Breaking News: Chubby Checker Slightly Overweight But Not “Chubby”

[Photo: Google search]

Washington, D.C.

In a stunning announcement, Dr. Rudolph Rowbottom of the National Institute of Health (NIH), has shocked the music world and exploded a decades-old myth shattering the common knowledge concerning the pop star, Chubby Checker.

“Yes, Keith Richards is most likely clinically dead, but we’re here to discuss a real legend of music, Mr. Chubby Checker”, said Dr. Rowbottom, 63, in an exclusive interview after a crowded news conference held under a slate-gray sky and a persistent and annoying drizzle that was punctuated by an occasional snow shower that fell earthward from nimbo-stratus clouds while standing on the steps outside the NIH headquarters just outside of the Nation’s Capital.  His red-headed research assistant, a Miss Lola Cotton, 19, held a chartreuse umbrella that was decorated with the movie logo of Jaws over Dr. Rowbottom’s thinning gray hair.

“Thanks to the famous Height/Weight Charts developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, my assistant and I, along with our crack research team, have determined that Mr. Checker was merely slightly overweight and not chubby as indicated by his nickname.  His height is not available in any public records but from various album covers and YouTube videos of him on American Bandstand, we have concluded that he is approximantely 5’10”.  That, of course is an estimation that lies clearly within the boundaries of the Standard Deviation.  Mr. Checker, upon being asked his name by the wife of Dick Clark after his first recording session, answered: ‘My friends call me Chubby'”.

(Mr. Checkers official weight is unavailable to the public and subject to doctor/patient confidentiality rules as well as HIPPA.)

“Ironically, he had just completed an impression of Fats Domino, when Clark’s wife replied: ‘As in Checkers?’  Instantly seeing a play on words, “checkers” and “dominoes” and “Fats” and “Chubby”, the pop star took the moniker and has been using that name for decades.  It certainly sounds better than Ernest Evans, which was his birth name.  Pardon me, but Ernest Evans sounds like a dairy farmer from Ohio,” Dr. Rowbottom concluded.”

Cutting reporters off in mid-question, Dr. Rowbottom and Miss Cotton hastened to a waiting limousine and drove away into the foggy afternoon towards Maryland.

As a reporter who was present at the briefing, I can add the following known facts about the legendary musical icon: Mr. Checker then went on to record a cover of The Twist (1960) which was first released in 1959 by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters.  Chubby’s version instantly went to the top of the charts.  He became the “go to” guy for dance crazes like the haunting and immortal Hucklebuck, a dance still done at reunions of high school classes of 1960-1965 (with varying degrees of accuracy and physical agility).

In a little known footnote of pop music history, Mr. Checker was a childhood friend of the teen idol from Philadelphia, Fabiano Forte, who later became known professionally as Fabian.

Mr. Checker was born on October 3, 1941 in Spring Gully, South Carolina.  One is left to wonder why he never went into country music, following in the footsteps of Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton.

Yes, one wonders…until one realizes that few African-Americans went into country music in the late ’50’s.

Besides, I don’t think Dolly Parton sold as many 45’s as did Mr. Checker.

And, in 1961, when I entered high school and began to twist the night away at sock hops in the Owego Free Academy gym, I never heard a Dolly Parton song.

[Photo source: Google search]






The Night They Pulled The Plug in Louisiana

It was a long time ago–perhaps the late 1960’s or early 1970’s.

It was the wrong time, the wrong place and the wrong evening to be holding a pair of tickets to a Steppenwolf concert.

I attended college in the deep south in the mid-1960’s.  In itself, there’s nothing strange about that.  The problem was that I was from Upstate New York—I was a Yank.  Keep in mind that the march in Selma had taken place only a few months before my arrival.  The Freedom Riders (northern agitators) were a recent memory.  The first view I had of my college town was that of a KKK member (in full pointed cap and gown) directing traffic to a rally.  I found out soon that the 100 years since the end of the Civil War was like yesterday to many of my classmates.

I was looked upon with suspicion because I was one of only a few Yanks attending college there at the time.

Louisiana, I learned, was actually two states.  South Louisiana was Cajun country.  Mostly Catholic, the population of the lower half of the state loved a good time–beer, shrimp and the jazz of Bourbon Street.

It was very different in the northern half of the state where my college was located.  This was the heart of the “Bible Belt” south.  Strict morality and antebellum southern charm was the norm.  It would be fair to say that in the time I was there, I could sense a lack of “liberal” attitudes and a strong Baptist belief in the evils of good old rock and roll.

Somehow, the very popular group, Steppenwolf, got itself booked in the local civic center.  And I had tickets.

Their major hit and theme song, “Born To Be Wild”, was to become the key song to “Easy Rider”.  I couldn’t wait to rock out to “Get your motors running…”  A civic center full of youths were of the same mind.  I knew I was in for a rocking’ evening.  Then, only a few songs into the show, things went wrong.

The group was in the middle of another of their hits, “The Pusher”.  When John Kay, the lead singer, sang the words: “Goddamn the pusher man”.  The authorities in charge of the arena decided that such a curse word was not allowable.  They seemed to have missed the whole point of the song which is to curse the pusher–curse the evil.

All they had to hear was “Goddamn”, and that was enough.

We were all on our feet when the music stopped.  The band looked around, searching for a wiring error.  The stage lights went up.  Someone had pulled the plug, literally, on the concert.

Amid the confusion and yelling, the band left the stage.  Someone in a dark suit, looking like a cross between Pastor Bill and a funeral director, took the mike and mumbled something I couldn’t understand.  The house lights were all on.

The audience was not liking what was happening.  The shouting grew louder.  The tension grew.  The anger of the ticket holders rose.

Finally, after about 10 minutes into this fiasco, John Kay and the band returned to the stage.  What he said into the mike, I can still hear to this day.

“Thank you.  But we’re never going to play in this f#@king town again.”

Then they went full-tilt into “Born To Be Wild”.  The house went crazy.  I wasn’t rocking to the music.  I just stood there and looked at the cheap seats behind the stage and on the upper level.  These teenagers were dancing in the aisles—the scene was something like you’ve seen in the film “Woodstock”.  I felt a profound sorrow for these kids—they only wanted to rock out and dance.  They weren’t pot smoking hippies—they were just young teenagers dancing on their seats, starved for some of the ’60s magic.

They looked to me like they were born to be wild…if just for a few minutes.