`Hokey Pokey' Creator Dead At 83

WENDELL, Idaho - Larry LaPrise, who wrote "The Hokey Pokey" for patrons of a ski resort and saw it become a classic in nursery schools and skating rinks nationwide, has died. He was 83.

He died Thursday at a Boise hospital. His daughter, Linda Ruby, said he had been ill since last fall but would give no details.

Mr. LaPrise, a singer, was leading the Ram Trio at Sun Valley's Ram Bar when he concocted the song-cum-dance for the apres ski crowd. It was an instant hit.

"`The Hokey Pokey' is like a square dance, really," Mr. LaPrise told The Times-News in Twin Falls in 1992. "You turn around. You shake it all about. Everyone is in a circle, and it gets them all involved."

The Ram Trio recorded the song in 1949. Four years later bandleader Ray Anthony bought the rights and recorded it on the B-side of a novelty record, "The Bunny Hop."

"Everybody was doing the `Bunny Hop' before long, which meant that everybody was doing `The Hokey Pokey,' " Ruby said yesterday.

The song's success among children was a source of amusement, but not money, to Mr. LaPrise until country star Roy Acuff's publishing company bought the rights in the 1960s, she said.

"Roy Acuff had seen a lot of his material copied so he was very conscious about songwriters getting the credit," Ruby said. "It wasn't until after Dad had his family raised that he started getting royalty checks, which was a nice bonus for him."

After the Ram Trio disbanded in the 1960s, the father of six went to work for the post office in Ketchum. He later retired with his wife, Donna, to Wendell, where their daughter is a schoolteacher.

"My students were always kind of in awe that the guy who wrote `The Hokey Pokey' lived in Wendell," Ruby said. "They used to write him little notes, and they called him `The Hokey Pokey Man.' "