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‘Disco Duck’? Quacky hit by North Carolina DJ Rick Dees topped charts this week in 1976

“Disco Duck” topped the Billboard charts this week in 1976.
“Disco Duck” topped the Billboard charts this week in 1976. Screengrab from Youtube

Rick Dees is a radio personality of international stardom who grew up in North Carolina. He’s the host of the nationally syndicated Weekly Top 40 Countdown and a former late night comic.

He’s also the writer of what is widely regarded as one of the worst songs from the 1970s — which reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts this week in 1976.

“Disco Duck” was recorded by Rick Dees & His Cast of Idiots featuring a guy from Dees’ gym doing a duck voice and tells the story of a man at a party who turns into a duck.

“All of a sudden I began to change, I was on the dance floor actin’ strange — quack — quack!” the lyrics go. “Flappin’ my arms, I began to cluck — go, do! Quack! — look at me, I’m the Disco Duck!”

Decades later, it ranked first on Rolling Stone’s top 10 worst songs of the 1970s picked by readers — a sentiment echoed by a writer for Stereogum who is reviewing every No. 1 single in Billboard history.

“‘Disco Duck’ can’t compete with the actual disco songs of its era, and it doesn’t work as a joke. Because it’s not funny,” Tom Breihan said. “Also, Rick Dees can’t sing. So that’s a problem, too.”

Dees grew up in Greensboro and studied radio at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before moving to Memphis, where he was a disc jockey, according to the N.C. Music Hall of Fame.

He was working at that Tennessee radio station when he wrote and recorded “Disco Duck,” which sold 6 million copies and was featured in the disco movie “Saturday Night Fever.”

“Dees won a ‘People’s Choice Award’ from this hit but, ironically, was not allowed to play it on the air at the radio station where he worked,” his Hall of Fame bio states.

He was also reportedly fired for mentioning that on air.

But it was only a few years later that Dees started hosting the Weekly Top 40 Countdown in 1983.

He went on to receive a Grammy Award nomination for a comedy album, host a late night show in the 1990s, guest star on Roseanne and voice the Flintstones, according to IMDb.

The Weekly Top 40 Countdown is still going strong today — and we have “Disco Duck” to thank for that.

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Hayley is a Real Time reporter at The Charlotte Observer covering breaking news and trending stories in the Carolinas. She also created the Observer’s unofficial bird beat (est. 2015) with a summer full of ornithological-related content, including a story about Barred Owls in love.
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