Album: Disco Duck (1976)
Charted: 6 1
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  • Rigdon Osmond Dees III was a disc jockey at WMPS-AM in Memphis when he recorded this song, a satire of the disco craze that was in full swing at the time.

    Dees wrote this song in one day at his apartment. In 1975, he released a single ("Page 602" backed with "National Wet Off") that was released on the local Fretone label. That one tanked, but "Disco Duck" got some attention in the South, so Dees pitched it to the major labels, finding a taker in RSO. The song took off, but Dees wasn't allowed to play it on the air because station management feared that would violate FCC conflict-of-interest rules. On October 11, 1976, WMPS fired him for mentioning the song on his show; it reached #1 on the US Hot 100 five days later.

    Dees took his act to rival WHBQ-AM, where he played "Disco Duck" it with impunity. His career went in an upward trajectory, landing at the powerhouse Los Angeles station KIIS, where he worked from 1982-2004. Aside from this song, his is best known as the host of the syndicated Rick Dees' Weekly Top 40, which began in 1983. He also became a TV personality, with a short-lived talk show called Into the Night with Rick Dees in 1990.
  • The voice of this song sounds a lot like the Disney character Donald Duck, prompting speculation that Clarence Nash, who voices Donald Duck, sang on this. The Walt Disney Company has emphatically denied this rumor; however, in 1979, toward the tail end of the disco era, Disney put out an album called Mickey Mouse Disco featuring adaptations of various disco songs, including one by Nash as Donald Duck.
  • According to Dees, the voice of the duck was provided by a guy he met at the gym who could pull it off. This was Kenneth Pruitt, who sued Dees after the song became a hit, claiming he was paid just $188 for his services, which included dressing up in a duck suit to promote the song on various TV appearances and on a walk through Times Square in New York City. It's likely that the suit was settled and Pruitt ordered to keep quiet - he has not been heard from.
  • Dees cites a song called "The Duck" by the soul singer Jackie Lee as inspiration. That song went to #14 US in 1966.
  • The "disco duck" is a sort of chicken dance, with an awkward flapping motion. The song is about a guy who earns his wings on the dance floor with these moves. The duck provides commentary.
  • Dees had a side hustle at a Memphis nightclub called Chesterfield's, where he was a DJ/MC. This gave a him a good look at how disco was trending, even in a blues-oriented city like Memphis. He knew the time was right for a parody.
  • This was the last novelty song to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. In the early years of Rock and Roll, novelty songs were huge - there were three #1 novelty tunes in 1960 alone ("Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini," "Alley Oop," "Mr. Custer"). But despite the efforts of Jim Stafford and Cheech & Chong, novelty songs waned in the '70s.
  • Estelle Axton, who owned Fretone Records, paired Dees with Bobby Manuel, a producer who used to work with her at Stax Records. Manuel produced the track and played the guitar.

    Axton was the "AX" in Stax Records, having founded the legendary company with her brother, Jim Stewart. Stax was home to Sam & Dave, Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding and many other Soul luminaries during her time there. Axton sold her interest in the company in the late '60s and formed Fretone. "Disco Duck" was by far the biggest hit for the label.
  • This song was featured in the movie Saturday Night Fever but was not included on its soundtrack album.
  • Dees released a follow-up song called "Dis-Gorilla," about a disco-loving simian. It topped out at #56 in 1977, but was not his last chart appearance: he returned with "Bigfoot" (#110, 1978), "Eat My Shorts" (#75, 1984) and "Get Nekked" (#104, 1984).
  • The single went Platinum for sales of a million copies in America. It wasn't the only "disco" song to earn that metal in 1976: "Disco Lady" by Johnnie Taylor also did it.
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Comments: 15

