Interview with Chubby Checker
Posted on 08/24/2019
Relive the classic music of the 1960s with the Rock and Roll Spectacular on Nov 2! Headlining this event is the legendary Chubby Checker, who chats with us about how he acquired his famous nickname from Bob Hope's wife and how "The Twist" has influenced music and dance over the decades.
READ THE TRANSCRIBED INTERVIEW BELOW
with Kelly and Hanna from All Access and Chubby Checker
Kelly: And were back on All Access with State Theatre New Jersey, I’m Kelly Blithe this is Hanna Wasserman.
Hanna: Hi Kelly.
Kelly: And, Hanna we have an amazing guest it’s gonna blow your mind.
Kelly: It’s gonna blow your mind who this guest is today. Coming to us at the State Theatre Rock and Roll Spectacular Saturday November 2nd Chubby Checker. Welcome Chubby!
Chubby: And, how are you?
Kelly: We are doing awesome Chubby. We are so looking forward to the Rock and Roll Spectacular this is a fantastic lineup of course including you Chubby Checker & The Wildcats, you looking forward to coming to New Jersey?
Chubby: I passed the exit to many times coming out of the Amboy’s at last I’m going to be in New Brunswick, this is nice, thank you.
Kelly: Awesome, awesome, we look forward to it. And this is again a fantastic line up, we said it was you, The Duprees, Jay Siegel’s Tokens, The Capris.
Chubby: Oh, my goodness, wow.
Kelly: I mean fantastic, you know these guys, right? You’ve performed with these guys, right?
Chubby: Yeah, haha, I mean the last time I was with them was on the garden state parkway somewhere. I mean all these people have such, such, such information and a great path and musical information and we all sit kind of nicely in the framework of the music industry.
Hanna: Were glad to hear it and were excited all of you are coming together. As well as just being in New Brunswick, you are pretty close to South Philadelphia where you grew up. Can you tell us a little bit about growing up there and how you got into music initially?
Chubby: Well South Philadelphia is not like any place else, it’s kind of like, it’s a mixture of Houston area and Brooklyn. That’s the best way to put it you know, it’s a lot like the Amboy’s in the neighborhood. It’s a neighborhood, Italians very, a mixture of a lot of good people, and neighborhood things and a music always going on and I happen to be working on ninth street in the Philadelphia Market where the Italian market, I became and Italian and I just came from South Carolina, I was about nine years old. I was raised up in South Philly and hardworking there and singing was my doo wop group The Quantrell’s. And little by little things started to happen all of the sudden there was Charlie Gracie, he was our first rock ‘n’ roll guy out of Philadelphia, then after that came Frankie Avalon and Fabian and Bobby Rydell and Danny & The Juniors. And then I came along and then Bandstand was there, that was amazing that Bandstand was in Philadelphia and I met Dick Clark and I was doing a Fat’s Domino song and his wife said, “who is that guy?” He said, “that’s Chubby.” She said, “why don’t we call him Chubby Checker like Fats Domino?” And it was Dick Clark's wife, and my career began thank God, I was about 17 and things started to happen. You know, Hanna and Kelly we didn’t know, that we were gonna change the dance floor and the world, we didn’t know that, that that song changed the dance floor and the world. Were still making a lot of money because of “The Twist” in supermarkets and products and all kinds of Chubby products and Twist products everywhere. And the dance floor is changed because when I dance with Kelly, Kelly looks at me and were doing something. Were not touching but were doing something. And, she’s exploiting her sexuality while being fully dressed and I’m doing the same thing. Well we brought that to the dance-floor and that’s what Chubby did here and that’s what’s going on as a result of that song “The Twist” which is still, which is the number one song of all time. Were bringing all that, I’m bringing all my frustration to New Brunswick on the second of November, be there to get hit with it.
Kelly: Haha, I love it, I mean American Bandstand I mean that launched so many careers, Dick Clark American Bandstand just American classics, right? That had to be some experience and the fact that Dick Clark's wife gave you your name, I mean your forever, no that’s forever in your memory.
Chubby: She put the Checker on the Chubby and things just changed for me. The record company didn’t want anything to do with me, I kept going up there and they kept throwing me out, and I kept going up there and the threw me out, and one day that came along, and they said “let’s see what this guy is about let’s see what he’s got.” In fact, that song “The Twist” the boss of the record company said “oh, that’s not going to be a hit” and they were pushing the other side and there was a disk jockey in Pittsburgh his name was Porky Chedwick. Porky said, “I don’t know about that song call “The Toot” by Chubby, but I’m turning over this song “The Twist” which is the B-side.” The minute he played it the phones lit up, and I didn’t know that by the time, while I was graduating high school, while I was graduating high school, “The Twist” was being played on the radio, and when I graduated “The Twist” was being played on the radio, and by my 18th birthday I had the number one song in the world. It was amazing I just, I still can’t get over it, I’m still in shock.
Hanna: Yeah, so, at this point almost everybody knows “The Twist” it’s a very well-known song, it’s something people grow up with dancing, having fun. What people may not know is, that you had a number of other dance songs as well.
