Chubby Checker – Twist With Chubby Checker – Cameo Parkway Records (1960)/ABKCO Records (2020) stereo 12” vinyl Chubby Checker Dancing’ Party – The Chubby Checker Collection (1060-1966) Cameo Parkway/ABKCO Records (2020) stereo 12” vinyl, and 7” vinyl single The Twist ****:
The American popular culture has been defined in many contexts. One of them is dance crazes. From the Charleston in the Roaring Twenties to the post World War II era jitterbug, youth was galvanized by dance songs. There was no greater phenomenon than The Twist. Originally recorded by Hank Ballard in 1959, it was brought to the attention of American Bandstand’s Dick Clark. He recommended this song to Philadelphia-based Cameo Parkway Records, who released a single by local singer Chubby Checker. The song swept the nation and rose to Billboard #1 in 1960 and a second time in 1962. Everyone, not just teenagers were doing The Twist. It was integrated into television and films, always returning to popularity. Checker became an instant star, but was typecast as a performer of dance songs. There were additional hits like “Limbo Rock”, “The Fly” “Pony Time” and “Let’s Twist Again”. But “The Twist” remained the zenith of Checker’s career. The amiable Philadelphian became a millionaire and a significant part of Rock ’N’ Roll history.
ABKCO Records has released a feel good pair of Chubby Checker vinyl 12” albums with a 7” single. These songs are rooted in old school r & b, but are reinvented as pop rock. The better overview of Checker’s meteoric (if not short-lived) rise to fame can be experienced on Chubby Checker Dancin’ Party – The Chubby Checker Collection. The chronological anthology opens with the greatest dance song of all time…”The Twist”. It is vintage Rock ’N’ Roll. The steady rhythm is a perfect vehicle for Chubby’s accessible vocals. Doo-wop backup singers (The Dreamlovers) and a nasty saxophone sound timeless. No one has ever sustained a career based on a repetitive dynamic like Chubby Checker. But 60 years later, it still is a lot of fun. He glides through “The Hucklebuck” (a chorus call and response), “Pony Time” (more funky with muscular sax) and “Dance The Mess Around” (with hysterical name-checks of dances to rhyming first names). The craze continued enough for the related hits, “Let’s Twist Again”, and “Twist It Up” (which distills a harder Ray Charles-inspired R & B edge). He teamed up with fellow label mate Dee Dee Sharp on “Slow Twisting’”. Checker recorded another dance hit, “Limbo Rock” with Caribbean-infused tempos. Of course, there was a sequel (“Let’s Limbo Some More”). There are a lot of repeat shouts (especially on (“Birdland”) and unbridled joyful celebration, with occasional 60’s pop-derivation (even British invasion). But when Checker sticks to the finger-snapping template, the infectious feeling outweighs pop banality. Oddities like “Hooka Took” (with its weird lyrics about side crackers and chawin’ tobacco) and “Hey, Bobba Needle” are very listenable. The arrangements are precise with basic instrumentals, all designed to showcase the charismatic singer.
A very specific compilation (Twist With Chubby Checker) album also has definitive tracks like “The Twist”, “The Huckelbuck”, “The Pony” and “The Twist”. As the album notes indicate, this is not a strict musical album, as it is flat-out dance party. Checker connects with other dance crazes on songs like “The Ooh Pooh Pah Doo Shimmy”, “The Strand”, “The Slop”, “The Mexican Hat Twist” and “Love Is Strange Calypso”, and don’t forget the “C.C. Rider Stroll” The liner notes on the back of the album draw a linear connection to South Philadelphia and the likes of Bobby Rydell, Frankie Avalon and Fabian…other local favorites. Again, all performances are delivered with committed professionalism. Very simply, take your shoes off, put the record on the machine, and dance! It will make you feel better. For vinyl aficionados, there is a re-mastered 7” 45 r.p.m. single (and yes you will need a spindle) of “The Twist” (Side A)/ “Toot/Twistin’ U.S.A.(Side B). The overall mix on all three of these recordings is excellent. Chubby Checker voice is textured and smooth. The instrumentals are mixed evenly and never overwhelm the vocals. There are also two collections of Cameo Parkway “Philly music” (You Got The Power; You Can’t Sit Down) on CD that provide a broader historical perspective of the label and its many artists.
For Chubby Checker, this recognition is long overdue!
TrackList (Twist With Chubby Checker):
Side One: Twistin’ U.S.A.; The “Ooh Pooh Pah Doo” Shimmy; The “C.C. Rider” Stroll; The Strand; The Chicken; The Huckelbuck
Side Two: The Twist; The Madison; “Love Is Strange” Calypso; “The Mexican Hat” Calypso; The Slop; The Pony
TrackList (Dancin’ Party – The Chubby Checker Collection) :
Side One: The Twist: The Hucklebuck; Pony Time; Dance The Mess Around; Let’s Twist Again; The Fly; Dancin’ Party;Slow Twistin’; Popeye The Hitchiker; Limbo Rock
Side Two: Let’s Limbo Some More; Twist It Up (single version); Birdland (single version); What Do Ya Say!; Loddy Lo; Hooka Tooka; Hey, Bobba Needle; Lazy Elsie Molly; (At) The Discotheque; You Just Din’t Know (What You Do To Me); Hey You! Little Boo-Ga-Loo
TrackList (7” vinyl single):
Side One: The Twist
i Toot; Twistin’ U.S.A.
More information at the ABKCO website: