Witch Doctor (song)

"Witch Doctor"
Single by David Seville
from the album The Alvin Show
B-side "Don't Whistle at Me, Baby"
Released 1 April 1958 (1958-04-01)
Format 45 rpm
Recorded 1 January 1958
Genre Comedic Scat, Novelty Song
Length 2:15
Label Liberty
Writer(s) Ross Bagdasarian, Sr.
Producer(s) Ross Bagdasarian, Sr.
David Seville singles chronology
"Witch Doctor"
"The Bird on My Head"

"Witch Doctor" is a song performed by Ross Bagdasarian Sr., and released in 1958 by Liberty Records under the stage name David Seville.

Song information

The song tells the story of a man in love with a woman who initially does not return his affections. Longing for her companionship, the man goes to see a witch doctor for advice. The wise witch doctor replies, "Oo ee oo ah ah ting tang walla walla bing bang" (a phrase which is repeated three times as the chorus of the song, alternating "bing bang" with "bang bang"). At the middle of the song, the man tells the woman he loves about his asking the witch doctor for advice.

The voice of the "witch doctor" was in fact Bagdasarian's own voice sped up to double speed, a technique later exploited by Bagdasarian to create Alvin and the Chipmunks (and which he had also used on at least one other pre-Chipmunk song, "The Bird on My Head"). Because of this, it is often referred to (even in later compilations) as the first song by the Chipmunks; this is not precisely true. For one, only one sped-up "chipmunk-style" voice is featured rather than three such voices singing in harmony. Furthermore, Bagdasarian (as Seville) insisted that it was not technically a Chipmunks song in an episode of The Alvin Show when he exclaims "I made that record once!" and Alvin responds "But not with us!" The first true song by the "group" was "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)."

Chart performance

The song peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100. The single was considered a major surprise hit on the chart, where it stayed at number one for two weeks and became Seville's first number-one single. The single peaked at number one on the Billboard R&B chart and on the Cash Box chart as well. The single sold over one million copies in the United States. Billboard ranked it as the No. 4 song for 1958.[1]

Alvin and the Chipmunks versions

The song had gained further popularity due to multiple covers performed by Alvin and the Chipmunks. The first was for their 1960 album Sing Again with The Chipmunks, which would later be adapted into a musical segment on The Alvin Show. In 1983, they would perform this song on the Alvin and the Chipmunks episode "The Chipmunks Story" and the soundtrack Songs from Our TV Shows. The song was used for the opening of the 1990 TV special Rockin' Through the Decades in the style of various artists. In 1996, a dance cover was recorded for the album Club Chipmunk: The Dance Mixes. In 2007, a DeeTown cover (featuring Chris Classic) was recorded for the live-action/CGI Alvin and the Chipmunks movie. In 2012, they released a duet cover with The Chipettes entitled "Witch Doctor 2.0" available for digital download on the iTunes Store (although iTunes only credits The Chipmunks).

Covers and parodies

The first cover version was recorded in 1958 by the British musician Don Lang and made the UK Top 10.

In 1958 it was covered by the Italian musician Fred Buscaglione.

The song has been covered by Sha Na Na and in Spanish by Manuel "El Loco" Valdés.

A French-language version, "Docteur Miracle" was recorded by Danyel Gérard, by Annie Cordy, and also by Claude Piron.

A modified version was used in a commercial for Tab soda, with "ting tang" being replaced by "Tab taste".

Mickey Katz recorded a parody called "K'nish Doctor" in which the doctor uses quasi-Yiddish utterances. This track is included on The Rhino Brothers Present the World's Worst Records.

The song was used in the North American commercial for the Nintendo game Dr. Mario.[2]

In the episode "The Bend in the River" of The A-Team, Murdock wears a mask, singing the song to himself and B. A. Baracus.

In the 1993 movie Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, the family sings it while driving to the pound to find their lost pets.

In the episode "Make Room for Lisa" of The Simpsons, Homer Simpson sings the song to himself while he and Lisa are in separate water-filled sensory deprivation tanks, with slightly different lyrics.

In Episode 304 of The Muppet Show, guest-starring Gilda Radner, Marvin Suggs plays the song on the Muppaphone, singing the verses himself and having each Muppaphone say the magic words to every hit they get. The song is interrupted by an actual Witch Doctor who punishes him for telling someone else (the audience) by turning his head into a Muppaphone, much to the amusement of his Muppaphones.

In the episode "You May Now Kiss the... Uh... Guy Who Receives" of Family Guy, Quagmire sings the chorus after refusing to sign Brian's petition. In the DVD commentary, Seth MacFarlane referred to this moment as "the $10,000 joke" due to the money he had to pay to get permission to use the song.

While not covering the song per se, American rock band Clutch references it on the song "Texan Book of the Dead" from their 1995 eponymous album by using the chorus of the song as a form of incantation, preserving the original intent.

In the TV series "Jonathan Creek", Jonathan and Maddie grimly recite the lyrics as they remember them, and then have an argument about who sang it, what it was about, and how the chorus went.

Devo recorded a version for the 1998 film, The Rugrats Movie, with new lyrics. This version, however, talks about fun-loving monkeys and their carefree lifestyle which ties into a part of the film's plot where the Rugrats encounter a troop of escaped circus monkeys who sing this song to them.

In Storybook Weaver and Storybook Weaver Deluxe, Horton sings the song in slow version with Wickersharm Guards and the witch doctor.

A sequel of sorts, "Witch Doctor Bump", by funk band, the Chubukos, including Chipmunk-style novelty voices, appeared in the Record World charts in late 1973, rising as high as #117 in a 10-week chart stay.

Joanie Bartels covered the song on her 1980 album, Sillytime Magic.

In 2012, KIDZ BOP put the song in their Halloween album, and the song was 10 seconds longer.

Cartoons version

"Witch Doctor"
Single by Cartoons
from the album Toonage
Released 26 October 1998[3]
Format CD single, CD maxi single, Compact Cassette
Recorded 1998
Genre Eurodance, bubblegum dance
Label FLEX
EMI (Denmark)
Universal Records (France)
Warner Bros. Records (Germany)
Producer(s) Cartoons
Cartoons singles chronology
"Witch Doctor"

Another version of the song was by the Danish band Cartoons, on their 1998 debut album Toonage. Their version charted well in Europe, reaching the top forty in many countries, as well as peaking at #2 on the UK Singles Chart. A Spanish version appears on the album Toontastic, while an Italian version also appears on the album More Toonage.

The Cartoons' cover was also featured in the Dancemania compilation series and Dance Dance Revolution game series, starting with DDRMAX Dance Dance Revolution 6thMix A loosely based song interpreted by Banya was also featured in the Pump It Up dancing game.

Track listings

CD single
  1. "Witch Doctor" (Radio Mix) (3.05)
  2. "Witch Doctor" (Extended Mix) (4.14)
  3. "Witch Doctor" (Out Of Africa Remix) (5.09)


Chart (1998–1999) Peak
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[4] 9
Europe (Eurochart Hot 100) 11
France (SNEP)[5] 22
Germany (Official German Charts)[6] 68
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[7] 12
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[8] 31
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[9] 2
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[10] 13
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[11] 2


Preceded by
"Twilight Time" by The Platters
Billboard Top 100 number-one single (David Seville version)
April 28, 1958 – May 5, 1958
Succeeded by
"All I Have to Do Is Dream" by the Everly Brothers
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