Let's Whine Again, Like We Did Last Summer

Let's Whine Again, Like We Did Last Summer

Erik is out of the office this week, celebrating his anniversary. In light of the recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees, we are running this column from 2001.


Pity poor Chubby Checker, the creator of "The Twist." He's got his bloomers in a bunch, because he feels that he -- one of rock and roll's most important figures -- is also one of its most underappreciated.

In a full-page, two-color ad in Billboard Magazine, the music industry's weekly trade magazine, Checker likened himself to Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, and Walt Disney, claiming that before him, there was no rock-and-roll dance. As a result, Checker doesn't want the same treatment every other inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame gets. He wants a statue of himself, in midtwist, alone in the courtyard.

"I want my flowers while I'm alive. I can't smell them when I'm dead," he said in his ad. "I will not have the music business ignore my position in the industry."

To which music pros said, "Chubby Checker? Isn't he a Ben and Jerry's ice cream flavor by now?"

No, but he does have his own line of beef jerky.

Checker, who has still not yet been admitted to the Hall of Fame, says that he was the performer who taught people how to stop holding hands, face each other, and dance to rock-and-roll. "Chubby Checker is King of the way we dance worldwide since 1959," he says in his $10,000 Billboard ad, even though his version of The Twist didn't debut until 1960.

What's really odd about his claim is that I remember seeing old 1958-59 film footage of people dancing to Elvis Presley songs without holding hands or facing each other, one year before Chubby Checker supposedly taught people how to remove the poles from their butts, and actually shake their hips to the beat.

Could it be that people were dancing to Elvis before they were dancing to Chubby Checker? Probably. Besides, "King of Rock and Roll" makes a much better tattoo than "King of the Way We Dance Worldwide Since 1959, uhh, I mean 1960."

So if Checker actually does get admitted into the hall, it's conditional: Give him the statue, or he doesn't want the induction. He says that if he's inducted, he'll decline.

He told the Philadelphia Inquirer: "I say, 'No, keep it, 'cause I'll sell it.' I'll put it up for auction. . . I need to get something special. Money won't do anymore."

If that's the case, then selling the award is probably not a good option.

Checker debuted "The Twist" on Dick Clark's "American Bandstand" in August 1960, and says that this is what started it all. "Every generation, in every decade since 1960, when they dance, they do the Chubby Checker," he told the Inquirer.

So should Checker get his own statue?

Absolutely not, says Terry Stewart, president of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

"This is a shrine and a home for all artists," he told the Inquirer. "Inside, we honor them all, individually. . . In this pantheon of artists, how do you put one person above the rest? We don't have Elvis out there, or Chuck Berry."

Stewart points out that while the whiny, self-back-patting time traveler is one of the few early rock and rollers not inducted into the hall, most of his contemporaries already are, including Hank Ballard, the singer who originally recorded "The Twist" in 1959.

The story goes that when Dick Clark heard Ballard's original, he had Ernest Evans rerecord it. Evans was later dubbed "Chubby Checker" by Clark's wife, Kari, who was trying to play off Fats Domino's name.

But it goes back further than that, says Chrystelle Trump Bond, the head of Goucher College's dance department. She says Checker didn't originate the idea of solo dancing either (told you!). Rather, solo dancing started in the 1920s with the Charleston and the black bottom, and it evolved into the Twist.

"I don't want to take away from Chubby Checker's contributions, but he's denying all the unsung heroes who did this way before he was born," Bond told the Associated Press.

Turns out the "King of the Way We Dance Worldwide Since 1959" is not only off by a year, he didn't change the way we dance, so much as just improve on it. His signature song wasn't an original, and his name wasn't even his own creation. And his threat to refuse an induction into the hall is a little premature, since he still hasn't made it.

But at least he invented beef jerky.

He did invent beef jerky, didn't he?

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on Amazon.com, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

My NEW book, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing is also out. You can get it from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million in October, or get it for the Kindle or Nook.

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