Chubby Checker Live at Isle Casino Cape Girardeau
In August of 1961, Chubby Checker appeared on an episode of Dick Clark’s American Bandstand and made music history with his performance of “The Twist,” a cover of an already popular song first made famous by Hank Ballard in 1959. Following Checker’s appearance on American Bandstand, the song rocketed to the number one position on the Billboard charts—a position it had briefly held already, just after Checker released it for the first time in 1960. It spent a total of nine months as one of the best-selling songs in the United States, and even today, over fifty years after Checker sang it on Dick Clark's program, it remains one of the most universally recognized rock and roll songs ever created. In 2008, Billboard magazine named it the greatest hit of all time.
Although “The Twist” has always been his signature song, which he continues to perform regularly to enthusiastic audiences, Chubby Checker’s career as a musician is long and accomplished even aside from this great hit. Checker was born with the name Ernest Evans in 1941 in South Carolina, but he grew up in South Philly. From an early age he knew he wanted to be part of the music business, and he formed his first musical group when he was still just a boy, singing with them on street corners. While working at a poultry market as a teenager, he gained a reputation for being such a good singer that his boss would let him sing for the customers over a loudspeaker.
That same boss also knew Dick Clark, the prominent media personality who launched the careers of many great artists. He arranged for his precocious employee to do a private recording for Clark. Clark was so impressed with what he heard that young Ernest’s career soon began to take off in a big way, with the release of his first hit, “The Class” (1959). It was Clark’s wife who gave him the stage name by which he has always been known. His friends had long called him “Chubby,” but she added “Checker” to this, as a joking reference to one of his idols and biggest musical influences, the rhythm and blues singer Fats Domino.
Checker initially had mixed feelings about “The Twist.” It was not the style of music that he really preferred to sing, and he worried that it would tarnish his image and keep people from taking him seriously. Nevertheless, he had the business savvy to understand how useful the song could be for his career, and he has never stopped singing it to live audiences. In fact, he has revisited the song in different ways over the years, such as with “Let’s Twist Again,” which received the Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance and has become a memorable hit in its own right, and in 1988, when he showed off his diverse skills by collaborating with the rap group The Fat Boys on “Yo Twist.” He also appeared as himself in two films in the early 1960s, Twist Around the Clock and Don’t Knock the Twist that capitalized on the song’s success.
In 2007, he returned to the top of the Billboard Charts, this time in the dance music category, with “Knock Down the Walls.” He continues to tour all around the globe, more than fifty years after his first introduction to the world by Dick Clark. A Chubby Checker concert should be on the itinerary of any true music lover. As one of the great living legends of American popular music, he regularly performs songs both old and new, with an appeal that transcends generations.
Chubby Checker will be bringing his iconic music to Isle Casino Cape Girardeau on June 20. Shows will be held at 7 pm and 9 pm at the Event Center. Tickets to this event are on sale now for just $25 in the gift shop or online at islecapegirardeau.com