Chubby: Well, it’s kind of like Walt Disney.
Chubby: I mean, when you go to Disney World all you see is Mickey Mouse. I mean there’s a lot of other guys, no one thinks about them too much, and you hear Elvis Presley and “Hound Dog” you know, he’s got a lot of hits you don’t think about many more songs. Everyone has a signature song, “The Twist” more than anything else in the world has ever been, since God put us on the planet “The Twist” is the first number one song of all time, it is the number one song. Anyone who is listening to this radio station “The Twist” is the number one song of all time and has a lot to do with the way we dance on the dance floor because when I went on American Bandstand and did “The Twist” dancing changed that very day. We were no longer, were gonna be doing the bogie now, “The Twist” is here and because of “The Twist” were gonna be doing the boogie from now on to anybody else’s music that has a dance song. That’s what “The Twist” gave us it’s still here. I mean I have this song by Taylor Swift, you can shake, shake, shake, it’s nothing but Chubby Checker on the dance floor kids. Don’t think it’s anything else because anybody out there that doing the boogie it’s Chubby Checker, I want you to know that.
Kelly: Haha. The dance move itself how did that come about? What was the origin of that?
Chubby: Yeah, let’s get into that. People recognize the twist because of what it is, but the Pony is the dance that people do the boogie with.
Chubby: It’s the Pony, and a whole musical movement is named after my stupid little song called the “Pony” that’s what a pony does, he hips and he hops, that’s what a pony does, and that dance, when those guys are dancing out there, and they’re doing their rap and they’re grabbing their crotch, they’re dancing the pony, that’s all they’re doing. And by the way girls if you throw your hands in the air and wave them like you just don’t care, you gotta be doing “The Fly” by Chubby Checker.
Chubby: And by the way when you guys go to the gym and you’re doing your workout and the music is playing before Chubby Checker, no one did that. In fact, they said “hey “The Twist” is great to exercise to.” When that happened, an industry of exercise began, and everyone started playing music to their workout. Before Chubby Checker it didn’t happen girls, it just didn’t. When we come to New Brunswick, we are just gonna blow that place up. My guys and I are just gonna come and blow that place up. Cinders are gonna be left when we are finished, that’s what we do, the greatest thing I got going for me is what I do, is the audience, the band and me, we come to town and we blow it down, that’s what we do.
Hanna: Wow I love it.
Chubby: I get a lot of thrill out of it, that’s what I do. You know I hope my energy is coming to you guys right now because I’m just excited, because every time I have a show I’m just excited because were gonna go there and were just gonna blow it up and go home, that’s what were gonna do.
Kelly: I love it. Now Chubby through the years you had some amazing memories you’ve made, performing with other artists, different songs. Tell us about some of the highlights through the years that really stick out for you.
Chubby: The most memorable moment for me, has passed already, the most memorable moment is gonna be for me is November 2nd.
Kelly: Awe! Haha
Chubby: What’s happened before I like it and I think about it. Chubby says “what is the most famous, what is the best place that you played and the best memory you ever had?” Well the next time Chubby Checker appears that’s gonna be my best memory, it’s gonna be at the State Theatre, November 2, 2019 be looking forward to it cause that’s my, and right now my favorite place right now is talking to you.
Hanna: There you go.
Chubby: My favorite moment right now is happening right now with Hanna and Kelly.
Kelly: I love it, I love it, I love it. Chubby so when you perform, do you find that its generations of people coming to your shows, you know the grandparents are bringing their kids and their grandkids. I mean it has to be; everybody wants to do the twist right?
Chubby: I have pictures from 1959 where I have a picture with my fans, 1980 they have brought their children, in 2000 they have brought their children. And I’m right now and having pictures with people that I took pictures with in the 60s they brought their children in the 80s, 2010, I have all of those in my possession. I have a wide group, age of people that come to see Chubby Checker because of “The Twist” and its effect on the world and the music business, they seem to come out. Believe me I have people in wheelchairs, and I have people that are just barely able to get into the places that I play. I have a lot of young people and at one point some people come on the stage and I tell them that this is the number one song in the world and it’s the first number one song, and it’s a historical moment and I want everybody to enjoy this. The music starts to play, I bring some people on the stage and it’s amazing the age group that’s on stage from very old to very young and they’re dancing. When it’s all over I say “you guys get out of here, get out of here” as they all go off stage and I finish the show and its just is amazing, I’m amazed. I’m a continually blessed person, I complain about everything but I know I got it good. Haha, and I’m very happy and I’m looking forward to what’s gonna happen, because everytime I do a show and right now is a great moment because I got a chance to tell people about it. Thank you very much.
Kelly: Yes and so, this our Rock and Roll Spectacular, November 2nd, Chubby Checker & The Wildcats, The Duprees, Jay Siegel’s Tokens, and The Capris. Chubby, thank you so much for being a guest on All Access and we look forward to seeing you on November 2nd.
Chubby: Thank you, thank you so much.