Chubby Checker is an American singer-songwriter, widely known for popularizing the twist dance style with his 1960 hit cover of Hank Ballard's R&B hit "The Twist". While in high school, 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. A boss at one of his many jobs is the one who started calling him by the nickname "Chubby" with a separate acquaintance coming up with the last name "Checker".
Checker's first single to be released with titled "The Class". Coming out in 1959, it reached #38 on the charts. A year later at the age of 18, "The Twist" debuted in Wildwood, NJ 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. "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, aided by his many appearances on Dick Clark's American Bandstand, the Top 10 American Bandstand ranking of the song, and the teenagers on the show who enjoyed dancing the Twist. 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." By 1965 alone, "The Twist" had sold over 15 million copies, and was awarded multiple gold discs by the RIAA.
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 first time. Before the Twist dance phenomenon, grownups did not dance to teenage music."
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