“Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini” dominated AM radio in 196o, making Brian Hyland a teen idol in the process. The song hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was a hit around the world. It was written by Paul Vance and Lee Pockriss and first released in June 1960, inspired by Vance’s daughter, who was too shy to wear a bikini in public.
Paul Vance was born November 4, 1929, as Joseph Paul Florio in Brooklyn, New York. He was writing songs, in his early teens, before serving in the U.S. Army at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He opened an auto salvage business in his 20s where he met Lee Pockriss (January 20, 1924 – November 14, 2011) whom he would begin writing songs.
He [Vance] understands the public, I understand the professionLee Pockriss
Perry Como would record their 1957 song “Catch a Falling Star” which would top the Billboard’s “Most Played By Jockeys” chart. It was the first gold record certified by the Recording Industry Association of America. This success got Vance and Pockriss a full-time writing gig.
In 1964 Vance and Pockriss wrote a song as a spoof of the popular “Leader of the Pack” by the Shangri-Las. It was recorded by a trio consisting of Ron Dante, Tommy Wynn, and Vance’s nephew Danny Jordan and called “Leader Of The Laundromat”. The record was released under the name “The Detergents”.
The success of the single led to a quick album, produced by Vance with all the songs penned by him and Pockriss. The writers of “Leader of the Pack”, Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich, and George “Shadow” Morton sued them over the song. Jeff Barry and Ron Dante would soon work together on the Archies.
In 1960 Ron Dante would sing the Vance/Pockriss song “Tracy”. With Dante providing all the voices, the song was released as “The Cuff Links”. This led to a second album with Dante, “Tracy”, produced and co-written by Vance with Pockriss. Vance would record his song “Dommage, Dommage (Too Bad, Too Bad)” and release it in August of 1966. It was covered by 12 other artists.
Vance wrote over 300 songs, including recordings by Johnny Mathis, Paul Anka, and Tommy James and the Shondells. Pockriss and Vance released a single in 1959 for Columbia Records as ‘Lee and Paul,’ a novelty tune called “The Chick.” He wrote “What Will Mary Say” with Eddie Snyder which was a top ten hit for Johnny Mathis.
Paul Vance worked at New York’s Brill Building, then the center of the songwriting trade. He died Sunday, May 30, 2022, at the age of 92. As a harness racing owner, the United States Trotting Association lists Vance as owning or leasing 167 horses during his career. And he was listed as the breeder of 129 mares during that time period.
- The Brill Building is an office building at 1619 Broadway on 49th Street in the New York City borough of Manhattan, just north of Times Square and further uptown from the historic musical Tin Pan Alley neighborhood. It was built in 1931 as the Alan E. Lefcourt Building, after the son of its builder Abraham E. Lefcourt, and designed by Victor Bark Jr. The building is 11 stories high and has approximately 175,000 square feet (16,300 m2) of rentable area. The Brill Building is famous for housing music industry offices and studios where some of the most popular American songs were written. It is considered to have been the center of the American music industry that dominated the pop charts in the early 1960s. The “Brill” name comes from a haberdasher who operated a store at street level and subsequently bought the building.
- Harness racing is a form of horse racing in which the horse race at a specific gait (a trot or a pace). They usually pull a two-wheeled cart called a sulky, spider, or chariot occupied by a driver.