(Music: "Pony Time" by Chubby Checker)
February 27, 1961 - March 19, 1961
The man who immortalized "The Twist" had his biggest hits with songs about dances. The limbo, the popeye, the fly, the hucklebuck were all subjects of Chubby Checker songs, and so was the pony, in his second number one single, "Pony Time."
And like his first number one "The Twist", "Pony Time" was a cover of the original version. Don Covay, who wrote the song with John Berry, recorded it as a member of the Goodtimers in late 1960. The song was adapted from "Boogie Woogie," a 1928 composition by Clarence "Pinetop" Smith. Chubby's version debuted on the Hot 100 the same week as the Goodtimers, but he took it all the way to number one, while they stalled at number 60.
Chubby was born Ernest Evans on October 3, 1941, in South Carolina. With his parents and two brothers (Spencer and Tracy), he moved to Philadelphia, where he decided by age five that someday he would be a big singing star. His mother, a strongly religious woman, discouraged that notion but Ernest formed his own singing group when he was eight years old.
In high school, Ernest played the piano and drums, and learned to do vocal impressions of famous singers. Before and after classes, he worked in a local poultry market, where he was a chicken plucker. He often sang for the customers, and the market owner, Henry Colt, was impressed enough to take his young employee to meet Kal Mann and Dave Appell, producers at Philadelphia's Cameo- Parkway Records.
"Pony Time" went to number one five months after "The Twist" topped the chart for the first time. But Chubby wasn't finished with the twist. In the summer of 1961, he had a top 10 hit with "Let's Twist Again." During the second chart run of "The Twist," the flip side, "Twistin' U.S.A," also received airplay. In the spring of 1962, Chubby recorded a duet with labelmate Dee Dee Sharp called "Slow Twistin'," which went to number three. And finally, in the summer of 1963, he made the top 30 with "Twist It Up."
Chubby charted with two more dance records, although neither was a big hit. "She Wants T'Swim" was released in the summer of 1964, but Bobby Freeman made the dance his own with "C'mon and Swim." The following year, Chubby sang "Let's Do the Freddie", but he couldn't beat Freddie and the Dreamers at their own game.
Chubby Checker had a chart entry with a cover version of the Beatles' "Back in the U.S.S.R.," a song they never released as a single. In 1981 he signed with MCA Records, and had a hit on the dance chart with "Running.
In 1964, Chubby married Catharina Lodders, a Dutch beauty queen who was Miss World in 1962. They have three children and are still happily married today.
Reprinted from The Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits, copyright © 2003 by Fred Bronson.