Rock 'n' roll icon will twist Lincoln City
Chubby Checker could charm the rattles off a snake. He has been doing it for six decades now, from the time he began singing on the streets of Philadelphia.
Checker, who will play a pair of dates at Chinook Winds Casino and Resort on Aug. 24 and 25, is a legend who was foremost at the birth of rock 'n' roll. He is the only artist to have five albums in the Top 12 at one time. His version of "The Twist" became the only single to top the Billboard Hot 100 in two separate chart runs (1960 and '62). By 1965, it had sold more than 15 million copies. Checker's "The Twist" tops Billboard's list as the most popular chart hit to have appeared in its Hot 100 since its debut in 1958.
Through the mid-'60s, Checker had 11 top-20 numbers, including another No. 1 single, "Pony Time." And "Limbo Rock" made it to No. 2 in 1962.
Born in Spring Gully, South Carolina, as Ernest Evans, he moved to south Philadelphia with parents Raymond and Eartle Evans at age 7. He was given the nickname "Chubby" by his boss in the produce section of a grocery store when he was 11 years old. At 16, the wife of rock impresario Dick Clark added the surname "Checker."
For tickets to his concert: www.chinookwindscasino.com.
Chubby, who turns 76 on Oct. 3, conducted a phone interview from his home in suburban Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where he has lived since 1965 with his wife of 53 years, Catharina, a former Miss World from The Netherlands. He has seven children and 10 grandchildren.
Here's what he had to say:
Tribune: You played Chinook Winds just two years ago. How many times have you performed in the state of Oregon over the years?
Checker: I can't count that high. Lots of times. What a beautiful place that is. I've driven up and down the coastline. It's wonderful. I know one thing: Everybody's going to be naked on the beach the nights I perform there.
Tribune: You're coming up on six decades of performing. How do you feel about that?
Checker: It's time to do it again. We love to play music. It's exciting. What's good is I'm still able to do it, and I still sing in the same key. We're coming to town. We're going to burn it down, and then we'll go home.
Tribune: You still tour regularly. How many dates will you play this year?
Checker: Somewhere between 50 and 60. I've been touring since I left high school. "The Twist" was being played when I was in the 12th grade. Then I
left school and went into show business.
Tribune: How do you feel about "The Twist" being ranked by Billboard as the No. 1 song of all time?
Checker: I don't even know how to handle that. Trust me, it's so amazing. I mean, it's the No. 1 song since God breathed life into Adam. Think about that. And that song is the reason why we dance the way we dance on the dance floor — women apart from men. You know how exciting it is to be looking at the girl across from you? You get to see all those moves in front of you. It first happened in 2 minutes and 42 seconds on "American Bandstand," and the whole world was watching. In 2:42, dancing on the dance floor changed, and it's still going on right now.
Tribune: What did your parents do for a living?
Checker: My dad sewed fur coats at first, then became a longshoreman. My mom was a seamstress. As a young boy, I was shining shoes. Everyone in the neighborhood would beat me up. They'd throw me against the wall, make me sing, and take all my money. Then I moved to a better neighborhood and went to Ninth Street, and that's when my life really began.
Tribune: After you'd picked up the nickname "Chubby," is it true Dick Clark's wife was the one who added "Checker," a reference to Fats Domino?
Checker: It's true. I was playing piano before an "American Bandstand" date, and his wife asked, "Who's that guy?" When he said Chubby, she said, "Oh, Chubby like Fats, and Checker like Domino." She's my fairy godmother. When she gave me that name, Dick became very interested in doing something for me. I was the perfect guy for what he wanted to do. It's all been a blessing.
Tribune: How do you feel about not being a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?
Checker: Well, since you brought it up ... let's get real. Forget about the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. What we've done is Nobel Prize territory. We're in the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. You would think I am in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. All you see are pictures of Chubby Checker. But (Rock & Roll Hall of Fame officials) are wonderful people. I have no problem. Back in 2001, I wrote an article about how the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame should put a statue of me in their courtyard. Everyone in there is using my moves to make money.
Tribune: Your daughter, Mistie Bass, is a former WNBA player. How much are your genes responsible for her basketball talents?
Checker: Well, I like to think I'm like an athlete. To do what I do, you have to be in real good shape. You can't just come out and be Chubby Checker. It's hard for my musicians to keep up sometimes. They have to work out to play in my band. It's so strenuous and the music moves so fast.
Tribune: What's the secret to your long-lasting marriage?
Checker: Whenever you get angry, take two aspirins and try it again tomorrow. Nobody is going to win, and you're not going to get what you want, so forget about it. The Dutch Machine and I still hang out. We have a checkerboard family. (The kids and grandkids) range from chocolate to white chocolate to blue eyes and blonde hair. We have a good time living our lives.
Tribune: Do you still enjoy singing and playing on tour?
Checker: Every minute of it has been exciting, with the effect we've had on the music industry. I'm probably one of the best performers ever to go on stage to perform in front of an audience. It's one thing I've been able to master. I have no control over airplay or who plays my music, but when we come to town to do the show, it speaks for itself. It's my great accomplishment in life.
Tribune: What do you think of popular music today, including hip hop?
Checker: When I hear popular music, I see the dancing, which is what Chubby Checker is all about. It's like Alexander Graham Bell, when he said, "Mr. Watson, is that you?" Chubby went on "American Bandstand," and there it was. I'm looking at it today. Hip hop is named after one of my songs, "Pony Time." What does the horse do? He hips and he hops. That movement they do, that's my dance, "The Pony." That's it.
Tribune: Are you still an expert at doing the twist?
Checker: Of course. When I go out there, I just do it. That's what I do, and I do it well. I'm hoping to go on the "Tonight Show" so I can dance with Jimmy Fallon. Every time someone goes on his show, he tries to show him up a little bit. He won't do it with me.