Chubby Checker (born Ernest Evans; October 3, 1941) is an American singer-songwriter. He also popularized the dance style Twist, with his 1960 hit cover of Hank Ballard’s R&B hit “The Twist”. In September 2008, “The Twist” topped Billboard’s list of the most popular singles to have appeared in the Hot 100 since its debut in 1958
Checker privately recorded a novelty single for Clark in which the singer portrayed a school teacher with an unruly classroom of musical performers. The premise allowed Checker to imitate such acts as Fats Domino, Frankie Avalon and The Chipmunks, each singing “Mary Had a Little Lamb”. Clark sent the song out as his Christmas greeting, and it received such good response that Cameo-Parkway signed Checker to a recording contract. Titled “The Class”, the single became Checker’s first release, charting at #38 in the spring of 1959.
Checker introduced his version of “The Twist” in July 1960 on The Clay Cole Show, a local New York City television program broadcast live from Palisades Amusement Park. “The Twist” went on to become the only single to top the Billboard Hot 100 twice, in two separate chart runs. (Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” had done so on Billboard’s earlier chart.)
“The Twist” had previously peaked at #16 on the Billboard rhythm and blues chart, in the 1959 version recorded by its author, Hank Ballard, whose band The Midnighters first performed the dance on stage. Checker’s “Twist”, however, was a nationwide smash. The song was so ubiquitous that Checker felt that his critics thought that he could only succeed with dance records typecasting him as a dance artist. Checker later lamented:
“…in a way, “The Twist” really ruined my life. I was on my way to becoming a big nightclub performer, and “The Twist” just wiped it out.. It got so out of proportion. No one ever believes I have talent.”