“You don’t know your hymns like you ought to. You don’t try to know ’em,” a Tennessee pastor scolded his congregants in July 1942. “But every last one of you can sing with perfection ‘Deep in the Heart of Texas,’ hand-clapping and all.”
A decade later, the catchy track was still causing mild societal issues—this time, across the pond. When the BBC broadcast it during a “music-while-you-work” program, factory employees couldn’t resist the urge to partake in the clap-happy chorus.
“Some hammered enthusiastically with their tools on anything handy—generally expensive machinery. Others were so busy clapping they forgot to perform some essential operation as the assembly belt went by,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported in November 1952.
To prevent such pandemonium from happening again, the BBC banned the tune from the program. “Deep in the Heart of Texas” wasn’t the only jaunty song added to that particular do-not-play list. In general, the BBC was exasperated with American songwriters for churning out so many hits with interactive elements—“whistles, shouts, shots, handclaps, and other effects”—that could harm workplace productivity...