Twisting to good vibrations

As Chubby Checker sees it, his version of "The Twist" and the dance of the same name changed music history back in 1960.

The song was originally sung by Hank Ballard, and then someone passed it along to Checker, who put his spin on it.

"I just happened to be in the right place at the right time," Checker said Monday.

The kids in his neighborhood were already doing the dance when his band recorded it in 1959, he said. Checker promoted it for what seemed like forever throughout the eastern United States, urging disc jockeys to play it, giving interviews about it and live performances of it.

The song's popularity took off when 19-year-old Checker appeared on Dick Clark's "American Bandstand" in 1960.

"They saw the Twist on 'American Bandstand' and lost their minds," he said. "This is what we're celebrating. We brought something here that's still here, and it was the biggest event in the music industry."

Checker will celebrate the 50th year of his rendition of "The Twist" during the city of Glendale's Cruise Night on Saturday along Brand Boulevard.

The song became a No. 1 hit and introduced the concept of "dancing apart to the beat," Checker said.

"We're celebrating 50 years dancing by yourself on the dance floor with someone else who's dancing by themselves standing in front of you, exploiting their sexuality while being dressed," he said.

And the song is still going strong.

Other dance songs Checker had success with were "Let's Twist Again," "The Fly," "The Pony" and "The Hucklebuck."

"When people went out, these were the things they were doing on the dance floor," he said. "The Boogie combined all those dances together, and we were having the best times of our lives."

Checker promised that he will be getting the public off their feet to twist again during his high-energy show on Saturday night.

"If they expect to see an old car not running anymore, stay home," he said. "We're like a 1960 Corvette with a 427 engine in it. We kick butt. We kick butt all day long. I thank God for giving me health and strength."

The concert will be hosted by Brian Beirne, known by the trademark Mr. Rock 'N' Roll, who has been a fixture in the rock 'n' roll radio market for 40 years. He retired from KRTH-FM (101) in 2004. Also peforming will be the Icons, made up of various 1960s vocalists from the bands who sang hits like "Wild Thing" and "Dirty Water," and Surfin' Safari, which bills itself as "The Ultimate Tribute to the Beach Boys."

Band members include Christopher May, Mike Sarafian of Montrose, Benny Chadwick of Glendale, Dan Carson and Rick Pizana.

"We sing and play every part on every song," May said. "Everything you see and hear is us."

May, 44, grew up in New Jersey during the 1970s, and the Beach Boys were always a part of his summers, he said.

"My friends and I used to go down to the Jersey shore and listen to a cassette tape of the Beach Boys and pretend we were in California," he said. "Their music just makes you feel good."

Sarafian formed the group. He was in a Beatles tribute band playing Ringo, but Sarafian always wanted to start a Beach Boys group. He pulled five musicians together in 2007, and they rehearsed for about a year before they started performing in 2008.

"The Beach Boys music is not easy — it's very intricate," May said. "And we worked not only at getting the music and vocals right but adopting their personalities. We wear the costumes and call each other by their names onstage. We've put a lot of work into the act, and it's like seeing the Beach Boys in their prime in the mid-1960s."


What: Cruise Night

When: 5:30 to 10:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Brand Boulevard in Glendale

Car Show: More than 400 vehicles will be on display, registration deadline is Friday

Cost: Free

Contact: (818) 548-6464 or visit

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