“I always say I’m a good excuse for a party,” said Chubby Checker.
And why not? After five decades of making his kind of music happen, Checker’s still a dance music master who has them dancing in the aisles every time he decides to perform. And he’ll be doing just that at Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City on Feb. 16.
With a passion for performing since he was a teenager in the mid-1950s, Philadelphia-born Ernest “Chubby” Evans began singing his impressions of rock ‘n’ roll stars of the era for customers at a poultry market in South Philly.
In the evenings he sang harmony with his group, The Quantrells, on the street corners. Three short years later, he signed a record deal and officially changed his name to Chubby Checker.
He first hit the charts in 1959 with something called “The Class” and included impersonations of Elvis and Fats Domino. But in 1960, at Dick Clark’s suggestion, Checker hit the big time when he recorded Hank Ballard’s R&B hit, “The Twist.” In fact, so successful was that song, that Checker became the only person who has had the same record go the top of the charts twice in different years, as well as the only artist ever to have nine double-sided hit records.
The song soon changed the way dancers would move forever. This free-form, expressive dancing-without-a-partner movement soon led dancers to learn the Pony, Fly and Shake.
“The whole thing absolutely amazed me,” said Checker. “Not only didn’t I think the Twist was going to last, but it changed the way dancers danced as well. And it continues to be that way — from the very first minute I walked onto American Bandstand until this very moment in time.”
Over the years, Checker has produced other megahits including “The Hucklebuck,” “Pony Time,” “Let’s Twist Again,” and many more, selling millions and millions of records worldwide.
And Checker says he believes his unique brand of making music has lasted for so long because “it’s simple. And it has a certain amount of suggestion, depending on how you do it.”
Checker likes to describe himself as a “singer who’s an inventor of movement. I don’t think anyone else has done that. In fact, dancing apart to music with a beat is now decades old, and before Chubby Checker, it didn’t even exist. It could not be found. So I would say I’m an inventor of a dance movement that goes on twenty-four hours a day and has for all these many years.”
But today he sees himself as so much more. “I’m a pop singer, a rock ‘n’ roll singer. I’m a scientist. I try to create musical perfection. And I don’t want anyone to see ‘The Twist’ as the top of my life because there’s so much more to me.”
Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008, Checker insists he continues to do exactly what he’s always wanted to do.
He said, “I wanted to sing ever since I was four years old. And even today, when I go out there in front of an audience, the magic that comes along with performing is still there for me. It has never died. We create a kind of hysteria, and our shows are very, very exciting.”
Although he feels he’s still too young to retire, he knows the day may come but he can’t anticipate his future without music.
“I guess having to retire will come along some day,” he said. “I suppose there’ll come a day when I’ll say I just don’t want to sing anymore. When it comes, it comes. But until it does, I plan on just going on having the same good time I’m having now on stage. And believe me, I’m having a ball!”
For more information, go to www.resortsac.com.