Larry LaPrise claimed to have created the tune and novelty dance as entertainment for the Sun Valley, Idaho, ski crowd in 1949. It was recorded by his group, the Ram Trio, the same year. The following year he was granted copyright for the song, together with the other members of the Ram Trio, Charles Macak and Tafit Baker. However LaPrise's claim to authorship must be questioned as both the square dance and a very similar tune called "The Hokey Cokey" had been widely popular with American servicemen and Britons in England during the 1940s. LaPrise didn't receive any royalties for the song until its rights were purchased by Roy Acuff's publishing company in the 1960s.
The song only received nationwide recognition in the US after big band leader Ray Anthony recorded it as the B-side to his novelty tune "Bunny Hop."
LaPrise said in 1992: "The Hokey Pokey is like a square dance, really. You turn around. You shake it all about. Everyone is in a circle, and it gets them all involved."
LaPrise died in 1996 and 12 years later the following joke was widely circulated on the internet: Sad News. With all the sadness and trauma going on in the world at the moment, it is worth reflecting on the death of a very important person, which almost went unnoticed last week. Larry LaPrise, the man that wrote "The Hokey Pokey" died peacefully at the age of 83. The most traumatic part for his family was getting him into the coffin. They put his left leg in. And then the trouble started.