Rock ’n’ roller Chubby Checker still sharing No. 1 dance favorite

Wade Allen More Content Now
Chubby Checker performs outside City Hall in Philadelphia Friday July 9, 2010 in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the release of the tune "The Twist".  (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma)

It’s been more than a half-century since Chubby Checker jubilantly danced onto the American Bandstand stage and introduced to the world to “The Twist.” He changed music history in two minutes and 42 seconds.

The song introduced the world to a new type of dance move. The pop culture craze swept the nation and even the most high-profile personalities of the era, including Marilyn Monroe and President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy, were spotted dancing. Meanwhile on cartoon TV, Fred and Wilma Flintstone enjoyed “twisting,” too.

The song became a number-one hit and remains popular. In 2008, Billboard Magazine named “The Twist” the number-one song of the Billboard Hot 100 for five decades.

So what does an artist like Checker do after such a big hit? A sequel, of course, in a matter of speaking.

“Let’s Twist Again” became a hit, too, and listeners couldn’t resist hitting the dance floor with a familiar, but new, beat. It became a platinum seller, winning Checker the first Grammy award presented for “best rock ‘n’ roll recording.”

The South Carolina native is still on the road delighting fans. At 73 years old, his dance skills are intact and he can still do “The Twist.”

Chatting with Chubby

Q: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced professionally?

A: “When I don’t hear my music being played on the radio. That bothers me. That’s a big challenge in music industry. T

Q: What is something few people know about you?

A: “I like fooling around in the snacks business. I have some chocolates and checkerboard chocolate candy bars, hotdogs and popcorn, beef jerky. I’ve been peddling this stuff around for 10 years. We have it out there and a few stores have tried it.”

Q: If you could change something about your career, what would it be?

A: “I would own high-rise buildings. A couple in Chicago and in New York, a couple along the seashores in Myrtle Beach and Miami. That would excite me. It’s out there but it’s too late to do that.”

Q: What do fans tell you when you talk to them these days?

A: “They always talk about something in their lives that happened and I had something to do with it. There’s always a Chubby Checker story no matter where I go. Someone who is 20 years ago, they remember their grandmother did this or their mom did that… It’s not about me, it’s about family. (I’m) just a servant of the public and I try to be the best servant I can be.”

Q: Other than “The Twist,” what songs do you like performing?

A: “I like the music that I’ve done over the last 10 years. We recorded the ‘Limbo.’ We made it a better song and we did something called ‘Knock Down the Walls.’ And we have a song now called ‘Changes’ that we’ll be singing at the show. It’s another side of Chubby and we enjoy that. The song is about three years old and still bumping up and down the charts.”

Q: When you first performed “The Twist” on American Bandstand, did you know it would be a hit?

A: “We never knew that. When you put it out there, you don’t know. No one knows. We had an idea. We didn’t know ‘The Twist’ was probably the most important song that was ever recorded on the dance floor. The song became of the number-one song of the sixties decade.”

Q: Why do people like “The Twist?”

A: “It’s not just that song. It’s what that song represents. It’s the shoot-offs. It’s the byproducts of the twists that are just as important…. You can recognize ‘The Twist’ because it’s so recognizable, but did you know there was no music to exercise with before the Chubby Checker ‘Twist?’”

Q: What was life like growing up in Williamsburg County, South Carolina?

A: “We lived a lot like the Amish people. There was no electric in those days and no running water, and we plowed with the mules. We brought in tobacco by hand and took it in the barn and cured it. In the weekends we cured a hog and had some barbecue. It’s down South. That’s what we did.”