Limbo dancing became popular in America and Britain beginning in the late 1950s and reaching a peak in 1962 and 1963. Limbo parties, where music was played and people would try their hand at Limbo dancing, became popular in America and Britain. Professional Limbo dancers such as Julia Edwards and Roz Croney toured America and Europe and made appearances on TV and in film. Pop artists were quick to cash-in on the popularity of Limbo during the early 1960s and released songs with a Limbo theme. The most popular of these was Chubby Checker who had a top ten hit with ‘Limbo Rock’ in 1962. The playlist below gives 20 examples of songs released during the Limbo Craze and includes a variety of genres including Rock ‘n’ Roll, Jazz, and Rhythm and Blues.
Limbo Part 1 & Part 2 – Little Anthony & The Imperials (1960)
Limber – Bo Diddley (1960)
The Kookie Limbo – Kookie Joe (1961)
Limbo – Nina & Frederik (1961)
Limbo Dance – The Champs (1962)
Limbo Rock – Duane Eddy (1962)
La La Limbo – Chubby Checker (1962)
Oo-La-La-Limbo – Danny & The Juniors (1962)
Doin’ The Limbo – James Brown And His Famous Flames (1962)
Fire Down Below
Towards the end of the 1950s Limbo, a dance from Trinidad and Tobago, had become closely associated with Steel Pan music. The dance had been popularized by Trinidadian dancer Julia Edwards after her company appeared in several films, in particular Fire Down Below from 1957. Her appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show cemented her popularity with American audiences. Hot on the heels of the Calypso Craze of 1956-1957, the popularity of Limbo in Britain and later America brought tourist to the Caribbean and Limbo, along with Steel Pan and Calypso, became a major part of the tourism package. Both Calypsonians and Pannist were fast to cash in on the latest dance craze.
The 1960s saw Steel Pan music increase in popularity. While the 1950s saw very few recordings of steel pan music, the 1960s saw three times as many releases. The majority
of these recordings were made in the Caribbean. Dudley Smith’s Steel Band were among the first to record during the decade. They recorded the album Steel Band Carnival at the Royal Victoria Hotel in Nassau in the Bahamas in 1960. The album included a version of the song ‘Limbo’ also known as ‘Limbo Like Me’. The song, uncredited, had first appeared in the 1957 movie Fire Down Below. A later recording from 1960 credits Leo Rost as having written the lyrics. ‘Limbo’, along with ‘Limbo Rock’, became the most popular song of the Limbo Craze that began in Trinidad in the 1950s and quickly spread to America and the UK.
In Britain, Limbo dancing had been made popular by Trinidadian dancer Boscoe Holder. He had been born in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad in 1921 and arrived in London in 1950. Along with his wife Sheila Clarke, he set up a dance troupe called Boscoe Holder and his Caribbean Dancers. The troupe made several appearances on TV and in films throughout the 1950s. They introduced Limbo dancing to the British public on the TV show Bal Creole in June 1950. The show also included Steel Pan Music. Boscoe Holder and his Caribbean Dancers went on to perform at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 and at ‘The First Caribbean Carnival’ in London in 1955. In 1959 they performed at the ‘Caribbean Carnival’ organised by Claudia Jones.
Limbo parties, where music was played and people would try their hand at Limbo dancing, became popular in America and Britain. Companies such as Wham-O began selling Limbo sticks but many party revellers made their own using broom handles or similar wooden poles. Professional Limbo dancers such as Julia Edwards and Roz Croney toured America and Europe and made appearances on TV and in film.
Beginning in 1960, American stars such as Little Anthony & The Imperials, The Camps, Chris Montez, and Duane Eddy began releasing songs about Limbo dancing. Chubby Checker, who had had his biggest success during The Twist dance craze, was the most successful artist during the Limbo craze of 1962-1963. His 1962 song ‘Limbo Rock’ helped the limbo craze catch on in America. It peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100.
An album, Limbo Party, was also released. The album included songs about Limbo dancing including ‘La La Limbo’, ‘Mary Ann Limbo’ and ‘When The Saints Go Limbo In’. The album also included Chubby Checker’s take on Calypso classics including ‘Man Smart, Woman Smarter’ and ‘Jamaica Farewell’. It was followed by the single ‘Let’s Limbo Some More’ in 1963. An album of the same name was released the same year. The album was a similar affair to Limbo Party and included other songs about Limbo including ‘How Low Can You Go’, ‘A Lotta Limbo’ and ‘Mother Goose Limbo’ and more Calypso favorites including ‘Rum And Coca Cola’ and ‘Mama Look A Boo Boo’. Chubby Checker’s album Beach Party, also from 1963, also included songs about Limbo dancing.
Queen of the Limbo
None of Chubby Checker’s limbo songs included steel pan music, however. That was left to the professionals. In 1962 the Southern Tropical Harmony Steel Band released the album Limbo Party. The album, which was released in America, included instructions on how to make Steel Drums and how to make a Limbo Pole on it’s back sleeve. The Trinidad Serenaders also cashed in on the latest dance craze with their 1962 album
Limbo-The Latest Party Dance Craze, released in America on the Columbia label. 1962 also saw the release of the album The Heart Of Trinidad by Calimbo Steel Band. Both albums opened with versions of the song ‘Limbo’. In 1963 Roz Croney released the album How Low Can You Go? Every song bar the last one had the word ‘Limbo’ in the title. The album included ‘Bagpipe Limbo’, ‘Doggie In The Window Limbo’ and ‘Bossa Nova Limbo’. Roz Croney had been Limbo dancing since 1955 and was part of Larry Steele’s touring production review, Smart Affairs, in 1961. It was during her time with Smart Affairs that she earnt the title of ‘Queen of the Limbo’ which was proudly displayed on the front cover of How Low Can You Go? By the end of 1963 the Limbo dance craze had ended and had been replaced by another dance craze, The Hitch Hike, as was the norm in America at the time.