ONE CAN BE REPLACED
“You want to talk to Chubby Checker?”
Not too long ago, I was in an old record store here in Nashville, a place I often go. I have a record collection of old albums. This collection would have rivaled all the records stocked at Page’s Music store on Wabash Avenue when I was a teenager in Indiana.
I was going through an old bin of albums, mostly from the late 1950s’, my- preference. I pulled out a Chubby Checker album and was reading the liner notes when the lady standing next to me said, “You like Chubby Checker?” I said, “Yes, I like him, saw him a couple of times in my younger days." I remember, one night in particular, I saw him up on the Roof at Lake Shaffer in Monticello, Indiana. It was a great place; I saw lots of acts there.
Back to the lady, she said to me, “You want to talk to him, Chubby Checker?” Now I do a double take, “Did you say talk to him?” I’m thinking, Who is this gal, some kind of voodoo lady? Then she said to me, “I’m a booking agent for acts that come into the South. I booked him and I just got off the phone with him minutes ago. He is on his bus making his way back home to Philadelphia from a show he did last night in Florida. If you want me to, I will call him.” She pulled out her cell phone, dialed him up and I talked to Chubby Checker!
Now, as Paul Harvey used to say, “Here’s the rest of the story.” Most people are familiar with the song “The Twist.” The song was first recorded by a guy named Hank Ballard and his group the Midnighters. In the 50s’ one of the most popular teenage television shows was Dick Clark’s afternoon American Bandstand. Oh yes, Justine! Justine and Bob used to dance together. Clark had booked Ballard to be on his show to do his song “The Twist.” For some reason, Ballard did not show up, but Clark knew of this kid in Philadelphia, Ernest Evans. Clark called Evans and said, “Why don’t you come down here and do this song, “The Twist,” as Ballard, for some reason, is not going to show up.
The rest is history; 17- year-old Evans showed up and did the number. The next day, Clark took Evans into a recording studio and recorded “The Twist.” Within days, the song was a hit and played all over the country. Today Ernest Evans, whom we know as Chubby Checker, is known worldwide all because a guy did not show up.
Lesson for us all: if you are supposed to be somewhere, you best show up, or your replacement may permanently replace you.
P.S. I did talk with Checker that day. He was very nice and appreciative of the recognition.
March 28, 2010