Legendary singer-songwriter Chubby Checkers will perform at the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts on Friday, Nov. 2. Showtime is set for 7:30 p.m. and tickets start at $28 each.
Ernest Evans was born in Spring Gulley, S.C., 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. When he was only 11 years old, he formed a street corner harmony group.
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 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," as he showed 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 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 felt the recording may be a "B" side at best. However, Chubby worked hard promoting the record with non-stop rounds of TV dates, interviews and live performances. In the summer of 1960, "The Twist" was a hit.
The next few years were prolific for Chubby as hit followed hit. In 1961, Chubby recorded "Pony Time," which 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 months total on the U.S. best seller charts.
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.
Checker returned to the hit parade in 1963 with "Birdland" and "Twist It Up," followed by "Loddy Lo" and a series of other novelty type tunes.
The ’80s were dominated by almost nonstop touring with some unique twists. ABC aired their answer to NBC's “Saturday Night Live,” with a counter culture show that wascalled “Fridays.”
A special appearance by Chubby as he sang his current hit, "Running" was broadcast before a live national audience. Chubby demonstrated extreme musical diversity by recording a very different "Yo Twist" with the Fat Boys in 1988. This song went to #14 on the charts. The Limbo Rock Remix and The Original Master of The Dance Hall Beat, released in 2004, became top five Disney Radio hits. 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," Billboard’s #1 dance track. This song introduced Chubby to a whole new audience with its powerful straight ahead rock tempo.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio rewarded Chubby in July of 2008 with a special award.
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.
The 50th Anniversary Year of The Twist was commemorated with special ceremonies in front of City Hall in Philadelphia and Wildwood, N.J. and 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.”
To purchase tickets to any performance at the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts, to get more information, or to see a schedule of coming events, go to www.GreatMountainMusic.com or call 866.273.4615.