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the man who made The Twist famous
Ernest Evans was born in Spring Gulley, South Carolina, on October 3, 1941, and grew up in South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. When he was a boy, his mother took him to see Sugar Child Robinson, a child piano prodigy, as well as the famous country singer Ernest Tubb. The experiences so moved Ernest that he vowed to go into show business someday. He took his first step toward that goal at the age of eleven, by forming a street corner harmony group. By the time he entered high school he had learned to play the piano a little and could do vocal impressions. It was while working at a produce market that Ernest got the nickname "Chubby."
The owner of the produce market at which Chubby worked was not only the one responsible for his nickname, he was also the one responsible for Chubby gaining fame and notoriety. Henry Colt, the market owner, was able to arrange a private recording for Dick Clark, host of the popular television show American Bandstand. Chubby's record, on which he did several impressions of top recording stars singing "Jingle Bells," so impressed Clark that Clark sent copies of it out as a Christmas greeting card to his friends and associates. Executives at Cameo-Parkway Records were so impressed that they had a song called "The Class" written specifically for Chubby, and that record became Chubby's first hit in early 1959. It was Dick Clark's wife who suggested that Ernest record under the name Chubby Checker, a play on the name of another recording star of the era, Fats Domino.
Chubby Checker's biggest hit was recorded because the original artist declined to perform it on American Bandstand. Clark had heard Hank Ballard and the Midnighters' recording of "The Twist" and wanted the group to perform it on his show. But for reasons unknown the Midnighters never agreed to appear, so Clark decided to find someone else to record and perform the song. He immediately thought of Checker, and the rest is, as they say, history. (The song hit #1 on the pop charts in mid-1960.)
"The Twist" proved to be just the first of many Chubby Checker hits to inspire new dances. "Pony Time" went to #1 in 1961 and stayed on the chart for sixteen weeks. "Let's Twist Again," released in 1961, earned Checker a Grammy for "Best Rock Performance," and was also his first record to go platinum. In January 1962, "The Twist" made music history when it returned to the #1 chart position, making it the first and last record to ever top the chart two separate times. By the time the novelty dance craze leveled off, about 1966, Checker had racked up 32 chart hits, 7 of which made into the Top 10. To date he is the only artist to have 5 albums in the Top 12 at one time, as well as the only one to have 9 double-sided hits (nine singles on which both the A- and B- sides hit the charts).
In between recording and touring, Checker took time to film "Don't Knock the Twist" and "Twist Around the Clock." He also made a small fortune marketing Chubby Checker T-shirts, shoes, ties, dolls, raincoats, chewing gum, and other merchandise.
In 2000, Checker went into the snack food business by commemorating 40 years of "The Twist" with Chocolate Checker Bars, Beef Jerky, Hot Dogs, and Popcorn, all of which could be washed down with Girl of the World Water (dedicated to his wife, a former Miss World).
Chubby Checker continues to perform on stage to this day, and can still do "The Twist" with all the vigor he did back in 1961. He also continues to record new studio music on occasion. His maxi-single "Limbo Rock Re-Mixes" and CD "The Original Master of the Dance Hall Beat," featuring Inner Circle, both placed on the Billboard Charts.
"The Class" (1959)
Chubby Checker married Catharina Lodders, Miss World 1962, in 1964, with whom he has three children.
Library >> Musics >> Biography: Singers
This page was last updated on 10/02/2017.