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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.
- one of the top 1000 songs of all time
- Cash Box’s Top 100 Songs, 1958-1996
- DMDB song of the year
- Grammy Hall of Fame
- one of the RIAA’s top 365 songs of the 20th century
- Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll
- VH1’s top 100 songs of all time
- one of the top 100 R&B songs
- one of the top 100 songs of the 1960s
Resources and Related Links:
- the DMDB page for “The Twist”
- the DMDB Music Maker Encyclopedia entry for Chubby Checker
- BB100 Billboard (9/08). “All-Time Hot 100”.
- BR1 Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). New York, NY: Billboard Books. Page 74.
- RS500 Rolling Stone (12/04). “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.
- SJ Bob Shannon/John Javna (1986). Behind the Hits: Inside Stories of Classic Pop and Rock and Roll. New York, NY; Warner Brothers, Inc. Page 98.
- SF Songfacts.com