Chubby Checker was a star during the early 1960s pre-Beatles era. He was the king of the dance craze fad in the United States. His cover of the Hank Ballard song, “The Twist,” reached number one on the Billboard Magazine Pop Singles chart not once but twice. It became more than a hit song, as it was a cultural phenomenon, with twist clubs springing up across the nation that catered to adults.
Checker went on to issue a series of dance songs that would ultimately stereotype him and his music. When music began to evolve during the mid-1960s, his popularity waned. Now in his early ’70s, he continues to tour regularly singing his old hits.
Real Gone Music has reached back in time to release two of his albums, It’s Pony Time and Let’s Twist Again. They are very representative of the early 1960s, as they were built around a hit or two and a number of cover songs. They were created for commercial success rather than changing the music world.
It’s Pony Time was originally released during March of 1961. The title track was the only other number one single of his career. Every other song on the album was connected to a dance. He covered such songs as “The Watusi,” “The Hully Gully,” and “The Stroll.” He even re-imagined “The Charleston.”
Let’s Twist Again was released five months later during August of 1961. The title song had returned him to the limelight, and was another high octane romp that made people want to get up and dance.
It was a more diverse album, as his rock and roll cover of the Broadway standard, “I Could Have Danced All Night” and “Quarter to Three” proved he could take on other material well when given the chance. On the other hand, “Continental Walk,” “Takes Two to Tango,” and “The Ray Charles-ton” were run-of-the-mill attempts to capitalize on his dance persona.
The music of Chubby Checker is frozen in time. It’s Pony Time/Let’s Twist Again needs to be listened to in their proper perspective. Today his music may seem dated but a little over 50 years ago he had the whole country dancing.
Article first published as Music Review: Chubby Checker – It’s Pony Time/Let’s Twist Again on Blogcritics.