Chubby Checker

It's Pony Time/Let's Twist Again

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Ernest Evans wasn't really that much of a singer, but he was adequate, and then very lucky. Covering a 1958 B-side by Hank Ballard & the Midnighters called "The Twist," and billed as Chubby Checker (a play on Fats Domino), he took the song all the way to number one and ignited a dance craze in the summer of 1960. His label, the savvy, independent Cameo-Parkway, who also had emerging teen idol Bobby Rydell under contract, saw easy money in Checker, and kept trotting him out there, releasing some seven albums under his name in just a couple of years. It worked for awhile, and Checker repeated his one trick again and again in minor variations, scoring hits with "Do the Pony," "The Fly," "Limbo Rock," "Let's Twist Again," and "Slow Twistin'," among others, until the twist train finally left town for good. This set combines two of those seven albums on a single disc, It's Pony Time and Let's Twist Again, both of which originally appeared on LP in 1961. Every song on both is either keyed to a particular dance (the Pony, the Watusi, the Hully Gully, etc., most of which can only be distinguished by a field naturalist) or is about dancing in general, and there isn't a whole lot of variation on either album. Still, there's real charm in these recordings, particularly Checker's version of "I Could Have Danced All Night" and his masterpiece hit "Let's Twist Again" from the summer of 1961, one year after the whole thing began the previous summer with "The Twist." It was a brilliantly executed plan of deliberate nostalgia, essentially netting Checker two huge hits for the price of one.

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