Chubby Checker

(b. 1941)

Chubby Checker changed the way Americans danced with his hit record “The Twist,” which took the country by storm in the early 1960’s, launching a dance fad that lasted years and crossed social and racial boundaries.

Checker’s recording was actually a cover of a song by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, who had released it only a few months earlier. Their version was a modest success, but it was Checker, a Philadephia-based singer who recorded for the local Cameo-Parkway label, who took it to the top of the Billboard singles chart, after he appeared singing the song and dancing the gyrating title dance on American Bandstand.

Until the arrival of dances like the Twist, most dancing was done with couples holding each other closely; by giving couples the freedom to break apart on the dance floor, dances like the Twist transformed the whole idea of dancing. The success of "The Twist" inspired a proliferation of Twist records, including Joey Dee & The Starlighters’ "Peppermint Twist,” Sam Cooke’s "Twistin' the Night Away,” and Checker’s own follow-ups "Let's Twist Again" and "Slow Twisting.” Checker even starred in two Twist movies: “Twist Around the Clock” (1961) and “Don't Knock the Twist” (1962).

Checker had a second dance-related hit with “Limbo Rock” in 1962. Overall he placed a hefty 21 singles in the Top 40 – and as tastes changed, he experimented with psychedelic music, Disco and Rap — but it’s “The Twist” for which he’ll always be remembered.