Considered to be the unrivalled king of the rock and roll dance craze, “The Twist” hit maker Chubby Checker is still going strong more than 50 years after the release of the iconic song.
The song rocketed to the top of the charts in the fall of 1960 but America wasn’t done with doing “The Twist.” The song once again gathered momentum the following year and actually hit the top of the charts for the second time in late 1961. To this date, it remains the only single to have enjoyed two stays at the top occurring more than a year apart.
After the phenomenal success of “The Twist” as a single as well as a dance craze, Chubby had several other top 40 singles including “Let’s Twist Again,” “Pony Time,” “The Fly,” and “Limbo Rock.”
Born Ernest Evans in South Carolina, Chubby tells the Times & Transcript that he knew that he wanted to be a singer from the time that he was four years old.
“When I was four, my mother took me to a fair in Georgetown, South Carolina. I saw Ernest Tubb and it was then that it dawned on me exactly what I wanted to do with my life,” he says.
Twelve years later, Chubby made that dream a reality. Before he had graduated high school, he was writing, recording and releasing songs while also doing some touring. A few short months after having graduated, the phenomenon of “The Twist” was taking over the United States.
“I had released two songs in the year that I was graduating, ‘The Twist’ being one of those. I had my graduation cap and gown on while ‘The Twist’ was being played on the radio.
“They talk about The Beatles getting off the plane at JFK as being a momentous cultural event but before that, you had people doing The Twist on American Bandstand. Suddenly, you looked at each other while you danced, exploiting your body in a provocative way while being fully dressed. The song changed the way that people danced from that point forward. It was one of the biggest events to happen in the music industry.”
Chubby’s live schedule these days is comprised of playing a few shows each month. While he would love to be playing more often, he acknowledges that the current pace of his tour schedule makes playing music a “decent retirement job.”
Of course, only a handful of artists can lay claim to still being on the road after more than five decades in the music business. Chubby credits his remarkable longevity on the concert stage to the advice of a tutor that he had on the road with him early in his career:
“I wanted to get to a place where I could continue to entertain and still be playing music,” Chubby says. “I wanted to be a Nat King Cole or a Danny Kaye or Dean Martin. He told me that even if my hit records ran out, my talent never would as long as it was nurtured. And so that is what I have done with my career. I have kept at it.
“Pop stars today tend to have a lot of help in so many different aspects of their careers. What matters at the end of the day though is being able to go out, pick up all the bits and pieces and make something out of it. My career has been good to me but it is the result of a lot of hard work.”
That hard work has indeed paid off for the singer.
Chubby says that a highlight of every performance is having the opportunity to mingle and meet the very fans who have kept coming to see him after all these years. The fact his music has transcended generations, as evidenced by those he meets, is nothing that he ever takes for granted.
“In 1962, I had fans who had kids. Then those fans had kids and so on. Generation after generation of Chubby Checker fans come out to see the show so it is my duty to give them one of the best shows that money can buy.
“I haven’t been to New Brunswick for a very long time though. I am definitely looking forward to getting back up to your corner of the world.”
What: Chubby Checker
When: Thursday, Apr. 24, 8 p.m.
Where: Casino New Brunswick, 21 Casino Dr., Moncton
Tickets start at $19.99 (plus taxes and service charges). Advance tickets are available at the Casino Gift Shop, by phone 1-866-943-8849 and online at casinonb.ca