In the late 1920s, when Leonard Reed and Willie Bryant were with the Whitman Sisters troupe on the T.O.B.A. circuit, they danced what they called "Goofus" to the tune Turkey in the Straw. The routine consisted of standard steps: eight bars each of the double shuffle, crossover, Tack Annie, and falling-off-the-log.
In early 1930s, the Shim Sham was performed in Harlem at places like Connie's Inn, Dickie Wells's Shim Sham Club, the 101 Ranch, the LaFayette Theatre, and the Harlem Opera House.
At the end of many performances, all of the musicians, singers, and dancers would get together on stage and do one last routine: the Shim Sham Shimmy. Tap dancers would perform technical variations, while singers and musicians would shuffle along as they were able. For example, flash dance act Three Little Words would close their show at Connie's Inn with the Shim Sham, and invite everyone to join in, "and the whole club would join us, including the waiters. For awhile people were doing the Shim Sham up and down Seventh Avenue all night long," according to Joe Jones.
According to tap dancer Howard “Stretch” Johnson the word "Shim" was a contraction of the term "she-him", a reference to the fact that the female chorus line dancers at the 101 Ranch were played by men.
In the modern Lindy Hop community, the Shim Sham is commonly performed as a line dance during dance events. Despite the existence of many variations, the dance has spread around the world, as was featured in the 'Global Shim Sham for Frankie' – a tribute performance for dance legend Frankie Manning's 95th birthday. As such, it has emerged as an emblem of the international nature of the swing dancing community.[
The Tranky Doo is a Jazz Dance choreography. It was choreographed by Pepsi Bethel and first appeared at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem during the 1940s .
At that time, it was danced to Tuxedo Junction, however many modern day performances of the dance use other swing jazz songs. It is most common these days to perform the dance with the song "Dipsy Doodle" by Ella Fitzgerald because the dance appears in the Spirit Moves documentary film with a playback of the song. However the film originally had no sound, and the song "Dipsy Doodle" was artificially superimposed on that section of the film.
It was common to Lindy Hoppers, like the Shim Sham.