It’s the 50th Anniversary of “The Twist,” and Philadelphia’s native son, Chubby Checker, will perform live at Philadelphia City Hall (Dilworth Plaza – West Side) in a FREE concert on Friday, July 9th at Noon.
Ernest Evans was born in Spring Gulley, South Carolina, but grew up in South Philadelphia, where he lived with his parents and two brothers. When he was a small boy, his mother took him to see Sugar Child Robinson, a child piano prodigy and also the famous country singer Ernest Tubb. Young Evans was so impressed, that he vowed to someday enter show business and took his first step toward that goal by forming a street corner harmony group when he was only 11 years old.
By the time he entered high school, Ernest had learned to play the piano a little at Settlement Music School and could do a number of vocal impressions. He also went to South Philadelphia High School with his friend Fabian Forte, who would have show business success of his own. He entertained classmates whenever he could. After school, Chubby would sing and crack jokes at his various jobs including Fresh Farm Poultry on 9th Street and at the Produce Market. It was Ernest’s boss at the Produce Market, Tony A., who gave Ernest the nickname “Chubby”.
The storeowner of Fresh Farm Poultry, Henry Colt, was so impressed, he began showing off his employee to his customers through a loud speaker. Henry and his friend Kal-Mann arranged for young Chubby to do a private recording for Dick Clark. A Yuletide novelty tune called, “Jingle Bells” on which Chubby did several impressions of top recording stars, was cut. Dick Clark sent it out as a Christmas greeting to all of his friends and associates in the music business. Cameo-Parkway liked it so much that they wrote a song called “The Class” and it became Chubby’s first hit in early 1959.
In June of 1959, Chubby recorded “The Twist”. Bernie Lowe, president of Cameo Parkway records was not initially impressed with Chubby’s recording and felt it may be a “B” side at best. However, Chubby felt “The Twist” was something special and worked hard promoting the record by undertaking non-stop rounds of TV dates, interviews and live performances. Fourteen months later, in the summer of 1960, “The Twist” was a hit.
“The Twist” was not only the #1 song but it introduced the concept of “dancing apart to the beat”. Over the next few years, endless songs incorporating “The Twist” into its name sprang up such as “Peppermint Twist”, “Twist and Shout” and “Twistin’ the Night Away”. In addition, each new song brought a new dance involving “dancing apart to the beat” such as “The Jerk”, “The Hully Gully”, “The Boogaloo” and “The Shake”. At the forefront was Chubby with “The Fly”, “The Pony” and “The Hucklebuck”.
The next few years were prolific for Chubby as hit followed hit. In 1961, Chubby recorded “Pony Time” written by Don Covay and John Berry. It went to #1 and stayed on the charts for 16 weeks. In between recording and touring, Chubby took time to add feature films to his portfolio with the releases of “Don’t Knock The Twist” and “Twist Around The Clock”.
In the fall of 1961, record industry history was made when Checker’s original hit record, “The Twist”, re-entered the charts and by January of 1962, it was back in the #1 position. No other record before or since has accomplished that feat. Combining its 1960 run with its 1961/62 return, “The Twist” spent an amazing nine month total on the U. S. best seller charts.
Chubby Checker merchandise was everywhere, and included T-shirts, shoes, ties, dolls, raincoats, and chewing gum. His success continued for years with the release of one dance record after another, with “The Fly” and “Let’s Twist Again”, for which he won a Grammy for the “Best Rock Performance”. More hit records followed. “Slow Twistin'”, Dancin’ Party”, “Popeye the Hitchhiker” and “The Limbo Rock” all came along in 1962.
1963 saw Checker return to the hit parade with “Birdland” and “Twist It Up”, after which he followed with “Loddy Lo” and a series of other novelty type tunes. Eventually, teens incorporated these movements to all songs that had a beat and called these movements “The Boogie”, a permanent fixture in Rock and Roll and popular Music 24/7. While hits kept coming, the highlight of 1964 was Chubby’s marriage to Catharina Lodders, Miss World 1962.
In 2000, Chubby branched out into the snack food business commemorating 40 years of “The Twist” with Chocolate Checker Bars, Beef Jerky, Hot Dogs, and Popcorn, all to be washed down with Girl of the World Water (dedicated to his wife).
Today, Chubby continues 40 years of live performances while releasing new studio music. His Maxi-Single “Limbo Rock Re-Mixes” and CD “The Original Master of the Dance Hall Beat” by Chubby C & OD, featuring Inner Circle, were both on the Billboard Charts attracting a new generation of Chubby Checker fans.
Chubby Checker – the only artist to have 5 albums in the Top 12 all at once.
Chubby Checker First Platinum – “Let’s Twist Again”.
Chubby Checker – the only artist to have a song to be #1 twice – “The Twist”.
Chubby Checker – the only artist to have 9 Double-Sided Hits.
Chubby Checker – changed the way we dance to the beat 24/7 since 1959.
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