Brian Hyland came from Woodhaven Queens in New York City. As a child he loved music; he played the clarinet and guitar and sang in the local church choir. At 14, he started a doo-wop group called the DelFis. Although the group wasn’t a success, Brian got a taste of the recording studio while recording their demo and loved it. He worked at recording and eventually got good enough to be signed by Kapp Records. After a few unsuccessful attempts, Hyland had a monster hit at 16 with the novelty song “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Poka Dot Bikini.” The song was written by Lee Pockriss and Paul Vance , who also wrote “Catch a Falling Star” and “Johnny Angel,” among other hits. This novelty record about a girl’s self-consciousness about wearing her bikini soared to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, selling a then unheard-of million copies in a month and eventually more than two million total copies. The song is performed in a cha-cha rhythm, punctuated by a wild cowbell part throughout the song.
The bikini is attributed to Louis Réard, who was actually a French car engineer. He was running his mother’s lingerie boutique in Paris in 1946 and invented the two-piece swimsuit that exposed the navel . He named it after the Bikini Atoll atom bomb test, because he believed his bathing suit would cause an explosion of excitement. Oo la la. However, it took until the 1950s and 1960s to become popular in the United States.
Notable women in the history of the bikini in the doo-wop era include the following: Brigitte Bardot; Ursula Andress in Dr. No; Marilyn Monroe; Jayne Mansfield; Gina Lollobrigida; Jane Russell; the Beach Party movies (although Annette Funicello dressed modestly even for the beach); and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues.
Hyland has recorded and performed throughout the decades. In our doo-wop era, he was on American Bandstand and The Jackie Gleason Show. He also toured with Dick Clark in the Caravan of Stars. He had a big hit in 1962 with the Peter Udell and Gary Geld song “Sealed with a Kiss.” Hyland continues to perform live internationally, often with his son Bodi on drums.