Now that Katie is about 2½, we've been singing a lot of the Hokey Pokey lately. Although some version of this song has been around since the mid-19th century, I was aware that the version of the song you and I recognize was not some traditional version, but rather a chart topper from the early 1950's recorded by bandleader Ray Anthony.
Amused that a song with all the complexity of a nursery rhyme could attain national popularity, I took a look at the list of mid-century chart toppers to get an idea of how many goofball songs made their way to the top of the list.
Although the Macarena, which surged to the top of the global charts in 1995 and 1996, proves that novelty songs can still sit at #1 inside and outside the U.S., the occasional rise of a goofball single over the past couple decades pales in comparison to the number of novelty songs that sat atop the U.S. Best Sellers in Stores charts during the late 40's and early 50's:
The dawn of rock and roll largely kept novelty songs away from the #1 spot until the mid-1970's when Kung Fu Fighting and Disco Duck (Part 1) each found their way to #1 in 1974 and 1976, respectively. Of course, these tunes were just paving the way for the Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band by Meco, a disco version of the movie's theme that topped the charts for two weeks starting on October 1, 1978.