- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 10, 2001

PHILADELPHIA — Chubby Checker says the music industry has left him twisting in the wind. The king of "The Twist" took out a full-page advertisement in Billboard magazine in July, arguing that he's one of rock 'n' roll's most important figures and one of its most underappreciated.
In an open letter to the entertainment industry, Mr. Checker demanded a statue of himself alone in the courtyard of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland.
If he doesn't get one, he says, he'll refuse induction into the hall, although he has not yet been voted into it.
"I want my flowers while I'm alive. I can't smell them when I'm dead," Mr. Checker wrote. "I will not have the music business ignore my position in the industry."
Mr. Checker says he has been slighted by a music industry that does not recognize or want to recognize his contribution to popular music.
"Rock 'n' roll did not have a dance until Chubby Checker did 'The Twist,'" he says by phone from a tour stop in Michigan. "We are the wheel that rock rolls on. If you're an artist with a beat, they do the Chubby Checker to your music."
Mr. Checker, who turned 60 on Wednesday, debuted "The Twist" a cover of the song by Hank Ballard & the Midnighters on "The Dick Clark Saturday Night Show" in August 1960. He topped the charts the next month and again in 1962. He hit the Top 40 again with a rap version of "The Twist" in 1988.
People are still twisting, although mainly at wedding receptions that feature other faded dance crazes such as the macarena and the electric slide. That doesn't matter to Mr. Checker, who says he invented "dancing apart to the beat." His letter even makes the case for a Nobel Prize.
"You boogie with your girlfriend, and you never stop to think where it comes from," he says. "Here I am with my big mouth to tell you."
Terry Stewart, president of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame which will announce its newest inductees in December says it would be unfair to give Mr. Checker his own statue. There is a wide variety of opinion about what constitutes the watershed moments of rock, he says.
"The idea that we could elevate one individual with a statue out front would suggest I would have to do likewise for all the rest of the people in the pantheon," Mr. Stewart says.
"It's just not a reasonable request."
Mr. Checker did not originate solo dancing, although he was an important innovator, according to Chrystelle Trump Bond, who heads the dance department at Goucher College in Baltimore.
The dance form evolved over many decades, taking root in the 1920s with dances such as the Charleston and the black bottom, she says.
"I don't want to take away from Chubby Checker's contributions, but he's denying all the unsung heroes who did this way before he was born," Miss Bond says.
Mr. Checker was born Ernest Evans in Andrews, S.C., and grew up in Philadelphia. He was tagged with the nickname "Chubby" as a teen-ager. Dick Clark's wife later suggested the name "Checker" because of his resemblance to Fats Domino.
Mr. Checker, who lives in the Philadelphia suburb of Paoli, still tours with his band, the Wild Cats, and has two new albums, "Toward the Light" and "Texas Twist." He's also hawking a new line of beef jerky.
"I'm a fortunate man. I've got good health. The little boy still lives in me," he says.

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