Checker, Chubby

October 3, 1941 –

During the early 1960s Checker had thirty more chart hits. Eleven of these reached the top twenty, including a re-release of “The Twist” in 1962 that reached number one and made Checker the only artist to have had the same single song at number one on different releases.

Singer. Chubby Checker was born Ernest Evans on October 3, 1941, in Spring Gully near Andrews, the son of a tobacco farmer. He moved to Philadelphia at age seven and later attended South Philadelphia High School with the future teen idols Fabian and Frankie Avalon. Evans attracted the attention of Dick Clark, host of the national television show American Bandstand, in the late 1950s. Clark wanted to send out a Christmas phonograph record to friends, one that consisted of holiday greetings from singers imitating rock and roll stars. Evans was in the studio doing these imitations when Clark’s wife Bobbie noticed him and suggested dubbing him “Chubby Checker,” a play on the name of the recording star Fats Domino.

After the Christmas record was released commercially as The Class in 1959 on the Cameo-Parkway label (partially owned by Clark), in 1960 Checker covered “The Twist,” a song written and released previously by Hank Ballard. “The Twist” was associated with a dance that consisted of partners swiveling their hips and arms while standing apart from each other. This dance was unknown outside the African American community, where it had achieved some popularity. Clark noted some of his American Bandstand teenagers “twisting” and soon encouraged Cameo-Parkway to exploit this dance with a cover recording of the Ballard song. With television exposure on American Bandstand and on the Ed Sullivan Show, Checker’s recording of “The Twist” became a huge hit and remained the biggest-selling single record of all time well into the 1970s. The associated dance craze crossed over to the mainstream and became an international phenomenon, spawning records of the same genre by many artists in the United States and abroad.

During the early 1960s Checker had thirty more chart hits. Eleven of these reached the top twenty, including a re-release of “The Twist” in 1962 that reached number one and made Checker the only artist to have had the same single song at number one on different releases. Other hits included “The Hucklebuck” (1960), “Pony Time” (1961), “Let’s Twist Again” (1961), “The Fly” (1961), “Slow Twistin’” (1962), “Dancin’ Party” (1962), “Popeye (The Hitchhiker)” (1962), “Limbo Rock” (1962), “Birdland” (1963), and “Loddy Lo” (1963). Many of these songs introduced new dance styles, and Checker maintains that he was the inventor of “dancing apart to the beat.” In 1961 he was awarded a Grammy for Best Rock and Roll Recording (“Let’s Twist Again”).

As the dance craze era ended, Chubby Checker remade his image several times to match the changes in the music industry, but he did not return to the charts until 1988, with “The Twist (Yo Twist),” accompanied by the rap artists The Fat Boys. Checker has continued to tour and perform, relying on varying combinations of nostalgia and new material. He has repackaged himself as the rapper Chubby C.

Chubby Checker is, to some extent, an American icon. He has sold more than 250 million records and has appeared in at least twelve films and on numerous television shows, always playing himself.

Clark, Dick, and Richard Robinson. Rock, Roll & Remember. New York: Crowell, 1976.

Garofalo, Reebee. Rockin’ Out: Popular Music in the USA. 2d ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 2002.

Gillett, Charlie. The Sound of the City: The Rise of Rock and Roll. Rev. ed. London: Souvenir Press, 1983.

 

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title Checker, Chubby
  • Coverage October 3, 1941 –
  • Author
  • Keywords Singer, Spring Gully, “The Twist”, international phenomenon
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date December 3, 2022
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update July 20, 2022
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