The catch word “jitterbug” comes from an
early 20th century slang term used to describe alcoholics who suffered from the “jitters” (tremors). The term became associated with swing dancers who danced without any control or knowledge of the dance. This term was famously associated with swing era dancers by legendary song stylist and band leader Cab Calloway because, as he put it, “They look like a bunch of jitterbugs out there on the floor”, due to their fast and often bouncy movements on the dance floor. In 50’s pop culture, it became generalized to mean a swing dancer (e.g, you were a jitterbug), a type of swing dance (e.g, you danced the jitterbug), or the act of swing dancing (e.g., you were jitterbugging). In 1957, the American Bandstand featured currently- popular songs, live appearances by musicians, and dancing in the studio. At this time, the most popular fast dance was, in the pre-Beatle, pre-British invasion rock & roll era (mid 50’s-early 60’s, the Jitterbug. British bop brought about “go-go dancing”, essentially doing the jitterbug but in one spot (i.e., a cage). In the 50’s, the Jitterbug was condemned by the Vatican Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church as “immoral and indecent”.