Santa has a side hustle teaching the latest dance crazes to the young people of the early 60s? Who knew?
This is a catchy girl-group single from 1962 that really deserves to be heard more. Debbie and the Darnels had a regional hit with “Mr. Johnny Jones” and “Santa, Teach Me To Dance” was the follow-up.
For the record, at no time was there an actual Debbie in the group; the lead singer was 17 year old Dorothy Yutenkas of New Haven, Connecticut; her 19 year old sister Joan Yutenkas and their 17 year old friend Marie Brancati were the Darnels. They’re not to be confused with another group known as the Darnells, two Ls this time, or an entirely different group of Darnells out of Milwaukee sometimes called Denny and the Darnells.
What is a Darnel, by the way? Even the Darnels didn’t know. According to this article from the Yale Daily News, Dorothy said the record label gave it to the group because they didn’t have a name. The piece is wild; the singers get interviewed along with their parents. Mrs. Yutenkas sounds excited that her daughters and their pal are getting some recognition, while dear old dad grumbles about how “that record” – he really calls it “that record” – “has been out six months and they haven’t got a cent of money to show for it.”
Teens dreaming of stardom, Santa teaching them how to do the Hully Gully in between gift drops, moms being proud, dads being cranky… sounds like Christmas to me.