This song about a bashful girl in a tiny bikini was written by Paul Vance and Lee Pockriss. Vance was inspired after watching his 2-year-old daughter Paula at the beach in her new bikini. Brian Hyland was a 16-year-old High school sophomore at the time of this recording.
In 1000 UK #1 Hits by Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh, Brian Hyland says: "Paul Vance and Lee Pockriss had shown this song to a lot of singers but no one wanted to do it. Kapp (the owner of Brian's record label) thought it was right for me and got really excited about it. It was a number one in America which meant that I could stop riding on the subway and buy some Martin guitars."
In 1990 the UK children's entertainer Timmy Mallet recorded a cover version taking it to the top of the UK charts. His version was produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber and it was released under the name of Bombalurina (the name of one of the characters in Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical Cats).
This song was used in two prominent ad campaigns: more recently by Yoplait in a series of commercials showing a woman trying to lose weight in order to fit into her "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini," and back in the late-'80s/early-'90s by Van De Kamp's for their line of canned beenie-weenies, but with slightly altered lyrics sung by a group of kids.
For most of his adult life, a man named Paul Van Valkenburgh claimed that he wrote this under the name Paul Vance, and that he sold the rights to it when he was young. Even his wife, who he was married to for 40 years, believed him. When Valkenburgh died in 2006, his obituary reported that he wrote the song, and relatives of the real Paul Vance received condolences, only to find out that Vance was very much alive and had the royalty checks to prove that he really did write the song. According to Vance, he has no ill feelings toward Valkenburgh, and claims that the song has made him several million dollars.
This was used in the movies Sister Act 2 and Revenge Of The Nerds 2.
When this took off in 1960, several other versions of the song popped up. The German banjo act Jan & Kjeld recorded it as "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Honolulu Strand-Bikini," as did Laurie London. Homer & Jethro did a hillbilly version produced by Chet Atkins, the French artists Dalida and Johnny Hallyday each did it as "Itsi Bitsi Petit Bikini," and Jeri Lynn Foster recorded an answer song called "Poor Begonia Caught Pneumonia."