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Chubby Checker (1941)

Ernest Evans

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  Summary  

Chubby Checker is an American singer-songwriter. He is widely known for popularizing the twist dance style, with his 1960 hit cover of Hank Ballard's R&B hit "The Twist". In September 2008 "The Twist" topped Billboard's list of the most popular singles to have appeared in the Hot 100 since its debut in 1958.

  Biography  

 early life
Ernest Evans was born in Spring Gulley, South Carolina. He was raised in the projects of South Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he lived with his parents and two brothers. By age eight Evans formed a street-corner harmony group, and by the time he entered high school, learned to play the piano. He would entertain his classmates by performing vocal impressions of popular entertainers of the day, such as Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley and Fats Domino. One of his classmates and friends at South Philadelphia High School was Fabiano Forte, who would become a popular performer of the late 1950s and early 1960s as Fabian.

After school Evans would entertain customers at his various jobs, including Fresh Farm Poultry on Ninth Street and at the Produce Market with songs and jokes. It was his boss at the Produce Market, Tony A., who gave Evans the nickname "Chubby". The store owner of Fresh Farm Poultry, Henry Colt, was so impressed by Ernest's performances for the customers that he, along with his colleague and friend Karl Mann, who worked as a song-writer for Cameo-Parkway Records, arranged for young Chubby to do a private recording for American Bandstand host Dick Clark. It was at this recording session that Evans got his stage name from Clark's wife, who asked Evans what his name was. "Well", he replied, "my friends call me 'Chubby'". As he had just completed a Fats Domino impression, she smiled and said, "As in Checker?" That little play on words ('chubby' meaning 'fat', and 'checkers', like 'dominoes', being a game) got an instant laugh and stuck, and from then on, Evans would use the name "Chubby Checker".

 career
Checker privately recorded a novelty single for Clark in which the singer portrayed a school teacher with an unruly classroom of musical performers. The premise allowed Checker to imitate such acts as Fats Domino, Frankie Avalon and The Chipmunks, each singing "Mary Had a Little Lamb". Clark sent the song out as his Christmas greeting, and it received such good response that Cameo-Parkway signed Checker to a recording contract. Titled "The Class", the single became Checker's first release, charting at #38 in the spring of 1959.

Checker introduced his version of "The Twist" at the age of 19 in July of1960 in Wildwood, New Jersey at the Rainbow Club, "The Twist" went on to become the only single to top the Billboard Hot 100 twice, in two separate chart runs. (Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" had done so on Billboard'''s earlier chart.)

"The Twist" had previously peaked at #16 on the Billboard rhythm and blues chart, in the 1959 version recorded by its author, Hank Ballard, whose band The Midnighters first performed the dance on stage. Checker's "Twist", however, was a nationwide smash. The song was so ubiquitous that Checker felt that his critics thought that he could only succeed with dance records typecasting him as a dance artist. Checker later lamented:

"...in a way, "The Twist" really ruined my life. I was on my way to becoming a big nightclub performer, and "The Twist" just wiped it out.. It got so out of proportion. No one ever believes I have talent."



Despite Checker's initial disapproval, he found follow-up success with a succession of up-tempo dance tracks and produced a series of successful dance-related singles, including "The Hucklebuck" (#14), "The Fly" (#7), "Dance the Mess Around" (#24), and "Pony Time", which became his second #1 single. Checker's follow-up "twist" single, "Let's Twist Again", won the 1961 Grammy Award for Best Rock and Roll Solo Vocal Performance. A 1962 duet with Dee Dee Sharp, "Slow Twistin'", reached #3 on the national charts. "Limbo Rock" reached #2 in the fall of 1962, becoming Checker's last Top Ten hit.

Checker is the only recording artist to place five albums in the Top 12 all at once. The performer has often claimed to have personally changed the way we dance to the beat of music, as when he told Billboard, "Anyplace on the planet, when someone has a song that has a beat, they're on the floor dancing apart to the beat. And before Chubby Checker, it wasn't here." Clay Cole agreed: "Chubby Checker has never been properly acknowledged for one major contribution to pop culture—Chubby and the Twist got adults out and onto the dance floor for the very first time. Before the Twist dance phenomenon, grownups did not dance to teenage music."

In 1964, he married the Dutch Catharina Lodders, who was Miss World in 1962. Checker continued to have Top 40 singles until 1965, but changes in public taste ended his hit-making career. He spent much of the rest of the 1960s touring and recording in Europe. The 1970s saw him become a staple on the oldies circuit, including a temporary stint as a disco artist. In 1983, he fathered a daughter, Mistie, with Pam Bass. Mistie Bass is currently a professional women's basketball player in the WNBA.

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Chubby Checker", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.