry shop, signed him to a recording contract, became his manager, and co-wrote “The Twist,” “Let’s Twist Again,” “Slow Twistin’ ” and “Twistin’ USA.” Mann’s other hits included “Limbo Rock,” “Wah-Watusi,” “Don’t Hang Up,” and “Wild One. “The kids in Bristol are sharp as a pistol when they do the Bristol Stomp.” --Kal Mann

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.