Chubby Checker made his mark on the music industry almost 60 years ago with his smash 1960 hit, “The Twist,” making him one of Rock and Roll’s first big stars.
Ernest Evans was born on this day in 1941 in Gully Springs, S.C., but was raised in South Philadelphia.
As a boy, he sang in street-corner harmony groups. By the time he hit high school, his gift for mimicking popular singers led to a chance meeting with a man who arranged for him to privately record for Dick Clark of American Bandstand fame. It was also around that time a former employer gave him the nickname “Chubby.”
He signed with Cameo-Parkway records in 1959 when he was still a teenager.
Checker’s ability to imitate singers like Elvis Presley and Fats Domino worked to his advantage in covering songs, which Cameo suggested he do with Hank Ballard’s original version of “The Twist,” which Checker added the popular dance to during his performances. After he performed on American Bandstand, the song became one of Billboard’s top-charting singles ever.
The song’s success was both a gift and curse, as Checker tried to strike gold with other charting hits such as “Pony Ride.” Though he won a Grammy in 1961 for “Let’s Twist Again” by the mid-sixties, the nation’s tastes in music began to change. Still, Checker rode the success of his earlier tunes to developing a popularity abroad that still continues to this day.
Despite the massive impact “The Twist” had on the music charts, Checker is still not an inductee of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2001, Checker took out an ad in Billboard mentioning that he’s been snubbed by the group and blasted radio stations for not playing his music.
Checker is 77 today.
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