Johnny Otis - Willie And The Hand Jive

First performance: 02/08/1989


 Bruce covered the song only once: 
1989-08-02 Cheers, Long Branch, NJ  
This song was performed during a guest appearance at the club with Bobby Bandiera. This was an unrehearsed performance and Springsteen seems to be making up the lyrics on the spot – the lyrics he sang was very different from the original song.


"Willie and the Hand Jive" is a song written by Johnny Otis and originally released as a single in 1958 by Johnny Otis Show. The song has a Bo Diddley beat and was partly inspired by the music sung by a chain gang Otis heard while he was touring. In a sense, the story is similar to that of Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode", which tells of someone who became famous for playing the guitar and was released two months before "Willie and the Hand Jive". The origin of the song came when one of Otis' managers, Hal Ziegler, found out that rock'n'roll concert venues in England did not permit the teenagers to stand up and dance in the aisles, so they instead danced with their hands while remaining in their seats. At Otis' concerts, performers would demonstrate Willie's "hand jive" dance to the audience, so the audience could dance along. The dance consisted of clapping two fists together one on top of the other, followed by rolling the arms around each other. Otis' label, Capitol Records, also provided diagrams showing how to do the hand jive dance. Despite the song's references to dancing, and despite the demonstrations of the dance during performances, would-be censors believed that the song glorified masturbation. As recently as 1992, an interviewer for NPRasked Otis "Is 'Hand Jive' really about masturbation?". Otis was frustrated by this misinterpretation.

Bruce on the artist


I know a cat named Way Out Willie
He's got a cool little chick named Rockin' Millie
He can walk and stroll and Susie Q
And do that crazy hand jive too
Papa told Willie, "you'll ruin my home
You and that hand jive have got to go"
Willie said, "Papa, don't put me down
They're doin' the hand jive all over town"
Hand jive, hand jive, hand jive
Doin' that crazy hand jive
Mama, Mama look at Uncle Joe
He's doin' that hand jive with sister Flo
Grandma gave baby sister a dime
Said, "do that hand jive one more time"
Doctor and the lawyer and Indian chief
Now they all dig that crazy beat
Way Out Willie gave 'em all a treat
When he did that hand jive with his feet
Hand jive, hand jive, hand jive
Doin' that crazy hand jive
Willie and Millie got married last fall
They had a little Willie Junior and that ain't all
Well, the baby got famous and it's plain to see
Doin' that hand jive on TV
Hand jive, hand jive, hand jive
Doin' that crazy hand jive