Willie and the Hand Jive

It's been a year and a half since I started selling arrangements through Sheet Music Plus.  I've written

Willie and the hand jive sheets.JPG
  • string quartet arrangements,
  • woodwind quintet arrangements,
  • guitar-violin duo arrangements,
  • solo guitar arrangements and
  • other instrumental ones.

But the fact is that my first love, since 20 years ago, has been vocal arrangements, that I have until now not submitting a single one of.

So over the weekend I was browsing through the ever-expanding list of ArrangeMe titles - copyright songs I'm allowed to sell through SMP Press - and found Willie and the Hand Jive. Oh I love that song!!  Cliff Richard and the Shadows (my favourites!) recorded this song in 1960 and it was, since then, one of their most fun songs to watch them perform.

It was originally written and recorded by American rhythm & blues artist Johnny Otis in 1958, and much later in the 1970s it was famously recorded by Eric Clapton. So seeing the song on the list got me very excited. I could arrange this for an ensemble of some kind!  Might even sound great for voices!  Yeah!  For two minutes the potential of this song in my head was huge.

Page 1 of the choral arrangement of Willie and the Hand Jive.

Page 1 of the choral arrangement of Willie and the Hand Jive.

Until it dawned on me that I may have already arranged this very song years and years ago.  After some digging I discovered that I had indeed arranged this for my old a-cappella quartet, Sway, about 15 years ago, and it was one of our favourites in our repertoire for the several years we were together. 

It didn't take long to find the original arrangement.  It was good, better than I remember. One of my favourite features of it needed to be changed though - I had inserted a well-known riff of another popular song into the instrumental break, and as SMP Press don't allow mash-ups of ArrangeMe titles, I needed to replace that with something original.  I improved other parts to it, made sure it works well for an a cappella choir, and now here it is.  

I think an a cappella community choir or a high school choir would love this song in their repertoire. It has a lively Bo-Diddley rhythm that the baritone part drives all the way through.  The tenor carries most of the melody. And the soprano and alto voices, who share a stave, interact with the tenor with backing vocal effects and other fun things. And then during the choruses everyone comes together. 

I envisage choirs actually doing the hand jive during the instrumental break. It's not hard to learn, and only involves the hands, so as long as singers are not holding their music (and to be honest a performance of this song would be not as fun to watch if it's not memorised), they should be able to do it, and it'd be fun to learn it too. 

But what is the Hand Jive? Is it a euphemism? Haha no! Not according to the songwriter Johnny Otis. It really is just a dance that people did with their hands when they weren't allowed to stand up in stodgy theatres with strict rules.  Here's a cute video of a couple demonstrating the hand jive.  You might even remember the fantastic hand jive scene in the movie Grease. Remember that? 

So, a cappella choir masters and mistresses, listen to the arrangement on YouTube, download the Willie and the Hand Jive SATB score, have your choir learn it, post a video of it back on YouTube and send me a link. I'd love to see it.  And meantime I will keep digging to see what other arrangements I still have that I can share.

Listen to it on YouTube

Get your PDF copy of the score.

Subscribe to my YouTube channel