Chubby Checker in Telluride for a new Twist on the New Year's Eve

Chubby Checker in Telluride for a new Twist on the New Year's Eve

 kicker: Chubby Checker & The Wild Cats are featured guests

Telluride’s historic Sheridan Opera House kills two birds with one big event, celebrating New Year Eve and the 50th anniversary of the Twist. The December 31st gala features the one and only Chubby Checker, in person with the Wild Cats. Doors open @ 9 p.m. Chubby Checker performs @ 10:30 p.m.

In July 1960, a 19-year-old Chubby Checker (born Ernest Evans in Spring Gulley, South Carolina) revolutionized pop dancing when he stepped on to the stage of New York’s Rainbow Room and put his spin on ‘”The Twist,” a song written and originally recorded by Hank Ballard just two years earlier that had never gotten traction.

About one month later, on August 6, 1960, Checker performed his twist on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, launching a national craze for “dancing apart to the beat.” Checker’s single rocketed to the top of the Billboard charts, remaining there for four consecutive months. “The Twist” hit number one again in late 1961. The Twist craze birthed about a half dozen movies, with Checker starring, plus books, records, T-shirts, shoes, raincoats, even chewing gum. Think of the “Twist” as the granddaddy of the marketing tsunamis that surround major movies such as the Harry Potter series and “Avatar.” Like today, the dance craze was packaged and campaigned big time.

And with good reason. The Twist is klutz proof, a dance simple enough for anyone to try, no matter how stiff, clumsy or terminally uncool. (Except if you are Norwegian: my husband claims his hips don’t move that way.) Checker famously described the dance this way: “like putting out a cigarette with both feet, or like coming out of the shower and wiping your rear with a towel.”

Checker’s “Twist” had offsprings, variations on the theme of dancing apart dances: “The Fly”, “The Pony”  “The Hucklebuck,” “The Jerk”, “The Hully Gully”, “The Boogaloo” and “The Shake.”

When Billboard highlighted the top achievements of the chart’s first 50 years, Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” was the only title to reach #1 in two chart runs, 1960 and 1962, stood as the survey’s all time #1 title. (Santana’s 1999 smash “Smooth,” featuring Rob Thomas, ranked second. Bobby Darin’s 1959 No. 1 “Mack the Knife” placed third.)

Chubby Checker remains the only artist to have five albums in the Top 12 at the same time. In addition to touring for the 50th anniversary of The Twist, a Chubby Checker cruise is planned in May 2011. And a younger generation now shakes his hand at concerts.

“Like we did last summer…”

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