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Sixties City presents a wide-ranging series of articles on all aspects of the Sixties, penned by the creator of the iconic 60s music paper  Mersey Beat

The Birth of The Twist

Chubby Checker - The Birth of The Twist
The major dance craze of the early Sixties was 'The Twist' and it gave a young singer from Philadelphia a vehicle on which to build his career. Chubby Checker did, in fact, take away the glory from Hank Ballard, who actually composed and recorded the number. Ballard had failed to turn up to Dick Clark’s ‘American Bandstand’ TV show to perform ‘The Twist’ and Clark sought someone to act as a replacement. Checker just happened to be in the studio. Clark had Chubby sing the words and the studio musicians backed him, recording a version which sped to No.1 and left Ballard’s original trailing.

Ballard was to comment, “When I heard ‘The Twist’ on the radio I thought it was me. I was sure it was me. I didn’t find out it wasn’t me until a few weeks later. They did a pretty good job of duplicating my record note for note – and I could have sworn it was me; that’s how close Chubby Checker came to my sound”. ‘The Twist’ was Checker’s fifth record and it sold over three million copies around the world and created a dance sensation. Checker said, “You can’t teach somebody to do The Twist, but its still an easy dance. The first position of the stance is kind of like a boxer’s, then move your hips like you’re drying yourself with a towel. Your body goes back and forth in one direction. From that point you ad-lib energetically”.

Checker recorded some other dance numbers, but returned to the Twist with his million-seller ‘Let’s Twist Again’. This sparked off such a popular interest in the dance that his original ‘The Twist’ was re-released and went to No. 1 in the charts for a second time.
Chubby appeared in the films ‘Twist Around the Clock’ and ‘Don’t Knock the Twist’, which had almost identical plots to the fifties films ‘Rock Around the Clock’ and ‘Don’t Knock the Rock’.
The craze led to the release of approximately fifty singles and fifteen albums on the dance. The singles included Checker’s ‘Slow Twistin’’; U.S. Bond’s ‘Twist, Twist, Senors’; Frank Sinatra’s ‘Everybody’s Twistin’’; Bobby Rydell’s ‘Teach Me to Twist’; The Goodtimers’ ‘It’s Twisting Time’; Johnny Morisette’s ‘Meet Me At the Twistin’ Place’; the Dovell’s ‘Bristol Twistin’ Annie’; The Streamliners’ ‘Everybody’s Doin’ the Twist’; Steve Lawrence’s ‘The Lady Wants To Twist’; Joey Dee’s ‘Peppermint Twist’; Jerry Lee Lewis’ ‘I’ve Been Twistin’’; Jimmy Soul’s ‘Twistin’ Matilda’; King Curtis’ ‘Soul Twist’; The Champs ‘Tequila Twist’; Bill Haley’s ‘Spanish Twist’; Bill Black’s ‘Twist Her’; Danny & the Juniors’ ‘Twistin’ All Night Long’; and Billy Vaughan’s ‘Everybody’s Twisting Down in Mexico.’

There were also various British releases promoting the craze, including Bert Weedon’s ‘Twist Me Pretty Baby’; Eric Delaney’s ‘Washboard Blues Twist’; Brian Poole’s ‘Twist Little Sister’; Frankie Vaughan’s ‘Don’t Stop, Twist’; Emile Ford’s ‘Doin’ The Twist’; Joe Loss’ ‘Twisting the Mood’; Petula Clark’s ‘Ya Ya Twist’ and Susan Maughan’s ‘Baby Doll Twist.’

Checker tried to popularize other dance crazes and his recordings included ‘The Hucklebuck’, ‘Pony Time’, ‘Dance the Mess Around’, ‘Limbo Rock’, ‘Let’s Limbo Some More’, ‘The Fly’, ‘Popeye the Hitchhiker’ and ‘Do the Freddie’.

The early Sixties was a time for the introduction of dances and, apart from The Twist in 1960, there was The Continental, The Pony, The Madison and The Watusi in 1961; The Locomotion in 1962; The Monkey, The Bounce, The Bird, The Shake, The Dog and The Shuffle in 1963; The Jerk in 1964; The Swim, The Barracuda, The Twine, The Philly Freeze, The Boomerang, The Boogaloo, The Duck and The Seesaw between 1965 and 1968 and The Popcorn, The Chicken, The Strut and The Horse in the closing years of the decade.
Chubby Checker - Popeye       Chubby Checker - Limbo Party       Chubby Checker - Loddy Lo

also see: Sixties City: Sixties Dance Crazes

Mersey Beat Magazine Bill Harry attended the Liverpool College of Art with Stuart Sutcliffe and John Lennon and made the arrangements for Brian Epstein to visit The Cavern, where he saw The Beatles for the first time. Bill was a member of 'The Dissenters' and the founder and editor of 'Mersey Beat', the iconic weekly music newspaper that documented the early Sixties music scene in the Liverpool area and is possibly best known for being the first periodical to feature a local band called 'The Beatles'. He has worked as a high powered publicist, doing PR for acts such as Suzi Quatro, Free, The Arrows and Hot Chocolate and has managed press campaigns for record labels such as CBS, EMI, Polydor. Bill is the critically acclaimed author of a large number of books about The Beatles and the 60s era including 'The Beatles Who's Who', 'The Best Years of the Beatles' and the Fab Four's 'Encyclopedia' series. He has appeared on 'Good Morning America' and has received a Gold Award from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors.

Article Bill Harry 2012               Original Graphics SixtiesCity 2012

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