The "Shim Sham" or "Sham" was originally a tap dance routine done by Vaudeville performers (mainly black dancers) in the early 1900's and is still taught in most tap dance classes today. The Shim Sham-Shimmy is said to be the creation of Willie Bryant and Leonard Reed and was changed to accommodate a large group in 1927.
The Shim Sham was changed somewhat by Bryant and Reed over the years into the Shim Sham Shimmy by swing dancers and is done by swing dancers, similar to a type of a Line Dance today. Originally the Shim Sham-Shimmy could be done as a solo, couple or group dance (2 or 3 couples up to the whole room), and as a group each person's arms were around the next but today is done apart. The Sham was done at one time at the Savoy ballroom to the original song entitled "The Song of the Freaks", written by Luis Russell. The music usually builds in intensity as do the dancers making a sort of Crescendo and Diminuendo.
The Shim Sham's basic is the “time step that is done by tap dancers, except the dancers use a more shuffled rhythm than lifting of the feet. The Shim Sham also incorporates the "break" (or stop-time) which can be as short as 3 beats and as long as a minute. Usually the dancers would sing along with the music, such as "Oh, Shim-Sham ---- Shimshamshimmy! - shim - sham ---- Shimshamshimmy!" When the dance would end everyone would "truck" back to their tables etc. Around the early 1930's the Shim Sham Shimmy became a favorite Finale on the Vaudeville stage.
Cab Calloway's "Jittering-Jitterbugs" musical short clip has the original group form of the shim sham shimmy routine and is led by Calloway. Dean Collin's can be seen doing it on the Marv Griffin Show as well.
Today, the Shim Sham is mainly performed to the tune "T'aint what’cha do is the way how you do" by Jimmy Lunceford, of which different actual bands recorded new versions, though without gaining or adding really to the original song. Hellzapoppin' Disaster's Boys will perform it for you to a completely unexpected tune - stay tuned!