Helena, Montana: A Havre lawmaker has asked a bill be drafted making “Hippy Hippy Shake,” written by a Billings native and recorded by The Beatles, as the official rock ’n’ roll song of Montana.
The song was written by Robert Lee “Chan” Romero in 1959 when he was 17 and a student at Billings Senior High School. Local disc jockey Don Redfield, according to the bill draft being worked by the state’s Legislative Services Division, asked Romero and his band to come to the station to record the song. Redfield then played “Hippy Hippy Shake” over the telephone to Del-Fi’s Bob Keene, who passed it along to The Beatles. They recorded it in 1963.
Rep. Jacob Bachmeier, D-Havre, said it should be given some special recognition.
“I think it’s just a cool piece with some cool local history, with the writer from Montana. It’s something fun and something we should be promoting as a state,” he said last week.
Bachmeier, 20, said he was told about “Hippy Hippy Shake’s” Treasure State history by Dave Martens, a radio station manager and disc jokey at KNMC-FM (90.1) in Havre.
“I thought it would be a cool idea to make it our state rock ’n’ roll song,” Bachmeier said.
Romero, now 77 and living in Southern California, was pleased to hear the news.
“Wow, that is pretty cool,” he said in a telephone interview. “That is pretty amazing.”
He said the song has been in seven or eight movies and has been recorded by 20-some groups.
He said with some amusement that the song was No. 1 in Billings for a while and it’s flip side, “If I had a way,” was No. 2.
He said the song has taken him around the world.
Romero, who got the nickname “Chan” from his grandfather, tried to explain why it remains popular.
“It’s a fun song,” he said. “It’s one of those songs that people like to hear.”
He said he was signed by Del-Fi records after Ritchie Valens and Buddy Holly died in a plane crash.
Romero, who said he still has family in Montana, said he has written a couple hundred songs but is particularly proud about a song called “America,” which he said is a “song about our nation.”
He and LaVerne, his wife of 58 years, are now pastor churches. They have 12 children, “50-plus” grandchildren and 39 great-grandchildren, he said.
In terms of “Hippy, Hippy Shake” being named by the Legislature the official rock ‘n’ roll song of Montana, “I’d be proud to have them to do it,” he said. “What a blessing.”
LaVerne said she is particularly fond of Chan’s song “America.”
But it sounded as if “Hippy Hippy Shake” has lost a little of its luster because when she was asked if she likes the chestnut, she said: “I sure used to — 50 years ago.”
Martens said the song stood out in Montana music history.
“There’s not a song that comes to mind in the public consciousness created by a Montanan that comes close to it,” he said, adding he was impressed that a 17-year-old in Billings had that kind of grasp as rock ‘n’ roll was still being developed.
“Montana did not have any skin in the game at the time,” Martens, 35, said, adding Romero wrote a song “that captured the public’s attention for 60 years.”
The bill draft notes that Romero became the first Latino singer to be inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
But according to some websites, every state has an official rock ‘n’ roll song. However, a researcher at the Montana Historical Society said as far as she knew that was not true for Montana.
The bill, drafted by Sonja Nowakowski, director of the Legislative Services Division office of research and policy analysis, takes a light mood and borrows from the song’s lyrics.
“WHEREAS, Montanans shake it to the left and shake it to the right, and do everything with all of their might.”
It then calls for “Hippy Hippy Shake” to be the official rock ‘n’ roll song of Montana.
Bachmeier said he was not worried about criticism that the bill would stray from the usual business at hand or more serious matters.
“I don’t think people will find it as a waste of time,” he said. “I think people will view it as something fun and different … It’s a piece of Montana history.”
He said he expected the bill to be assigned to the state administration committee, of which he serves.
“But we will see.”
Martens said regardless the song remains “an interesting part of our history.”
“It’s essentially a classic,” he said. “It’s got all this history to it, and it’s a not a well known story.”
‘Hippy Hippy Shake’ it
Here are some of the lyrics to the Hippy Hippy Shake by Robert Lee “Chan” Romero:
For goodness sake
I got the hippy hippy shake
I’ve got to shake
Who the hippy hippy shake
Who I can’t keep still
With the hippy hippy shake
I get my fill
With the hippy hippy shake
Listen: Chan Romero – “Hippy Hippy Shake (Demo)”
Image : Robert Lee ‘Chan’ Romero performs in the Cavern in Liverpool, England in 2018, where The Beatles played in their early years. (Photo: Robert Lee ‘Chan’ Romero/Tony Reyes)