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"The King of the Twist"
In the mid 1950's you could find talented, fourteen year-old Ernest "Chubby" Evans singing his impressions of the current rock 'n' roll stars (Fats, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, etc.) to the customers at the poultry market in South Philadelphia. In the evenings, on the street corners, he would sing harmony songs with his singing group, The Quantrells.
Who knew then that within three years he would get an official name change to "Chubby Checker," sign a record deal, record a song that would become a #1 hit twice in two different years (the only song sung by the same performer ever to gain that status), change the way people would move forever, give rock 'n' roll its first official dance, and unleash a mania that is very rare in the music industry? He literally invented dancing apart for the music of the youth that allowed people to be expressive on their own, yet not be self-conscious.
Everyone grabbed on; it spread nationally, then internationally...Chubby Checker was a household name from American Bandstanders to European Royalty, as well as the White House, behind the iron curtain, China, South America, Down Under and in between...literally everywhere. It was official. Chubby and his Twist were a hit and the world was stampeding to do the dance.
The hits and the dances rolled on (more than twenty albums and forty singles), creating a body of work that will always stand as a landmark of choreography. From the Minuet and even before, popular dancing consisted of couples holding each other, or at least touching was involved. Chubby Checker changed that forever. The Twist brought dancing couples apart and freed them to express themselves from then on. It was an official national pastime with Twistmania rampant, including Twist sweaters, skirts, jackets, hats, shoes, Barbie dolls, movies, food and paraphernalia of all kinds.
Into and through the seventies, Chubby Checker and the Chubby Checker Band mounted an ambitious performance touring schedule directed at the permanent fans and eventually, a curious generation of new music lovers who appreciated the uncluttered, high performance ability that Checker had developed. The spirit of the Twist remained strong and the Chubby Checker Band grew into a major touring attraction with, "...amazing energy, conviction and a rare knack for bringing an audience to a frenzy..."
The eighties arrive. The touring schedule never lets up as the band is "always on tour," but it is time to say something musically again, to expose what Chubby Checker has become, how he feels. Making use of all this experience and dedication, the first album in 16 years appears on MCA Records, "The Change Has Come." The critics all agree...they are asking if Chubby Checker is a new band. "All strong, the music, the voice...forget what you might have expected...nothing here to indicate Checker hasn't been in the thick of rock music for the last two decades...more fire and fervor than most contemporary outfits could ever come with..."
Is he being taken seriously? Well, maybe a little, but it had been a long time and although the exposure and reviews were all positive, the new recording career would still have to wait to hit its stride. So as his position as a sure bet for an outstanding performance became solid, Chubby's band got an identity..."The Wildcats" (called tight, steamy and powerful)...and the musical aggregation, Chubby Checker & The Wildcats continue to musically storm every venue and location to which they are invited.
But the media can't get enough because, "he is a surprising and refreshing delight" and advertisers began to notice the value since Chubby brings an entire generation with him. Every network, including PBS and cable, have presented Chubby Checker & The Wildcats in music specials. The power of live performances always stands out; however, the greatest success is yet to be seen: starring at the Super Bowl in 1988, recording a very new version of "The Twist" with The Fat Boys (which hit Top 20 in the U.S...and #1 in Europe), appearing at Wembley Stadium in London and at MTV's Video Music Awards Show.
Over the years Chubby has become the darling to advertisers with Nabisco, Hershey, Hyundai, Tropicana and even BVD soliciting his promotional services. Nabisco's Oreo promotion in 1990-91 was their most successful in the company's history. In addition, Chubby's songs, past and present, are now finding their way onto movie soundtracks and he has even begun to appear in a few films, including Penny Marshall's "Calendar Girl."
Hit songs include --
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