  • Dean from Birmingham, AlRick Dees was on the air in Birmingham, AL on one of the AM stations, 960 WERC, I believe it was, about a year before he recorded "Disco Duck." I liked him and this song!
  • George from Vancouver, CanadaWhy on Earth would playing this song get him fired as a DJ?!
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn September 7th 1984, Los Angeles disc jockey Rick Dees replaced singer Marilyn McCoo as the host of the syndicated TV program 'Solid Gold'*...
    Exactly eight years earlier on September 7th, 1976 "Disco Duck (Part 1)" by Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots was at #26 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart, a little over three weeks later on October 10th it would peak at #1 {for 1 week} and it stayed on the chart for almost a half-year {25 weeks}...
    As stated in Wayne of Ottawa's next post below, the group did have one other Top 100 record, "Dis-Gorilla (Part 1)", it entered the chart on January 9th, 1977 at position #77, and it remained on the Top 100 for six weeks, peaking at #56...
    * 'Solid Gold' aired from 1980 to 1988 with 332 original episodes.
  • Wayne from Ottawa'Disco Duck' was NOT Rick Dees' only recording. In fact, he followed up 'Disco Duck' with 'Dis-Gorilla' several months later, but unlike its smash-hit predecessor, it flopped on the charts.
  • Randy from Fayettevile, ArWoW! I'll never forget this silly hit song. When it was big on the charts in 1976, my girlfriend at the time Juicy Lucy kept wondering about the Donald Duck voice. Then, we got into some idiotic conversations about why Donald Duck doesn't wear trousers & why he hasn't been arrested for indecent exposure. Juicy Lucy wasn't wrapped too tightly, you see. Thankfully, all this idiocy ended once the record fell off the charts. But what a funny and crazy song it was. Novelty songs never make it on the charts these days. I wonder why?
  • Esskayess from Dallas, TxIn 1982, the college I was attending conducted a survey of the students for their choice of the 10 worst songs of the 1970s. The top-10 vote getters were put into a beat-up old jukebox and dropped 300 feet from the top of a crane, with the #1 choice of them all playing as it fell. This song was the one. (Other finalists were ‘Muskrat Love’ and ‘Telephone Man.’)
  • Brad from Barry, TxDees also sang the title track to the 1979 Original Soundtrack of "Meatballs."
  • Jennifer Harris from Grand Blanc, MiI love this song! it's cute!
  • Eric from Budel-schoot, NetherlandsDisco Duck was inspired by "The Duck", recorded by Jackie Lee in 1965.
  • Garth from Los Angeles, CaRick WAS at WMPS! In fact, he was FIRED from that station for talking about and playing Disco Duck. Or so the story goes. Their control-freak program director couldn't handle Rick's sudden fame, so they canned him and cited some vague FCC rule. WHBQ, their cross-town rival, signed him up immediately and their ratings went through the roof. WMPS flamed out shortly thereafter.
  • David from Martin, TnRick Dees Was NOT at WMPS AM. He WAS at WHBQ AM radio in Memmphis!
  • Andrew from Birmingham, United StatesI know what you mean. I do hear Donald Duck in this disco hit. I always crack up when I hear this song. I'm a fan of disco. If I were a duck, I'd try to act the same way as the Disco Duck. The intro sounds like the Star-Wars-laser-gun-firing sound being harnessed through a PC Speaker. That's hyper-funky with the duck voice that cracks me up. "Disco Duck" definitely deserves to be on the disco list's top ten. Mr. Dees, you rock!! Disco pride!!
  • Musicmama from New York, NyDorothy Parker once said that the problem with practical jokes is that they sometimes get elected. Or they become #1 hits. Such is the case with this one. To all the pollsters who rated it the worst song of all time, I say: Relax! This is about as harmful as anything "Weird Al" did! At least it's not a bad song with pretenses that was made by some pompous, talentless twerp who thought he was creating Art (Yes, with a capital A) or who are simply inept.
  • Darrell from EugeneThe lyrics of this song remind me of the first and only time that I danced disco. Despite my long sideburns, pompadour toupee and Elvis-style polyester suit, I essentially had two left feet, and since I was dead drunk half the time, my movements were more akin to those of a jellyfish than those of John Travolta. I still have the Elvis suit, and I have performed the occasional (rather embarassing) Elvis impersonation several times since 1976.
  • Dick from Thousand Oaks, CaRick Dees is back on the air in the LA area. A former country station has changed to "Movin-93.9" with Dees as the morning DJ.
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