Chubby Checker wasn’t getting much credit for his early contributions to rock ‘n’ roll during the disco dance craze of the 1970s. Arts columnist Brian Brennan reports in his new time capsule piece that Checker viewed the popular dances of the day as little more than variations of his big 1960 hit, The Twist. An excerpt of Brennan’s Brief Encounters column: Twisting the Years Away: Chubby Checker:
At age 36, dressed in spangled white jumpsuit with neckline plunging to the waist, Chubby Checker looked vaguely silly, like Elvis in Vegas. A dance routine in which a man pretends to grind out cigarette butts with his feet might seem a shaky foundation on which to build an enduring musical career. But there he was, 17 years after hitting the big time with The Twist, still twisting away as if his life depended on it.
Disco dancing was all the rage when I saw him performing at a Calgary nightclub in 1977, and Checker was mightily annoyed that nobody was giving him credit for starting the craze. Didn’t they know that he was the one who originated the practice of dancing to rock ’n’ roll songs without touching one’s partner? Didn’t they know that he, Chubby Checker, had given the world a great new Charleston for the 1960s?
The latest addition in 1977 to Checker’s seemingly endless supply of novelty dance tunes had been something called The Rush but it failed to catch on. “It was played on 90 radio stations the first week and then – as if they all got a signal – they stopped playing it,” he told me. “It’s not good enough, it’s not fair. Disco owes its existence to me. If it wasn’t for me, this club wouldn’t be here. They’ll probably make me a star when I’m dead.” … log in to read Twisting the Years Away: Chubby Checker (subscription*).
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