Chancellor of Soul's Chronicles-Journals Dedicated To The
Historical Preservation Of R&B, Pop and It's Artists and Music

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Chubby "The Twistin" Checker

 The Twist!
The Dance That Took The World By Storm!


(In The Beginning)
 



It was 1958. A show would take place one particular evening at the legendary
Royal Theater, in Baltimore. The group appearing that night was Hank Ballard
& The Midnighters. They demonstrated an act on stage that received tremendous responses from the audiences. They performed a certain step in which they would lift one leg in the air and proceed to gyrate, in a twist motion. In most cases, people consider this 'dirty dancing'. Hank watched his group performed this act every night and became inspired to write a song about it. He called it ' The Twist'. They were signed on the Federal label but their contract expired in 58'. Scouting for other labels, Hank went to visit Henry Stone located in Miami and recorded some sides for him, including, the Twist. Somehow, Vee Jay Records got hold of the tapes and Syd  Nathan owner of King / Federal Records got wind of such dealings and option a
clause in the group's expired contract and returned them back to his label, 'King'.
Hank Ballard and The Midnighters

With a billing that read, Hank Ballard & The Midnighters, ' The Twist' was the
first song cut under their new contract. As Hank kept pushing the label to release The Twist as the new single, the company instead buried the song as a B-side on a ballad entitled, ' Teardrops On Your Letter'. During the summer of 1960, The Twist was demonstrated for the first time on a local teen hop TV show in Baltimore called, 'The Buddy Deane Show', by some neighborhood kids. He saw the excitement the dance was creating and called his television colleague, Dick Clark, who was the host of another teen hop show, ' American Bandstand', in Philadelphia. Buddy told Dick, ' you gotta see this new dance that the kids are doing called the Twist recorded by Hank Ballard & The Midnighters. Dick's response was, ' I don't want to hear anything associated with Hank Ballard because I know it's another one of those dirty records'. Dick finally heard the recording but wanted to record a cleaner version that would appeal to crossover audience, in other words, the white record buyers.


Kal Mann of Cameo-Parkway Records, wanting to capitalize on the teenage market set up a meeting with Dick Clark and wanted recruit Freddie ' Boom Boom' Cannon to record the Twist. Freddie declined because he had just release a new song entitled, ' Way Down Yonder In New Orleans' and didn't want anything to interfere with it. So they decided to get 19 year old Chubby Checker to record the song. Born Ernest Evans on October 3, 1941, in Philadelphia, Ernest signed with Cameo-Parkway in 1959. He recorded
a novelty song entitled, ' The Class'. One evening at a visit to the studio, Dick Clark and his wife Barbara at the time, stopped by to record musical greeting cards featuring imitations of famous singers, to give to their friends in the music industry. Ernest just happened to be there working on his Fats Domino impersonation. Dick's wife took one look at the young artist and quoted, ' You're Chubby Checker, just like the singer, Fats Domino!' Chubby made
his first appearance on American Bandstand in 1959, performing 'The Class'. It's really a  great novelty song where he impersonates popular singers at the time, such as Fats Domino, Elvis Presley, The Coasters, and The Chipmunks.


The song went nowhere and as Chubby recorded other materials that flopped,
Cameo-Parkway almost dropped him from the label. As fate would have it, the label wanting to record a cleaner version of the Twist, recruited him for the song. Because he imitated recording artists so well, he recorded the song, clone to the singing voice of Hank Ballard, in spring-summer of 1960. ReleasedErnest "Chubby Checker" Evans during the late summer, the dance caught on like wildfire and Chubby's version would shoot straight to No 1 on the Pop charts on Sept 19. It would hit No 2 on the R&B charts.


The label had simplified a way of how to demonstrate the dance so people can
understand how to do it. Chubby used a mechanism by separating the two partners while your feet are 3 inches apart like a boxer. Then you began to twist your hips and feet like you're putting out a cigarette and take both of hands and move them back and forth, like drying your back with a towel. Chubby made his second historical appearance on American Bandstand during the fall of 1960. He became an international star!


King Records, now realizing their blunder, capitalized on the new dance craze by pushing Hank's version of the Twist. It stayed at No 28 on the Pop charts while Chubby's was No 1. On the R&B charts, the song hit No 6. Now everybody was doing the Twist!


Chubby's version of the Twist was so close to Hank Ballard's version, it even fooled Hank! One day, while swimming in a pool in Miami, Hank heard the song on the radio and was very overjoyed that he was receiving airplay on white stations. After the song was over, the announcer said that the song was recorded by Chubby Checker. Hank was shocked! He couldn't believe it! He has said in dozens of interviews that he was not bitter over Chubby's recording of the Twist. He quoted that if Chubby didn't record the song; it wouldn't become as big as it did, so he was
eternally grateful.


A dance that started in the black community, the Twist would become a rekindle commodity for the next 3 years……………with music history in the making!


                                               (End of Part 1)




Materials should not be used or altered without expressed permission of the author,


Mike Boone

(Chancellor of Soul)


Part II
>>

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