Saturday, 3 October 2020

Chubby Checker

Today is the 79th birthday of Chubby Checker (born Ernest Evans), singer and dance craze specialist. His breakthrough hit in the States was The Twist (cover version, fact fans, of a song by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters), but it was the following year (1961) that he took Britain by storm with Let's Twist Again. I was there to see it, and I can tell you the effects were dire: suddenly our parents' generation were gamely trying out this crazy new dance, shakin' their booties like there was no tomorrow – though the impression was more of someone awkwardly trying to towel the small of their back with an invisible bath towel. It was terrible to behold, and the madness spread throughout our normally staid population, as far even as the racier members of the royal family. It was a foretaste, I suppose, of our own age, in which many seem content to retain the tastes, dress and attitudes of teenagers well into their middle years. It was certainly, like so many things in the middle-class England of my younger years, excruciatingly embarrassing.  
   Chubby, bless him, went on to popularise the Limbo, the Hucklebuck, the Pony, the Fly, que sais-j' encore. Then, in 2013, his name was suddenly back in the news when he successfully sued Hewlett-Packard over a WebOS application. It claimed to estimate penis size from shoe size, and it was called – yes – the Chubby Checker. 


  1. '"Make believe," I was instructed, "that you're drying your backside with a towel"'

    Mary Cantwell, Manhattan When I Was Young. Perhaps the small of the back thing was British repression?

  2. Oh yes George, I'm sure in those days dropping the hands below navel level would have been considered dangerously suggestive. These were people whose hips had probably never once been stirred into motion until the Twist came along.