(PCM) On Saturday, August 6, 1960, Dick Clark presented Chubby Checker and The Twist and the dance floor changed forever. In addition to revolutionizing the way that people would dance and spawning countless renditions of twisting, Chubby Checker’s The Twist still currently holds the title of being the number one song of all time.
The Twist changed the way we dance, and much of popular culture as we know it today!
September 21 celebrates National Twist Day. To further the celebration Chubby Checker has partnered up with Mascots For A Cure, a very special non-profit, to launch the #TwistChallenge. The challenge will be in a similar vein to the ice bucket challenge and raise funds and awareness to twist away childhood cancer through challenges, videos, social and traditional media.
We are challenging everyone to do The Twist and post their images and video on their social media accounts using the hashtag #TwistChallenge and of course support the children and their families by donating to this wonderful cause to help bring an end to childhood cancer once and for all. The first Mascots helping us with the Twist Challenge include Jurdy (the Hero of Happy-ness), The Philly Phanatic, Wally from the Boston Red Sox, Clark from the Chicago Cubs, the Oriole Bird, Screech from the Nationals, Bernie Brewer, Pittsburgh’s Jolly Rodger, Poe from the Baltimore Ravens, Thunderbug from Tampa Bay, Hugo the Hornet, YoUDee, Rocky Bluewinkle, 76ers Franklin and MFAC’s own Sir Roland BraveHeart.
We had a chance to catch up with the legendary Chubby Checker to discuss the #TwistChallenge, over 50 years of twisting, his legacy and more.
When asked about how he became involved with Mascots For A Cure and the idea for the #TwistChallenge Chubby tells us “My publicist Shelly Field was contacted by Mascots For A Cure and they said they wanted to use The Twist and told her the idea for the #TwistChallenge. She said ‘Let’s talk to Chubby about it’ and I thought it was a great idea. It’s all about childhood cancer and children having cancer. That’s very serious stuff.”
“Years ago, back in 1965, I believe. Danny Thomas, who was alive then, and he had St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. I did a charity tour for him and I was concerned and said ‘Danny, why are you doing this?’ and he says ‘Chubby, we have to leave something when we die and children being sick, especially with cancer, it disturbs me.’ He said ‘when I go on stage or go on TV and do whatever I do all I can think about is these children, these young children that have cancer. So, I’ve lent my life to that, so when I leave here it will be for them’.”
“Usually I’m not involved with charity that much, I give to charity all the time, but to get involved, this is very serious stuff. When you see a young child and I was in the hospital several years ago when I saw a kid and this guy, his kid had cancer, and I used to work at a chicken market on 9th St. and while I was working there for three or four years, this young boy every year or so, he would come with his father and he would have a bandage wrapped around his head because he had some brain tumors that were cancerous. They were able to raise 220 million dollars for ALS when they were throwing water on everybody with the #IceBucketChallenge and I hope we are just as successful with raising funds and awareness with the #TwistChallenge as well.”We were curious to know if Chubby ever expected The Twist to take off the way that it did spawning countless twist songs and multiple dance crazes all over the world. He revealed, “We never saw it coming. I remember I didn’t even want to do the song. We did the fourth cut and there was a lyric saying ‘Daddy’s sleeping and Mama ain’t around’ and Dave Apple who produced the song said ‘Chubby, there’s a flat note on ‘Daddy’s sleeping’ and I said ‘Dave, it’s almost time to graduate high school, my grades are terrible. I’m going to go home and try to catch up, Dave, they’ll never know.’ (laughs) Little did I know!
Chubby told us about his newly remixed and remastered version of The Twist saying “We went in the studio and we took the songs we recorded in 1970, ’71, ’72 and ’73 and what we did was we went and remastered every bit of it. In other words, we took each track that we had, some of which were recorded in the 1960’s and on maybe only ten or twelve tracks and then ten years later we went in the studio and recorded it again and the reason I did that was because the original ones were not being released and we wanted to public to have the songs, so we went in and recorded them again.”
“This time we had 35 or 40 tracks. We didn’t know that in the future we could take Chubby’s voice and just take his voice and the other tracks that were from 1974 and put new musicians in the back and have a whole new song (laughs). We didn’t do that, but we just made it… better. It sounds the same but it just sounds better. It records, plays and acts with all the new music and new technology that is out here.”
“We formatted The Twist to match the new equipment that you now here the music on the radio. It’s just better and it jumps out at you. It’s better than the other one, sounds the same… but better.”We asked Chubby to reminiscence a bit and take us through what it was like getting that call to perform on the show. He reveals with a laugh, “We didn’t know. Bandstand was Bandstand and everybody loved it. At 3:30pm in the afternoon there was no one on the streets because they were watching Bandstand. I don’t think people realized that when Chubby Checker came on American Bandstand, that Bandstand changed that day. It was never going to be the same again because dancing changed on that show.”
“But to answer your question, when I was on American Bandstand what was it like, I was scared to death, I was nervous, I was in the number one spot in the world and I didn’t know at that time that I was going to magnify the number one show in the world into MTV and everything else. We didn’t know that, but we did that. I talk about it and I’m glad you have this and you can record it because long after I’m gone out of here, someone can play this and go back to the roots of what the dance floor became because of Chubby Checker started the fateful day on American Bandstand. Everybody was looking, everybody was there, the whole world was watching, and dancing was transformed that day.”
Chubby described his introduction to the world, and how Ernest Evans, the man, became Chubby Checker, The Legend. A legend who could refer to himself in the third person without skipping a beat. “The minute Chubby came on Bandstand, Dick Clark was already a big star, but when Chubby Checker came on Bandstand, and I want people to listen to this, as I have a few people out there who are negative Chubby Checkers, but Dick Clark was already a big star when Chubby Checker came on American Bandstand and I say this and I quote ‘When Chubby Checker came on American Bandstand, Dick Clark became a super monster star’ and Bandstand became something it never was before because dancing changed forever.”It wasn’t just the dance itself that made The Twist a hit… there was something else, and Chubby told me the secret… “I’m looking at the girl, the girl’s looking at me and we’re not touching, but we’re doing something. We’re exploring our sexuality while being fully dressed, what’s more hotter than that?”
We tell Chubby just how excited we are to participate in the #TwistChallenge and urge everyone to participate to support this wonderful cause. Chubby reminds us “Don’t be thinking about The Twist, you be thinking about those kids that have cancer. That’s what it’s all about. You think about those children out there that have cancer and their families and their futures. The futures of these children who have been touched by this dreadful, dreadful disease and pray for them. Ask God to put his hands upon these children and heal them.”
Chubby was a mix of warmth and confidence in our conversation. It’s been said that ‘it ain’t bragging if you can pull it off” and Chubby pulled it off. He changed the world in both music and popular culture. 50-odd years after reaching the number one spot on the Billboard Pop and Dance charts, the world is still twisting. The Twist has been the biggest “#1 Song” according to Billboard magazine for 55 years. He can stand tall, and dance with confidence, and he can brag if he wants to. He’s one of a very small number of people who made the world a more fun and better place.Chubby is also true road warrior and we were curious what some of his plans were for the future. He tells us, “We’re all over the place. We’re going to cruise in Australia and then we are moving around out to Las Vegas and we are going to be in Kansas and guess where we are going to be on the 16th of November? Dick Clark’s American Bandstand in Branson, Missouri. How about that? (laughs)
“I can never shake that man. He’ll be with me forever. His wife gave me the name Checker, she put Checker on the Chubby, so I’m going to be with this guy forever and ever and my birthday is on the 3rd of October and we’ll be in Bilouxi, Mississippi on the 1st of October and the 8th and 9th we’re going to be in California at some of the casinos there.”
“Galveston, Texas is on October 15th and we are even visiting Newbury, South Carolina, the closest I can get to where I was born and on the 25th of October we’re going to be in The Villages in Florida. We are moving around and everything is wonderful. I’ve got my band with me and we’ve got the bus, but you know something Kristyn, I’m a happy guy, everything’s cool. Remember to think about those kids, I love you sweetheart!”
Chubby Checker called me ‘sweetheart!’ :swoon::