Chubby Checker Biography
Ernest Evans was born in Spring Gulley, South Carolina, but grew up in South
Philadelphia, where he lived with his parents and two brothers. When he was
a small boy, his mother took him to see Sugar Child Robinson, a child piano
prodigy and also the famous country singer Ernest Tubb. Young Evans was so
impressed, that he vowed to someday enter show business and took his first
step toward that goal by forming a street corner harmony group when he was
only 11 years old.
By the time he entered high school, Ernest had learned to play the piano a
little at Settlement Music School and could do a number of vocal
impressions. He also went to South Philadelphia High School with his friend
Fabian Forte, who would have show business success of his own. He
entertained classmates whenever he could. After school, Chubby would sing
and crack jokes at his various jobs including Fresh Farm Poultry on 9th
Street and at the Produce Market. It was Ernest's boss at the Produce
Market, Tony A., who gave Ernest the nickname "Chubby".
The storeowner of Fresh Farm Poultry, Henry Colt, was so impressed, he began
showing off his employee to his customers through a loud speaker. Henry and
his friend Kal-Mann arranged for young Chubby to do a private recording for
Dick Clark. A Yuletide novelty tune called, "Jingle Bells" on which Chubby
did several impressions of top recording stars, was cut. Dick Clark sent it
out as a Christmas greeting to all of his friends and associates in the
music business. Cameo-Parkway liked it so much that they wrote a song called
"The Class" and it became Chubby's first hit in early 1959.
In June of 1959, Chubby recorded "The Twist". Bernie Lowe, president of
Cameo Parkway records was not initially impressed with Chubby's recording
and felt it may be a "B" side at best. However, Chubby felt "The Twist" was
something special and worked hard promoting the record by undertaking
non-stop rounds of TV dates, interviews and live performances. Fourteen
months later, in the summer of 1960, "The Twist" was a hit.
"The Twist" was not only the #1 song but it introduced the concept of
"dancing apart to the beat". Over the next few years, endless songs
incorporating "The Twist" into its name sprang up such as "Peppermint
Twist", "Twist and Shout" and "Twistin' the Night Away". In addition, each
new song brought a new dance involving "dancing apart to the beat" such as
"The Jerk", "The Hully Gully", "The Boogaloo" and "The Shake". At the
forefront was Chubby with "The Fly", "The Pony" and "The Hucklebuck".
The next few years were prolific for Chubby as hit followed hit. In 1961,
Chubby recorded "Pony Time" written by Don Covay and John Berry. It went to
#1 and stayed on the charts for 16 weeks. In between recording and touring,
Chubby took time to add feature films to his portfolio with the releases of
"Don't Knock The Twist" and "Twist Around The Clock".
In the fall of 1961, record industry history was made when Checker's
original hit record, "The Twist", re-entered the charts and by January of
1962, it was back in the #1 position. No other record before or since has
accomplished that feat. Combining its 1960 run with its 1961/62 return, "The
Twist" spent an amazing nine month total on the U. S. best seller charts.
Chubby Checker merchandise was everywhere, and included T-shirts, shoes,
ties, dolls, raincoats, and chewing gum. His success continued for years
with the release of one dance record after another, with "The Fly" and
"Let's Twist Again", for which he won a Grammy for the "Best Rock
Performance". More hit records followed. "Slow Twistin'", Dancin' Party",
"Popeye the Hitchhiker" and "The Limbo Rock" all came along in 1962.
1963 saw Checker return to the hit parade with "Birdland" and "Twist It Up",
after which he followed with "Loddy Lo" and a series of other novelty type
tunes. Eventually, teens incorporated these movements to all songs that had
a beat and called these movements "The Boogie", a permanent fixture in Rock
and Roll and popular Music 24/7. While hits kept coming, the highlight of
1964 was Chubby's marriage to Catharina Lodders, Miss World 1962.
The 80's were dominated by almost nonstop touring with some unique twists.
ABC aired their answer to NBC's Saturday Night Live, a counter culture show
called Fridays which starred Michael Richards (Kramer) and Larry David. A
special appearance by Chubby as he sang his current hit, "Running"
(excerpted on his website) was broadcast before a live national audience.
However, by 1988, Chubby demonstrated extreme musical diversity by recording
a very different "Yo Twist" with the Fat Boys. This song went to #14 on the
The Limbo Rock Remix and The Original Master of The Dance Hall Beat,
released in 2004, became top 5 Disney Radio hits and a favorite of DJ's with
its ability to bring audiences out of their seats and on to the dance floor.
With the single and "LP" both on the Billboard charts, a new generation of
Chubby Checker fans were born.
In 2007, Chubby returned to the charts yet again with "Knock Down The
Walls", Billboards #1 dance track. This song introduced Chubby to a whole
new audience with its powerful straight ahead rock tempo and captured
Chubby's continuous musical evolution.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio rewarded Chubby in July of
2008 with a special award presentation. An honored Chubby thrilled a fervent
crowd by performing his hits, new and old, to the delight of everyone. A
lengthy photo and autograph session followed, which highlighted Chubby's
favorite part, getting to interact with people.
As Chubby's touring continued, 2009 took Chubby abroad including special
shows in Germany (2010) as well as his annual appearances at Disneyworld.
2009 also marked the release of an updated version of The Fly. A younger
generation now shook their hands as the dance reappeared in clubs.
Now we have entered The 50th Anniversary Year of The Twist. Special
ceremonies have taken place in front of City Hall in Philadelphia and
Wildwood, N.J. and the 50th Anniversary Tour continues along with a Chubby
Checker cruise in May, 2011.
What keeps this artist going? According to Chubby, "It's the fans. The
energy I get from singing and dancing with all these people over the years
is unlike anything else I experience. I never want it to end."