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Chubby Checker still twisting away despite Rock Hall snub

TNS Regional News • Aug 28, 2014 at 8:07 PM

On Saturday, Hoover Auditorium in Lakeside will play host to 2014 R&B Hall of Fame inductee Chubby Checker, who still has a relatively high profile, especially for a 72-year-old rock 'n' roller whose primary hit The Twist was released 54 years ago.

In 2013, Checker released a new single, Changes, an R&B-flavored power ballad highlighting his still-strong singing voice (with maybe just a touch of Auto-Tune). Checker has said over the years that many folks who only know The Twist don't realize he is an actual singer and not just a dance craze progenitor: "In a way, The Twist really ruined my life," Checker has famously been quoted as saying. "I was on my way to becoming a big nightclub performer, and The Twist just wiped it out ... It got so out of proportion. No one ever believes I have talent."

Checker's 1960 version of the The Twist (songwriter Hank Ballard and The Midnighters had a top 20 hit with the original 1959 version) is the only song to hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 twice in separate runs. It made Checker a staple on American Bandstand and quickly pigeonholed him as the dance craze guy.

Checker, who was 18 when the single was released, dutifully gave the people and the record company what they wanted, unleashing a series of hit dance tunes that your grandparents may still know how to do, such as The Hucklebuck, The Fly, Pony Time, the Grammy-winning Let's Twist Again, Slow Twistin' and Limbo Rock.

As with many of the early rock 'n' rollers, tastes changed in the mid-'60s and rock began taking itself (and its sex and drugs) quite seriously, aiming higher than just getting folks to rapidly and rhythmically swivel their hips. Checker hit the oldies circuit both on the road and in those ubiquitous PBS specials, and has been beloved in Europe for decades.

Earlier this year, Checker informed the world that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame voters need to get off their collective tuchis and vote him into the hallowed halls, telling the Associated Press, "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," he said in June from the red carpet at the Songwriters Hall of Fame gala where he performed Let's Twist Again.

"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," he said, adding later, "The Rolling Stones, they're in there. The Beastie Boys are in there, they're young. Hall and Oates were just in there and they're still making money."

Coincidentally, during his induction speech, Daryl Hall shouted out his fellow Philadelphian. "Do you know that we are the only homegrown Philadelphia band that has been put in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?" he said. "Now I'm not saying it because I'm proud of it. I'm saying it because that's [messed] up. Chubby Checker -- how about the biggest single in the entire world -- Chubby Checker, why isn't he in?"

In July, Checker offered an answer to Hall's question to the Press of Atlantic City.

"I'm living in a racist society," Checker said. "Why are they playing the Beatles? Why don't you know the Isley Brothers (did Twist and Shout)?"

Checker knows The Twist was a game-changer, not only getting teeny-boppers moving, but also inspiring many of those youngsters' big-band-raised, Perry Como-loving parents and friends wiggling to and fro. To this day, he says that "Chubby Checker" (he sometimes refers to himself in the third person) can be heard.

"If you are out dancing to Lady Gaga, Chubby Checker is still on the dance floor," Checker said to the Press of Atlantic City. "If you are on the dance floor dancing, Chubby Checker is there."

Taste of Hudson

On Sunday and Monday, Hudson welcomes the world (well, maybe not the world) to its downtown area to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Taste of Hudson.

Nearly 35,000 people showed up last year, allowing Taste of Hudson to donate more than $300,000 to local nonprofits. This year the beneficiary is Akron Children's Hospital School Health Services. Aside from the more than 20 restaurants, a luxury auto show, a wine and beer garden and an art fair, there will be more than 60 acts playing cover, tribute and original music on six stages.

Among the musical offerings are the young and quite talented Cleveland jazz/fusion quartet Blu Monsoon (also performing at Pub Bricco next Wednesday), which closes the Little Tikes stage Sunday night with its mix of jazzy and funky originals and hip covers, including songs by Miles Davis and Weather Report alongside Amy Winehouse's Rehab and Pharrell's Happy. Local rockin' bluesmen The Juke Hounds will perform at noon Sunday on the Buford T. Hedgehog stage, and the closers at 8 p.m. are Monica Robins and the Whiskey Kings.

On Monday, Cuyahoga Falls' teenage classic rock-infused power trio Elipsus commands the Henning Software Stage at 1:30 p.m. At noon on the Blue Rock Cafe Stage, fun and quirky folk-jazz outfit Rio Neon should get toes tapping and faces smiling with their lightly swinging humorous songs, and the Western Reserve Swing Band will crowd the same stage at 3 p.m.

Point your interGoogle machine/lifephone to http://tasteofhudson.com to get the full schedule.

About the VMAs

Is it me, or have the MTV Video Music Awards become an obligation for hip and happening artists desiring to sell and be seen?

Very few people outside the real folks screaming up in the nosebleeds appeared to be enjoying themselves during the parts of the show I saw. Who knew that an awards show could be even slower without a host spewing one-liners? Rock was mostly ignored (I say being kicked to the pop-zeitgeist curb could turn out to be a good thing for rock), and presenters dutifully read lame jokes as they introduced other folks.

Beyonce commandeered the final 15 minutes in her typical flawless style to remind everyone why she was receiving the Video Vanguard award. Mrs. Carter finished with an extra bit of P.R. by trotting out her husband Jay-Z and daughter Blue Ivy (but not her feisty, fightin' sister Solange) to hand her the award and quell the recent rumors about the superstar couple being on the verge of splitting.

In other words, another carefully constructed, orchestrated and exactingly executed night of work for pop's queen Bey.

As her husband once said, "Can't knock the hustle."


By Malcolm X Abram - The Akron Beacon Journal

©2014 Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)

Visit the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio) at www.ohio.com

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