These are twenty-five records that were released between 1956 and 1963 that I deem to be the best dance songs of the era, ranked from #1 to #25.
best dance rank title artist highest ranking week debuted
1 The Twist Chubby Checker 1 8/8/1960
2 King Creole Elvis Presley
3 Twist & Shout Isley Brothers 17 6/30/1962
4 What'd I Say (Parts 1 & 2) Ray Charles 6 7/20/1959
5 Mack the Knife Bobby Darin 1 9/7/1959
6 Quarter to Three Gary "U.S." Bonds 1 6/5/1961
7 Runaround Sue Dion 1 10/2/1961
8 Sugar Shack Jimmy Gilmer & The Fireballs 1 9/28/1963
9 Surfin' U.S.A. The Beach Boys 3 4/13/1963
10 Shout Isley Brothers 47 10/12/1959
11 Why Do Fools Fall in Love Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers 6 2/18/1956
12 Rockin' Robin Bobby Day 2 8/4/1958
13 I Wonder Why Dion & the Belmonts 22 5/26/1958
14 Louie Louie The Kingsmen 2 11/30/1963
15 Tossin' and Turnin' Bobby Lewis 1 5/29/1961
16 Runaway Del Shannon 1 3/27/1961
17 Rock & Roll Music Chuck Berry 8 11/11/1957
17 All Shook Up Elvis Presley 1 4/6/1957
18 Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On Jerry Lee Lewis 3 7/17/1957
20 Lonely Teardrops Jackie Wilson 7 12/8/1958
21 You Can't Sit Down The Dovells 3 5/11/1963
22 Party Lights Claudine Clark 5 7/21/1962
23 Handy Man Jimmy Jones 2 1/18/1960
24 Summertime Blues Eddie Cochran 8 8/28/1958
25 Little Darlin' The Diamonds 2 3/16/1957
The twist was one of the most popular dances of The Elvis Era -- it became a national craze when adults started doing it, too.

Rock and roll was all about dancing -- when the teens rated a record on American Bandstand it was all about "It's got a beat and you can dance to it." Below is a list of my top 25 dance records from the Elvis Era. It was a difficult list to make as there are lots more that probably deserve to be on the list -- and in my mind there isn't much difference between #25"Little Darlin'" and #1 "The Twist." In many cases I would have to admit that my ranking was somewhat arbitrary. But I am certain that all these records would get an A+ rating from me.

For many of the songs, you might take issue with the ranking, but you can't argue much with its presence on the list. For example, the twist was the biggest dance craze of the era and Chubby Checker's initial admonition to "Come on baby, let's do the twist" resonated in two separate years; "The Twist" went to number one in 1960 and again in 1962. Ray Charles' "What'd I Say" has been covered by many artists from Elvis Presley's performance in the movie "Viva Las Vegas" to Brian Dennehy and Chris Farley in "Tommy Boy." Bobby Darin's "Mack the Knife" starts out cool and picks up steam becoming a classic dance number. Chuck Berry probably deserves to have several more songs on the list, but "Rock and Roll Music" is my favorite and, in a way, he also gets some credit for The Beach Boys' "Surfin' USA."

Some songs on my list are probably a little surprising. Maybe "King Creole" shouldn't be as high as I have it -- it certainly wasn't that popular as a single, since it was never released as such, being one cut on an EP of songs from the movie. But in my mind it is early Presley at his best. Two Isley Brothers songs in the top 25 is perhaps overkill, but I stand by both as premium dance songs. "Twist & Shout" perhaps gets a boost because of its later cover by The Beatles, and "Shout" perhaps because of the classic scene in "Animal House." Dion and the Belmonts' "I Wonder Why" never made the top twenty for a week, but it makes my list of dance songs for the era -- I can only say that my judgement is superior to the record buying public of 1958.

There are other dance songs that I would also give an A+ rating, but to continue to split hairs and rank them is too taxing an effort -- therefore they are listed in alphabetical order.

