On January 26, 1962, “The Twist” by Chubby Checker finally ends its record-setting run at #1.
Back in 1958, Ernest “Chubby” Evans was a high-school student and part-time chicken-plucker about to be touched by the hand of fate, in the person of Dick Clark. For his industry holiday card that year, Clark decided to have a Christmas novelty record made, and he delegated the job to a friend in the business named Kal Mann. Mann’s friend Tony Anastasi, owner of the Philadelphia poultry market where young Ernest Evans worked, suggested that Mann give his charismatic young employee a shot at recording the tune. Thus did Chubby Evans—renamed Chubby Checker by Dick Clark’s wife as a takeoff on “Fats Domino”—take the first, small step down a path toward selling more than 250 million records worldwide.
The song that would make Checker rich and famous—”The Twist”—had been a non-hit in 1958 for its writer, Hank Ballard, best known for 1954’s “Work With Me Annie,” which was then considered filthy enough to warrant an FCC ban. Believing “The Twist” to be a potential smash, but unwilling to have the controversial Ballard on his American Bandstand, Dick Clark picked the wholesome Chubby Checker to record a cover. With the help of Clark’s tireless on-air promotion, “The Twist” turned Chubby Checker into an overnight success when it shot to the top of the Billboard pop chart in September 1960.
As all hit records do, “The Twist” then faded away. The dance craze it popularized did, too, as America’s teenagers moved on to things like the Mashed Potato and the Pony. Chubby Checker had a second #1 hit just five months after “The Twist” with “Pony Time,” and then something remarkable happened. A full year after the initial success of “The Twist,” a gossip item in the New York papers placed actress Merle Oberon and the elderly exile Prince Serge Obolensky of Russia at the Peppermint Lounge, Twisting the night away. Suddenly a fad was reborn—this time among American adults, who took to the Twist with an alacrity that must have provoked uncountable cringes among their teenaged children. Soon enough, “The Twist” began a remarkable second run up the charts, reclaiming the #1 spot on January 13 and finally relinquishing it on this day in 1962. It was the first and only time a pop single has fallen completely out of Billboard‘s “Hot 100″ only to re-attain the #1 spot in a completely separate release.