Chubby Checker at APAP
Perennially cheerful Chubby Checker had plenty of reasons to smile at his exhibitor’s booth this week at the annual Assn. of Performing Arts Professionals (APAP) conference at the New York Hilton Midtown.
But the big display piece next to him focused on the main one: After all these years, his 1960 signature hit “The Twist,” as of the week of Dec. 18, 2019, still tops Billboard’s Greatest of All Time Hot 100 Singles chart.
“Of all the songs you’ve ever heard in your life, ‘The Twist’ is No. 1!” beamed Checker. “That includes Taylor Swift and everybody else!”
Sure enough, Checker’s “The Twist,” which was written by R&B artist Hank Ballard and was a moderate hit when originally released in 1959 by him and his group The Midnighters, continues its eternal perch at the pinnacle of pop.
Billboard launched the Hot 100 singles chart on Aug. 4, 1958, and in the trade magazine’s Aug. 4, 2018 article celebrating its 60th anniversary (“Hot 100 Turns 60! The 100 biggest hits in the chart’s history”), there it was at No. 1--“the only song to rule the Billboard Hot 100 in separate release cycles...thanks to adults catching on to the song and its namesake dance after younger audiences popularized them.”
Indeed, Checker’s “The Twist” ruled the Hot 100 roost for one week in 1960, and after re-release, again for two weeks in 1962. Checker followed with other twist-related hits including “Let’s Twist Again” in 1961 and “Slow Twistin’” in 1962. He appeared in the movies Don’t Knock The Twist and Twist Around The Clock, and was soon joined by many artists with their own twist-themed hits, most notably “The Peppermint Twist” by Joey Dee & the Starliters, “Twistin’ the Night Away” by Sam Cooke and “Twist and Shout” by the Isley Brothers and later by The Beatles.
In 2013, Checker’s recording of “The Twist” was added to the National Recording Registry for preservation because of its cultural, artistic and historic importance to the nation’s aural legacy. The National Recording Preservation Board further cited it as “emblematic of the energy and excitement of the early 1960s.”
Additionally, Checker's version of “The Twist” was included in the first batch of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Singles when the category was introduced in 2018 as a means of honoring both historic rock ’n’ roll songs and artists that have yet to be inducted into the hall.
At the APAP exhibition hall, though, Checker himself was as much an enduring hit with arts professionals as his “The Twist” is on the charts, as he merrily posed with anyone who wanted a selfie with a legend.