Other A+ Dance Records From The Elvis Era:
At the Hop by Danny & the Juniors 12/9/1957 #1
Believe What You Say by Ricky Nelson 4/7/1958 #4
Be My Baby by The Ronettes 9/14/1963 #2
Beyond the Sea by Bobby Darin 1/25/1960 #6
Big Girls Don't Cry by The Four Seasons 10/27/1962 #1
Bird Dog by The Everly Brothers 8/11/1958 #1
Breaking Up Is Hard To Do by Neil Sedaka 7/7/1962 #1
Bye Bye Love by The Everly Brothers 5/27/1957 #2
Come Go With Me by The Dell-Vikings 3/2/1957 #4
Da Doo Ron Ron by The Crystals 5/11/1963 #3
Dear Lady Twist by Gary "U.S." Bonds 1/13/1962 #9
Devil in Disguise by Elvis Presley 7/13/1963 #3
Don't Be Cruel by Elvis Presley 8/4/1956 #1
Do You Love Me by The Contours 9/22/1962 #3
Dream Lover by Bobby Darin 5/4/1959 #2
Duke of Earl by Gene Chandler 1/27/1962 #1
Great Balls of Fire by Jerry Lee Lewis 12/2/1957 #2
Green Onions by Booker T. & The MGs 9/1/1962 #3
Hey! Baby by Bruce Channel 2/10/1962 #1
I Know (You Don't Love Me No More) by Barbara George 12/18/1961 #3
I Like It Like That by Chris Kenner 7/3/1961 #2
It Will Stand by The Showmen 10/1/1961 #61
Johnny B. Goode by Chuck Berry 5/5/1958 #8
Kansas City by Wilbert Harrison 4/27/1959 #1
La Bamba by Ritchie Valens 1/19/1959 #22
Let's Dance by Chris Montez 9/8/1962 #4
Let the Good Times Roll by Shirley & Lee 9/8/1956 #20
The Lion Sleeps Tonight by The Tokens 11/27/1961 #1
A Little Bit of Soap by The Jarmels 8/28/1961 #12
Lonely Teenager by Dion 11/14/1960 #12
Mashed Potato Time by Dee Dee Sharp 3/17/1962 #2
Party Doll by Buddy Knox 3/2/1957 #1
Peggy Sue by Buddy Holly 11/11/1957 #3
Personality by Lloyd Price 5/11/1959 #2
Please Mr. Postman by The Marvelettes 10/16/1961 #1
Poor Little Fool by Ricky Nelson 7/7/1958 #1
Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree by Brenda Lee 12/19/1960 #14
Roll Over Bethoven by Chuck Berry 6/30/1956 #29
School Day by Chuck Berry 4/20/1957 #3
Sheila by Tommy Roe 8/11/1962 #1
Sherry by The Four Seasons 9/1/1962 #1
Singing the Blues by Guy Mitchell 11/3/1956 #1
Stagger Lee by Lloyd Price 1/9/1959 #1
Step by Step by The Crests 4/4/1960 #14
Surf City by Jan & Dean 6/22/1963 #1
Surfin' Safari by The Beach Boys 9/15/1962 #14
Sweet Little Sixteen by Chuck Berry 2/24/1958 #2
Sweet Nothin's by Brenda Lee 2/15/1960 #4
A Teenager in Love by Dion & the Belmonts 4/27/1959 #5
Tell Him by The Exciters 12/15/1962 #4
Tequila by The Champs 3/3/1958 #1
That'll Be the Day by Buddy Holly & the Crickets 8/19/1957 #1
Til I Kissed You by The Everly Brothers 8/24/1959 #4
The Twist by Chubby Checker 11/20/1961 #1
Wake Up Little Susie by The Everly Brothers 9/30/1957 #1
Walk Like A Man by The Four Seasons 1/26/1963 #1
Wipe Out by The Surfaris 7/6/1963 #2