Chubby Checker and The Wildcats

Performing Saturday, February 2, 2019

American singer Chubby Checker was born as Ernest Evans on October 3, 1941 in Spring Gulley, South Carolina. Checker performed on the Philadelphia streets before signing with Cameo-Parkway Records in 1959.  His first two singles, “The Class” and “Dancing Dinosaur” were minor hits.  Cameo encouraged him to make his own version of “The Twist”, a song originally written and performed by Hank Ballard, which was already having modest success on the charts. Checker’s version and his accompanying dance routine gave the song new life. He was dubbed “The King of the Twist.”

As a dance movement, the Twist revolutionized popular culture by giving couples the freedom to break apart on the dance floor.  An appearance on American Bandstand launched Checker’s version of “The Twist” to the #1 billboard spot in August 1961, where it remained for 18 straight weeks. In November of that year, it reentered the charts for a record-breaking 21 weeks.

Although Checker recorded many more songs in the following years, none ever matched the success of “The Twist.”  He continued to capitalize on the twist theme with similarly titled songs, such as “Twistin’ U.S.A.” and “Twist It Up” in the early 1960s, and eventually “Let’s Twist Again” in 1999.  He also starred in two films featuring the twist sensation, Twist Around the Clock (1961) and Don’t Knock the Twist (1962).

Prominent advertisers have borrowed the “Twist” concept. In the early 1990s, Nabisco featured Checker twisting the Oreo cookie, resulting in one of the company’s most successful promotions ever.

Chubby Checker’s appearance during the 2014 Winter Dance Party is still being applauded today.