Your Mama Don't Dance

Album: Loggins and Messina (1972)
Charted: 4
Play Video


  • This song is a homage to the teenage rebellion songs of the '50s. It's about a kid whose parents are on the conservative side, much to his dismay (that 10 p.m. curfew is pretty tight). One night, he parks in the shadows at the drive-in movie with his date, but gets a visit from a cop, who takes him in. Seems he's doomed to be home at night when everyone else is out having fun, and it's all because his mama don't dance and his daddy don't rock and roll.
  • This was influenced by a 1963 song by The Rooftop Singers called "Mama Don't Allow," which is about a kid whose mama won't tolerate guitar playing. It reached #55 in the US that year.
  • Kenny Loggins and Jim Messina wrote this song early on in their partnership, writing it in the studio one day while they were waiting for their band to arrive. They didn't think much of it, but when they recorded it about eight months later, it became a huge hit in America, climbing to #4. Much to their dismay, it endured as their best-known song, which was frustrating because it was sort of a throwaway and didn't represent their sound. Loggins and Messina were both accomplished songwriters and musicians, who along with their top-notch band, made music that was far more complex in both music and lyrics. Tracks like "Angry Eyes" and "Till The Ends Meet" are what they considered far more substantial, but for many listeners, Loggins and Messina are most associated with "Your Mama Don't Dance."
  • Loggins and Messina formed when Kenny Loggins, who was working as a songwriter, got a solo deal with Columbia Records. The label's boss, Clive Davis, had Jim Messina produce him, and it quickly became clear that their voices blended exceptionally well together. The first album they worked on, released in 1971, was titled Kenny Loggins with Jim Messina Sittin' In, and was at first considered a Loggins solo album with Messina in the title because as a former member of Poco and Buffalo Springfield, he had name recognition. That album sold very well, so they recorded another, this time clearly stated as Loggins and Messina. "Your Mama Don't Dance" was part of that set, and made them so successful as a team that they continued their partnership until 1976, even though they were often at odds and never thought of Loggins and Messina as a long-term project.
  • The voice of the cop who orders, "Out of the car, longhair," is Merel Bregante, who played drums in their band. Michael Omartian, who later became a top producer, played the boogie-woogie piano.
  • Elvis Presley sang a few lines from this song as part of a medley in 1974 for his album Recorded Live On Stage In Memphis. Poison returned the song to the chart in 1989 with their cover version, which reached #10 US.
  • This was used in the TV series Switch in the 1975 episode "Las Vegas Roundabout," where it was performed by lounge singers in a casino. It was also used in the 2006 comedy RV, starring Robin Williams.
  • Messina's music-loving mama couldn't dance because his [step]daddy didn't rock and roll. The song was inspired by Messina's upbringing in a strict household where his square stepfather thought The Beatles were weird. "My stepfather was from Arkansas and he was not much of a mover or a groover. (laughs) And my mom... my mama... she loved music. She loved Elvis Presley and Ricky Nelson. She loved race music. My stepfather was more of an Ernest Tubb, Hank Snow, Johnny Cash kind of guy. There was not a whole lot of connection or understanding with me wanting to do music other than from my mom," Messina told The College Crowd Digs Me in 2018.

    "So just the line, 'Your mama don't dance and your daddy don't rock and roll...' came from me thinking about how my mother wasn't really doing what she loves to do. She couldn't do that. My stepfather was not into rock and roll. He thought The Beatles were just... weird. (laughs) Screaming, long-haired idiots, right? (laughs) So I grew up having to put up with that. And it was a fun lyric to come up with. I had no intention of it ever having any kind of social significance whatsoever other than my own experience of a kinda funky household."
  • When Messina first heard Poison's cover, he wasn't a fan. "It's so different than ours, and I didn't really care for it at first, didn't like the sound. Of course, that's just me being a perfectionist," he told the Columbia, Tennessee, publication The Daily Herald in 2021. "But then, I listened to the rest of their album, and then I listened to our album and thought, 'You know what, this is an extension of their art, their sound, texture, their brushstrokes. This is what their fans expect and want to hear from them,' and when I looked at it from that standpoint they hit it right on exactly what they were trying to create."

Comments: 7

  • Al from Elkins Park, PaIn the lyrics:
    "Out of the car long hair
    Oowee, you're coming with me
    Said the local police."

    I always thought the line was:
    "Get outta the car, long hair
    Louie, you're coming with me
    To the local police!"

    Another lyric site has "Louise, you're coming with me, to the local police!" And says that Kenny Loggins had reused the name Louise in "Footloose"...
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn November 5th 1972, "Your Mama Don't Dance" by Loggins & Messina entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #89; and 11 weeks later on January 21st, 1973 it peaked at #4 {for 1 week} and spent 16 weeks on the Top 100...
    It reached #19 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary Tracks chart…
    Seventeen years later Poison covered the song; and on April 9th, 1989 their version peaked at #10 {for 1 week} on the Top 100 chart...
    Between April 1972 to October 1975 Loggins & Messina had ten Top 100 records; with "Your Mama Don't Dance" being their only Top 10 record...
    They did have two records make the Top 20; "Thinking of You" at #18 in 1973, then succeeded by "My Music", which reached #16, also in 1973.
  • Esskayess from Dallas, Tx'Outta da car, Longhair!!'
  • Sara from Silver Spring, MdIt was not based on "Mama Don't Allow"
  • Sara from Silver Spring, MdElvis didn't cover this, he included the first two lines in a medley so it was only "partly covered" by Elvis. Kenny Loggins has sung it in it in his various concerts often interloping other songs in the medley.
  • Garrett from Nashville, TnThis song sounds very influenced by the Everly Brothers.
  • Ken from Louisville, KyJim Messina was working as an "A&R" man for Columbia Records and when they signed Loggins, he was assigned to work with him. During Loggins' first recording sessions for Columbia, Messina was there to help with vocal harmonies and production. The pair worked so well together the album was named "Kenny Loggins with Jim Messina Sitting In". Columbia was so pleased with the results that they promoted them as a duo and shortened the album name to "Sitting In".
see more comments

Editor's Picks

Chris Tomlin

Chris TomlinSongwriter Interviews

The king of Christian worship music explains talks about writing songs for troubled times.

Martyn Ware of Heaven 17

Martyn Ware of Heaven 17Songwriter Interviews

Martyn talks about producing Tina Turner, some Heaven 17 hits, and his work with the British Electric Foundation.

Ian Astbury of The Cult

Ian Astbury of The CultSongwriter Interviews

The Cult frontman tells who the "Fire Woman" is, and talks about performing with the new version of The Doors.

Trans Soul Rebels: Songs About Transgenderism

Trans Soul Rebels: Songs About TransgenderismSong Writing

A history of songs dealing with transgender issues, featuring Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Morrissey and Green Day.

Benny Mardones

Benny MardonesSongwriter Interviews

His song "Into The Night" is one of the most-played of all time. For Benny, it took him to hell and back.

Jon Anderson of Yes

Jon Anderson of YesSongwriter Interviews

From the lake in "Roundabout" to Sister Bluebird in "Starship Trooper," Jon Anderson talks about how nature and spirituality play into his lyrics for Yes.