The football season is here and Chicago fans have much to cheer about. Besides the city being selected to host the first football game of the season in honor of the NFL’s 100th anniversary, there’s a television commercial campaign being aired that’s also giving Chicago global recognition.
In a concerted effort to honor the National Football League’s 32 football teams, the players, the fans and the sport of football, NFL and Pepsi have joined together to create a series of television commercials using the iconic and wildly popular song the Casper Slide Part 2, aka the Cha Cha Slide, written and produced by Chicago’s own DJ Casper.
“The NFL has generated some incredible moments over the years, creating a celebratory spirit among its fans and players that is unrivaled,” said Todd Kaplan, Vice President, of Marketing, Pepsi. “Celebrating 100 seasons of the NFL this season is the perfect time for Pepsi to partner with our league.”
Pepsi, who’s been the NFL’s official soft drink for 17 seasons has always used the power of danceable music and catchy jingles in their ads. But it was the Casper Slide Part 2, a line dance song originally written in 2000, that was selected by Pepsi and the NFL to represent the league’s 100 year anniversary in their Always be Celebrating promotional campaign.
It was a surprise to many Chicagoans, particularly the line dance community to see one of their infamous line dance songs used in a television commercial. “That was way cool. The NFL is national. So to have a Chicago song like the Cha Cha Slide to get that much exposure its awesome,” exclaims Rhonda Smith of Legacy Line Dancers. Rhonda is a line dance instructor who teach classes in Richton Park, a suburb south of Chicago.
“I thought the commercial was very energetic and the colors were really nice,” says Belynda Head of Lines N’ Motion dance group. Belynda is also a line dance instructor and teaches in the Chicagoland area. “I thought it was really good and it went with the theme of the music too. “We can be proud of it, especially with Casper being the means behind the whole song.”
Chicago native Willie Perry Jr., nicknamed ‘Casper’ because of his desire to wear mostly white outfits, wrote the original Cha Cha Slide song in 1999 using an existing music track titled Plastic Dreams written by Jaydee.
“Actually the Cha Cha Slide was a whole other song. It was about 15 minutes long and produced as an aerobic exercise, it wasn’t even a dance,” explains Casper, “the people around Chicago made it a dance.” Casper remembers the time when he first realized his song was gaining popularity, outside the fitness centers.
“I got phone calls from the radio station and Elroy Smith from WGCI called me and said ‘man they say you got a hot song out and its called the Cha Cha Slide. I was like, ‘I gotta an aerobic workout called the Cha Cha Slide,’ and he said, “no, they say this is a song, there’s a dance.”
As the song increasingly became in demand, Casper decided to publish a shorter version of the song for radio airplay but when he couldn’t secure the rights to the Plastic Dream track, he created Casper Slide Part 2 with original music performed by the Platinum Band.
“That’s the one that everyone is using. That’s the actual song that’s being played on all the commercials, McDonald’s, Saturday Night Live, and Slim Jim.” exclaims Casper, “its the Casper Slide Part 2 that actually took off.”
Tiffany Cartwright is a fitness instructor who lives in Detroit and teaches line dancing in a style she calls Praisercize. She remembers when she first heard the Casper Slide Part 2 years ago. “For some reason in Detroit we called it ‘hustle’ when everyone else around the country called it ‘line dancing’. I was at a party when everybody got on the dance floor. It was easy to follow along and easy to do it. We had a blast.”
Rhonda hasn’t forgotten the first time she heard Casper’s line dance song. “I remember being at someone’s back yard party. That’s where I first heard it and that’s when I first learned it. Right there on the spot.”
Rhonda, Tiffany and Belynda all agree that when the Cha Cha Slide debuted it became the ‘go to song’ for family reunions, picnics and weddings. “Its what the groom and bride is expecting to hear,” says Rhonda, “to get some of the guests on the dance floor to celebrate the moment.”
“Everybody can do it,” says Belynda. “Whether its kids, grown folks, teenagers, even if you’re just goofing around on the floor. Its just fun because of the instruction.”
For the past two decades, line dancers and party goers can easily recognize DJ Casper’s signature sound. He ‘rap-sings’ simple dance instructions for party goers to ‘slide to the left, slide to the right, and ‘cha cha real smooth’. Casper says he learned a lot about dance music from his experiences of growing up in Chicago. “My style of music was influenced by me going out, being out in the public, seeing what people like to do,” expresses Casper. “So when I found out that the Cha Cha Slide was something that would bring people together. I continued on doing the same type of music all the time.”
Casper is an internationally known deejay, party promoter and professional dancer and his videos, particularly the Casper Slide Part 2, has garnered millions of social media and YouTube views. He says his song is universal and well received by many cultures around the world. Casper attributes it to a simple approach in lyrics, dance instruction and a good beat.
“The world knows it. Kids, Adults, grandmas, great grandmas, babies. All ethnic groups like to have fun and if you can get them to do that in one accord, you got something.”
During the 19 years of the Casper Slide Part 2 and the Cha Cha Slide becoming a mainstay on the dance floor, Casper was enduring his own health challenges. “Everything is better. I put it all in God’s hands.” says Casper, now a cancer survivor and public advocate of healthcare and cancer awareness. “When I was diagnosed in 2016 with two forms of cancer, I never stopped, I kept going. And I think that was a big part of me because I didn’t let my mind take over my body.”
While the Cha Cha Slide- NFL-Pepsi commercials are commemorating the NFL’s 100th anniversary, DJ Casper is looking forward to the 20th anniversary of the Casper Slide Part 2, coming up in 2020. His team is preparing to celebrate with fanfare and purpose. “I want to do the Dime Drive, where we get everybody around the world to donate a dime to Cancer Research. And I want to get all the cities to simultaneously do the Cha Cha Slide and try to break the Guinness Book of World Records.”
Casper says he plans to celebrate the song’s anniversary by honoring notable line dance songs that were groundbreaking during the late ’90s like The Hustle, The Electric Slide and Charlie Green’s Bus Stop. He also invites listeners from around the world to enjoy his new radio station Casper Classic Radio, to listen to music and get a sneak peek of his upcoming album of dance songs. “Its going to be some new songs and some will be remakes. As long as people keep having fun, I’m going to keep on creating dances.”
When asked about his initial reaction in seeing the NFL- Pepsi commercial for the first time, Casper laughs and says it could have been better. “It was cool but they could have put me in the commercial,” says Casper. “Hopefully the NFL will say ‘ let’s bring this guy to the Super Bowl to do the pre-show. And how about everyone at the game doing the Cha Cha Slide? Now that would be great!”
DJ Casper has been invited around the world to perform at public and private events and enjoys making guest appearances to share his testimony as a cancer survivor. To contact Casper for engagements, email at email@example.com or call Mr. Perry Sr. at 773.640.2389.
About the Author: Don Howze is an Emmy Award Winning Film/Tape Editor and Associate Professor of Journalism and Broadcast Communications. Don’s Emmy Nominated documentary A Star For Marvin Gaye will premiere this fall on Amazon Prime Video.