Saturday, January 14, 2012

Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” hits #1…again: January 13, 1962

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“The Twist” became the only song in U.S. history to top the pop charts in two separate runs, but began life quite humbly as a B-side by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters. RS500 The song’s inspiration has been cited as a new dance Ballard saw Florida teens doing, SF but Ballard claims that his band invented it from their on-stage dance routines. SJ Whatever the origins, the dance became a craze because anyone could do it. As Checker said, “It’s like putting out a cigarette with both feet.” SJ

Philadelphia DJ Buddy Dean played the song on a TV dance party show and the kids’ reaction encouraged him to recommend it to Dick Clark at American Bandstand. SF When it became that show’s hottest dance, BR1 Clark tried to come on and perform it. When the deal fell through, he turned to Checker, who’d impressed him with impersonations of Fats Domino, Elvis Presley, the Coasters and the Chipmunks SF when Clark and his wife had gone to Cameo Records to record an audio Christmas card for friends. BR1

As for the results, Ballard said, “they cloned it.” SF However, he was not bitter considering the huge songwriter royalties he received once Checker’s version became a hit SF – twice. The song owed its first wave of success to the teens. However, when adults discovered the song and Checker performed it on The Ed Sullivan Show, it was re-released BR1 in January 1962 and went back to the top. The two chart runs gave it a record 39 weeks on the Hot 100 for a #1 song, a feat that lasted until 1988 when UB40’s second chart with “Red Red Wine” gave that song 40 weeks on the charts. BB100

This song is featured in the DMDB book The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era, 1954-1999.


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