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Chubby Checker twists again, this time on DVD

The man who helped popularize the dance that swept the world in the 1960s is showcased in new discs from Sony.

January 29, 2007|Susan King | Times Staff Writer

No, Chubby Checker didn't write "The Twist." Nor was he the first person to record the tune -- both honors are held by Hank Ballard, who had a minor hit with the song in 1959. But Checker did turn the song into an international dance phenomenon.

As he likes to describe the dance -- "It's like putting out a cigarette with both feet, and wiping your bottom with a towel, to the beat of the music."

Checker's version of the infectious song hit No. 1 in 1960 and then reached the top spot again in 1962 -- the only single to ever have been No. 1 at different times on the chart.

Checker was just a teenager when he recorded "The Twist." In that era, high-schoolers used to go to "record hops" around the country on Friday nights.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday February 01, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 40 words Type of Material: Correction
Chubby Checker: An article about Chubby Checker in Monday's Calendar section said that two films in which he appeared, "Twist Around the Clock" and "Don't Knock the Twist," were being released on DVD this week. They were released Jan. 23.

"They were doing the swing when I came along," he said. "I went to these dances and showed them how to do the twist. The disc jockeys were the guys that did the dances. If the kids liked your record, that is how they started playing them. That's how we got the record on the radio. The rest is history."

Checker, born Ernest Evans in 1941, still twists the night away on tour and keeps recording.

"We were on the charts two years ago with a song called 'Limbo Remix,' " said Checker recently over the phone from Philadelphia, where he's lived since he was a kid. "We have a new record called 'Knock Down the Walls' -- it's going to be everywhere. It's really awesome."

Checker, who often refers to himself in the royal "we" as well as the royal "Chubby," is excited about the DVD release this week of two musical films he starred in: 1961's "Twist Around the Clock" and 1962's "Don't Knock the Twist."

Besides these nostalgic blasts from the past, Sony Home Entertainment is also releasing the very first rock 'n' roll musical, 1956's "Rock Around the Clock," starring Bill Haley and His Comets and Alan Freed, the disc jockey credited with coining the term "rock and roll," and "Don't Knock the Rock," also from 1956, and starring Haley's group.

"They were stupid movies," said Checker. "But they represent the biggest event in the music industry, which is still going on as we speak."

Sam Katzman produced all four films on a shoestring budget. In fact, "Twist Around the Clock" is almost a scene-by-scene remake of "Rock Around the Clock"; in the latter it's the twist, not rock 'n' roll, that has gripped the world.

"When the '70s came along and everybody was disco-ing, they didn't have any idea they were just doing the Pony," noted Checker.

Checker says that he would like the world "to know what is being done as a result of us being here. Those movies have been hidden and maybe people will get a chance to see what Chubby was doing back in those days."

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