The innovator of “The Twist,” Chubby Checker was on hand at the dedication of a mural in his honor in Wildwood, New Jersey on Monday, September 7, 2015. Wildwood’s Rainbow Club was the historic debut of the song that changed the way the world danced in 1960.
“I can’t tell you what an honor it is to be here,” said Checker, 73, whose real name is Ernest Evans. His wife of 50 years, Catharina Lodders Evans, and his children and grandchildren were with him. “‘The Twist’ changed the dance floor in 2 minutes and 42 seconds. The American people never let it go. It was transformative.”
The 12-by-40-foot mural is located at the 3700 block of Pacific Avenue on the side of Romeo’s Pizza, not far from the site of the dance club Checker first performed the song 55 years ago. The mural artist, Susan Daly, greeted Checker and his family as the crowd gathered to pay tribute to the area’s musical heritage. Checker’s mural, depicting him doing The Twist, is the third such tribute in the city. Singers Billy Haley and the Comets and South Philadelphia native Bobby Rydell were honored last year with murals.
Checker is possibly the most underestimated success story in Rock n’ Roll history. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has not bothered to induct him. Although it’s been 55 years since Checker reached the Hot 100 with “The Twist,” the entertainer’s identity and style have no limitations when it comes to time, age, race, or mass appeal.
“When someone says Chubby Checker did The Twist way back when, then you’ve already limited me, like I’m already gone. G-O-N-E.,” said Checker in a phone interview with this Examiner in February. “What I did in just two minutes and forty-two seconds was change everything.”
“When we talk about The Twist, we are talking about so much more than just a song,” Checker continued. “We’re talking about the dance floor.”
“What so many people don’t realize is that dancing the way we do now had to start somewhere and it started with Chubby,” laughed Checker. “That song and that music changed everything because up until then everybody was holding each other, touching one another and were almost tied together. The Twist set you free.”
“When you are on that dance floor you had the freedom, the new—N-E-W—new, never-before-freedom and liberty to dance by yourself WITH someone who was dancing by themselves.” Checker explained. “See, that’s the dance we do now. That’s the dance the audience does at my shows, even on the stage with me.”
Checker described his show as like “no other on the planet.”
“It’s not so much about me, but it’s about them—each individual audience member and believe me when I tell you I will have some audience members twisting with me,” Checker hinted. “If not The Twist, we will do the Pony, or the Fly, or the Shake, or the Limbo, or the Hucklebuck.”
Checker noted that The Twist was written by Hank Ballard, who wasn’t a dancer.
“The kids in inner city Philadelphia were listening to it, and they are the one who essentially made up the dance. The Twist was never actually going to be heard by anyone again because the disc jockeys, by that time had quit playing it.”
“I was young and eager so we felt there was an opportunity to perform it at the nearby Rainbow Club,” Checker remembers. “Later we did it on ‘American Bandstand,’ and simply changed the world.”
“The three most important things that ever happened in the music industry are Elvis Presley, the Beatles and Chubby Checker,” the late Dick Clark famously proclaimed on more than one occasion.
Chubby Checker has achieved some noteworthy, yet undeservedly ignored recognition. Among his achievements are:
- Only artist to have five albums in the Top 12 all at once.
- First Platinum record was “Let’s Twist Again.”
- Only artist to have a song to be #1 twice (1960 and 1962): “The Twist.”
- Only artist to have nine double-sided hits.
- Changed the way we dance to the beat 24/7 since 1959.
- Sold over 250,000,000 records, so far.
“We could not think of a better artist for the third Icon Wall Mural than Chubby Checker – the man, who gave birth to ‘The Twist’ and performed it right here in the Wildwoods, forever changing music for future generations,” said John Siciliano, executive director for the Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority in a news release.