As a sermon based upon the storyline of the book Ezekiel (37:1-4), where he dwells in a valley full of bones and God reasures him he can reconnect them all to the body they belong to. Popular among black preachers in the southern US, always in seach of good Bible storylines to build up on in a climax. Ezekiel mentions this bone connection in one mere line, but these preachers connected bone to bone, from toe bone to head bone. Soon music was added, mostly credited to James W. Johnson and his brother J. Rosmond Johnson.
Fairview Jubilee Singers [as Them Bones Walking Around]
Famous Myers Jubilee Singers [as Ezekiel Prophesied To The Dry Bones]
Four Gospel Singers [as Dry Bones]
Fats Waller [first secular version, not mentioning God or even Ezekiel]
Delta Rhythm Boys [idem for Decca; introduced the gimmick to raise up their voices the higher the bone described: bass for the toe bone, falsetto for the head bone; their most memorable version in '47 for RCA; their bass man Jimmy Ricks later joined The Ravens, the first bird group]
Elder Charles Beck [swing version]
Fred Waring [with Spike Jones-alike percussion effects; version used in TV series The Singing Detective]
Louis Armstrong [as Ezekiel Saw De Wheel, with the Sy Oliver Choir]
Four Lads [as Dem Bones]
Shirley Caesar [with Rev. Claude Jeter]
Parliament [part of the lyrics in Dr. Funkenstein]
Sons Of Andros [from the Bahamas; all as Dry Bones]
EFX [paert of the lyrics in They Want EFX]
Dry Bones became standard repertoire during school trips by bus or as a walking song for kids.You can make it as long and as dirty as there are bones in the human body, while time flies (the main reason).