It is unseemly for a person to actively campaign for an award or honor. But that is certainly not deterring Chubby Checker. He makes no bones about his belief that he belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
While on the red carpet at an annual Songwriters Hall of Fame gala in New York, Checker expressed an urgency to be inducted into the RRHOF.
“I don’t want to get in there when I’m 85 years old. I’ll tell them to drop dead, so you better do it quick while I’m still smiling,” Checker said, according to AP as carried by the huffingtonpost.com. “If you put me in when I’m too old to make a living, then it’s no good for me to be in there.”
Checker certainly has a strong case for admission to the Hall.
First winner of a Grammy in the Rock and Roll category
In 1962, Checker’s “Let’s Twist Again” won a Grammy in the brand new category Best Rock and Roll Recording. At the time the Grammy Awards ceremony was controlled by the World War II generation and that organization was reluctant to add a rock and roll category or to salute rock and roll in any way. As the award proved, Checker’s music was very much considered rock and roll then, even though far too many listeners today don’t consider it to be rock music.
“The Twist,” a unique number one song
Several songs have reached number one and later another artist’s cover version of the song also goes to the top. But Checker’s “The Twist” is the only song where the same version by the same artist reached number one during two separate runs up the chart. Kids in 1960 caught “The Twist” dance craze and that catapulted the song to numero uno. Over a year later the song resurfaced as it gained popularity with adults at dance spots and nightclubs. This launched the exact same version of the song back to number one in 1962. The second coming of the song spawned similarly named efforts, including “Peppermint Twist – Part 1,” a number one song by Joey Dee & the Starliters, “Twistin’ The Night Away” by Sam Cooke, “Twist and Shout” by the Isley Brothers, “Dear Lady Twist” and “Twist, Twist, Senora” by Gary U.S. Bonds and “Slow Twistin'” by Chubby Checker teaming with Dee Dee Sharp. “The Twist” ranked second on the list of the “Top 5,000 Songs of the Rock Era,” 1955-1995, according to “Billboard’s Hottest Hot 100 Hits.”
Put Cameo-Parkway on the map
Along with Bobby Rydell, Checker was largely responsible for the huge success of Philadelphia’s Cameo-Parkway label in the early 1960s. Although Dee Dee Sharp, the Orlons, the Tymes, and the Dovells also had hits for Cameo-Parkway, Checker was the label’s biggest star.
Started the dance trend of the early 1960s
The twist was the first rock and roll dance style that did not require couples to touch each other while dancing. With the success of “The Twist,” other dances emerged to get Americans and most of the world up and moving. Carole King and Gerry Goffin, for example, capitalized on the dance fad by writing the number one hit “The Loco-Motion” for Little Eva. Other dances to gain currency included the swim, the jerk, the watusi, the popeye, the mashed potato, the fly, the penguin, the hucklebuck, the monkey, the funky chicken, the hitchhike and the pony. Chubby Checker started all of this. He was “The King of Dance” and his legacy extends all the way to Madonna and Beyonce’.
Too influential to ignore
Checker should not have to toot his own horn. The rest of us should be stating the case for the 72-year-old Philadelphia legend. The duo Hall and Oates, for one, has taken up the Checker cause. During his acceptance speech at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony this April, Daryl Hall pointed out that Hall and Oates are now the only Philadelphia natives who have been elected to the RRHOF in the Performer category. He mentioned Todd Rundgren (from Upper Darby just outside of Philly), the Stylistics, the Delfonics, Len Barry, Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes, and Chubby Checker as Philadelphia talent deserving of recognition. As for Checker, Hall asked, “Why isn’t he in?”
Kenny Gamble, part of the songwriting team of Gamble and Huff and also a successful record producer, also believes it is time to install the man with the alliterative name. “I think Chubby Checker should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” Gamble said, according to AP. “He’s the only person I know to have the same song go to number one twice.”
Will the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame finally wake up?
Checker probably should have been part of the second Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class back in 1987. That was the year a still record 15 acts were installed in the Performer category. Checker was overlooked then, and over 25 years later is still being bypassed. It is time to correct this injustice and nominate and elect Chubby Checker, one of the most influential and important artists in rock and roll history.
“The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, 9th Edition,” Joel Whitburn, Billboard Books, 2010
“The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, 5th Edition,” Fred Bronson, Billboard Books, 2003
“Billboard’s Hottest Hot 100 Hits,” Fred Bronson, Billboard Books, 1995