Our article, When the U-T Ruled the Dance Floor, published in the spring 2021 print edition, sparked a wealth of memories and comments about the UT songs and dance fad that swept the country in the 1960s. Readers shared stories of long-ago dances and parties, praised the skills of their classmates (including one of the dancers pictured in the story’s illustration above), and brought to light yet another song related to the dance—this one with a connection to legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix.
Here’s what you had to say about the U-T:
I got a lot of great dates by teaching girls the UT. I also almost got thrown out of the social dance class by doing the UT in class. Some of my partners became friends for life.”
“I am a graduate of UT, the college, in 1963. However, I attended Wofford College in Spartanburg, SC my first two years. I was at a dance one night in 1961 at Winthrop College in Rock Hill, SC. I had learned the ‘UT’ during the summer while home in Knoxville. I loved to dance and I spotted a young lady that was a very good dancer and asked her if she wanted to dance. She did and we began what turned out to be the most memorable dance of my life.
We were really getting into the dance and everyone attending the dance formed a circle around us to watch. After a few minutes entertaining everyone, I felt a tap on the back of my shoulder. When I turned around to see who it was, the band stopped playing and the place got very quiet. The lady that had tapped my shoulder turned out to be the Dean of Students at the college. She said, in a very loud voice, ‘Son, what do you think you are doing with those nasty moves on our dance floor?’ Before I could say a thing, she grabbed my arm and walked me to the exit door telling me on the way that I was banned from ever coming back to the Winthrop College campus for doing such a ‘dirty dance.’
I never went back to the Winthrop campus but I danced ‘The UT’ many more times and never got kicked out again.”
—Jerry Scott (’63)
Scott’s daughter, Erica Scott Kennison, added a note of her own:
“That’s my Daddy. Best dancer around! I love to tell this story.”
Although I don’t recall the song, we certainly did the UT for many years. I guess officially class of 1965 since I graduated high school in 1961, but I graduated UT in June ’64. Lots of parties, lots of dancing.”
“In September 1961, I arrived at the Knoxville campus to begin my freshman year at U-T. At that moment, I had never heard of the dance ‘The U-T,’ but I quickly learned to do it and to love it.
You mentioned in your nice article that a dance called ‘The Hoss’ had some influence on downgrading the popularity of ‘The U-T.’ I never heard of ‘The Hoss.’ The two fad dances in the first half of the 1960s that later hit the Knoxville campus were ‘The Jerk,’ first demonstrated to me in Fall 1962 by some kids from Chattanooga, and ‘The Twist’ which was nationwide. But ‘The U-T’ was still being performed along with these two right up until the time I finally graduated in 1966.
An interesting aside to this story occurred some two years later at a singles party back here in my Alabama hometown. A young lady who I had known since we were both 6 years old, but had never dated, came up to me and specifically asked if I would dance ‘The U-T’ with her! I was delighted to do so, but I failed to ask her how she knew about the dance as I know she had never lived outside of the Birmingham area.
Finally, I am convinced the young lady shown on the far right in the photo published on page 26 in the Spring 2021 issue is Dola Faye Terry. I apologize if I have misspelled her name, but it has only been 59 years since I last saw her. She danced a great ‘U-T.’”
Thomas “Shay” Lawson (’66)
“Yes, I did the UT. In fact, I think it even started in the local high school here, but that’s another story. The woman in the picture is Dola Faye Terry, now Thompson, and I’m not sure what year she graduated but she was an Alpha Xi Delta sorority sister of mine and she was a UT cheerleader.”
Kay Haslett Stokely (’62)
The woman at far right in the illustration, adapted from a series of 1961 News Sentinel photos, is indeed Dola Faye Terry. Also pictured are Howard Patterson, Sandra Ricketts, Bob Beals, Felecia Felts, and Henry Burkitt.
“This dance picture is taken on the back patio of the old Sigma Chi Fraternity house then located at 1119 Circle Park Drive. Sandra Ricketts was from my home town of Arlington, Tennessee. Other old pictures which ran in the same news article clearly shows the Sigma Chi pin on one of these dancers.”
Kelley Hinsley (’69)
Beta Sigma, Sigma Chi
“I remember the UT dance extremely well and still remember the two young women who many thought were the top two women dancers of the UT, both Tennessee graduates of 1962: Emily Birchfield from Gatlinburg and Rubye Lynn Dobbins from Memphis. The dancing the UT is one of my favorite memories. Glad to see the story and appreciate the Torchbearer.”
Bethel (Bo) Thomas (’62)
Yes I did the UT in Knoxville in 1961. It was dancing improv apart from each other to a rock beat. It spread everywhere like wildfire, mostly through fraternities and sororities.”
“Not quite old enough to remember the U-T (’66–’70), but I do remember when ‘U-T’was the News Sentinel’s style on second reference. Great story.”
Susan Gilbert Barnes (’70)
“Maybe someone who was there will post a video of what this dance looks like! I’m curious for sure!”
“There is a song on a Jimi Hendrix anthology West Coast Seattle Boy called ‘The Utee’ with Rosa Lee Brooks.
West Coast Seattle Boy was released in 2010. I downloaded the anthology and heard the song for the first time ever years ago. I didn’t realize that it was associated with my alma mater, although I wondered about it.
Memphis native Arthur Lee, as well as Hendrix and Rosa Lee Brooks, claims to have written the song. ‘Utee’ may be a derivative of The U-T. Interesting!”
Barbara Mathieson (’73)
After receiving Mathieson’s email about “Utee”—a song we’d missed earlier because of the different spelling—we were able to talk with Rosa Lee Brooks to learn more. She lives in the Los Angeles area and still performs regularly.
Brooks said she was in a studio session with Hendrix on guitar when the two of them came up with “Utee” on the fly as a B side to her Revis Records single “My Diary.” (The label credits Brooks and producer Billy Revis as the songwriters for “Utee.”)
While some sources date the session to 1965, Brooks remembers it as having taken place in February 1964. She said Hendrix, who was then touring with Little Richard and still largely unknown, had been recommended as a guitarist who could play like Curtis Mayfield.
When the time came to record the B side, Brooks recalled, “Jimi just came with the rhythm, that horn jumped in, the guitar—everything just jumped in all at once, and then I just started singing.”
Brooks said she’d learned to dance the U-T from Major Lance’s bass player, who was in town from Detroit and who also plays on the track. She’d always thought the name came from the dance itself: “You just make a U and a T with your feet.”
The 45 is rare, selling for hundreds of dollars, and because the track is unavailable on YouTube we weren’t able to add it to our playlist—but it’s available on most streaming services and absolutely worth a listen.