Chubby Checker is known for his 1960 hit cover of the song "The Twist." He is also responsible for one of the best beach party (and really any party) song "Limbo Rock." Throughout my musical existence, I can’t count the number of times I have heard both songs played to the enjoyment of those at events I have attended.
The number of times I heard "Limbo Rock" were magnified by the “looping” of the song so each and every person could “limber up” and “limbo down” beneath the limbo stick. Of course, I enjoy the limbo. I even won a trophy for Best Limbo Dad at a Girl Scouts/Brownies Father and Daughter Dance.
As many of you know, Checker has roots in our area and the Jersey Shore. Checker, who was born Ernest Evans, was raised in South Philadelphia and was influenced by some of the greats of early rock and roll, such as Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley and Fats Domino.
A young Checker was asked to do a recording for American Bandstand by host Dick Clark. American Bandstand was filmed in Philadelphia at the time. That opportunity led to some other recording opportunities which ultimately led to recording the song that would be a defining moment for Checker and his career.
Checker introduced his version of "The Twist" at the age of 18 in July 1960 in Wildwood at the Rainbow Club. "The Twist" went on to become the only single to top the Billboard Hot 100 twice, in two separate chart runs.
Before the Chubby Checker cover, "The Twist" had peaked at No. 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 song. Checker's "Twist", however, was a nationwide smash, aided by his many appearances on Dick Clark's American Bandstand, the Top 10 American Bandstand ranking of the song, and all those Philadelphia teenagers on the show who enjoyed dancing the Twist. "Limbo Rock" reached No. 2 in 1962, becoming Checker's last top ten hit.
If you want to Listen Up! and catch a true legend of rock 'n' roll, Chubby Checker and the Wildcats will appear in Ocean City this weekend. Checker will help kick off Night in Venice weekend with a special concert 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 12, at the Ocean City Music Pier. The rock 'n' roll icon will perform “The Twist” and other hits from his legendary career. He will return Saturday to appear in the Night in Venice boat parade.
Tickets for the event are available at oceancityvacation.com/boxoffice, by calling 609-399-6111, or by visiting the Music Pier Box Office, the City Hall Welcome Center (861 Asbury Ave.) or the Roy Gillian Welcome Center (on the Route 52 causeway).