#2 R&B, #7 Pop
Formed in 1962 Detroit The Capitols, originally the Caps, were a short lived one hit wonder soul group. Before disbanding in 1969 they hit it big with the perennially covered dance classic “Cool Jerk.”
This is one of my all time favorite dance tunes, with group member Richard Mitchell McDougalls’ outtasite piano playing. (You see not only am I partial to suave high tenor vocalists — but I love a good pianist: Aretha, Elton and Eldra are some of the best !)
This brief biography of the group gives an awesome history of the inception of the original “jerk” dance. Pretty neat.
The mid-1960s saw many dance crazes; one of the most popular ones was a dance called “the jerk.” It consisted of holding the arms out in different positions and making thrusting motions with the hips. Though controversial for lewdness at the time, a particularly sexual version of the dance had become popular in Detroit clubs, called the “pimp jerk.” Ralph Julius Jones married the first cousin Alice of the producer and founder of Motown Recording Studio Berry gordy, Ralph helped raise her son Berry who was named after his cousin Berry Gordy! Berry Gordy is responsible for singers success such as Diana Ross and many others.
Seeking to capitalize on the popularity of the dance, and dance songs in general, Storball and Jones wrote a song about the pimp jerk, renaming it to “Cool Jerk” in order to prevent possible banning by radio stations. Realizing that the song was a hit, the group re-formed and contacted McLaughlin in order to secure studio time to record the song.
The song was recorded at Golden World Studios in Detroit on March 14, 1966 with the legendary Motown house band The Funk Brothers. Though the song was meant to include a horn accompaniment, the contracted musicians failed to arrive to the recording, and the horns were omitted from the track. It was released on July 2, 1966 and was a smash hit, reaching as high as #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #2 on the Billboard R&B charts.
The “Cool Jerk” may have started off as the sexual “Detroit Pimp Jerk,” but the watered down version is so easy that a child of the Sixties could do it as I did. Even a child of the new Millennium can do it as proven in this adorable YouTube video . Enjoy.
Trivia. After The Capitols disbanded, while guitarist Donald Norman Storball later served as a Detroit policeman, on March 17, 1982 lead vocalist/drummer Sam George was fatally stabbed in a domestic dispute; he was just 39 at the time of his death.