I wouldn’t ordinarily expect a rock and roll icon to perform in such opulent surroundings, steps away from gaming tables and gargantuan food courts. I would have expected a personable guy like Chubby Checker to be playing intimate nightclubs where he could whisper a phrase and feel his hot breath melt ice cubes in martini glasses. I can’t say that gambling is in my bones, either. In fact, when it comes to music, I like a sure thing.

That is, by the way, why I hopped on a casino bus headed to the Horseshoe Casino located in the industrial city of Hammond, Indiana, on a frigid Friday evening. I felt pretty sure this would be an energetic show, as I had spoken to Checker by phone during an unusually long interview last month and the man, himself, had convinced me his show would be worth the trip.

At the time, I was riveted to the phone, anxious to get his take on the American dance movement he had propelled, and what he had been doing since its inception. During our conversation, he had chronicled the popular dances of the day, which were, by and large, clever in name, but nothing by which I had a direct connection.

That all changed on this night. Before the show began, some black and white footage of the singer was shown on two large screens. It was filmed at the height of Checker’s career when his upbeat tune about ‘The Twist’ throttled America’s youth culture and lured them into “dancing apart from the beat.”

Checker looked slim and casually dressed in faded-blue denim and shiny shoes that resembled black and white checker boards. There were mostly middle-aged and older folks seated in the spacious auditorium, but there were a surprising number of twenty-somethings, too.

One middle-aged man would have this to say, after the concert’s termination, "Much better than expected. I thought he’d be more perfunctory, but he wasn’t." Checker, 69, had not a shred of wear and tear in his voice; an instrument still warm, full-bodied and versatile.

As a teen, he imitated white singers while working at the poultry shop where he eventually nabbed an audition for Dick Clark; host of ‘American Bandstand.’ Those years as an adlib artist enabled him to croon, belt, mimic the popular singers of the day and, yes, “twist” a phrase.

The stage set-up was efficient and a great enhancement to this versatile voice. Tommy C., doubling as Checker’s road manager, played sophisticated sax and he and the rest of the rhythm section; one guitarist, keyboards, drums and a bass, were dressed in black.

The pace was frenetic for the first, several songs while Checker titillated the audience by saying, “Give it to me, baby” and “We’re gonna twist it up.” Keeping the show interactive worked well for this audience. “Everybody say, ‘yeah’" and everybody definitely responded with the expected "yeah" – but when the decibel level faltered, Checker stood there mocking the crowd, his hand on his hip, assuming that next chant would exceed his expectations.

‘Blueberry Hill’ brought smiles of recognition. Fats Domino, the singer/pianist who made that tune famous, was one of Checker’s favorite performers. Taking advantage of his chest voice to reach some of those sultry bottom notes, Checker’s phrasing grew more elongated and reminiscent of the early 60s era.

Mid-set Checker showed off some fancy foot work, preened, prowled and swivelled his hips. This spearheaded his display of dance moves. "Do the pony! That’s it," he said to a female dancer dressed in gold lame. With a willing volunteer, he demonstrated the seductive, ‘Hucklebuck,’ a dance which left literally centimetres between the bodies of the two partners. “You could only do it in the privacy of your own home,” he snickered.

After showing off his own best moves, he scanned the crowd while a spotlight shone on a lady with frosted white hair. Her gold, sequined top sparkled as she paraded her wares. Next, a lady in sassy orange, over-sized overalls volunteered.

Checker took a short sonic break from the frenetic motion and told the audience about his simple beginnings; living in a home with no electricity or traffic lights. "No TV sets, but radio was king," he laughed, then sang, “I keep on rolling with the flow” as a tribute to his affection for country-western.

“You’re gonna like it when I touch you/When I touch you you’re gonna like it” he sang, whirling through the crowd, giving pecks on the cheek to woman of all ages, and random hugs.

‘All Day, All Night,’ he sang, inching his mike towards the audience once again. "Down by the seashore, shifting sand…" his amber tones rested on each vowel as the Caribbean tempo lifted off. The comical ‘Limbo Rock’ kept up that same, happy-go-lucky theme.

A medley of early rock and roll hits including, ‘Blue Suede Shoes’and ‘Rock Around the Clock’ inspired another mass sing-a-long, after which Checker encouraged about 14 women to come up on stage. “Shake the water off your hands, just like this,” Checker chuckled, flailing his fingers loosely across an invisible horizon line.

Another medley including, Motown’s ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine’ and ‘My Girl’ melted the hearts of some young couples who initiated some slow dancing on the side of the stage. Checker, having had his fun with the female participants, urged a dozen more males to join him onstage. ‘Come on, brother, work it,’ he exclaimed, to a short, male, pulsing his torso, as he further examined this line-up of stocky to slender men comprised of various races and builds.

Afterwards, Checker changed into a classic, dark suit and offered to sign autographs to a long line of eager fans. Two young men, one from Canada, and one from the suburbs of Chicago, felt excited about the performance, even though many of their young friends who had never heard of Chubby Checker, would shrug off their evening escapades.

They weren’t really gamblers, either, at least not at the blackjack table. The Canadian man, an aficionado of the American big band era of the 50s, had recently come across Checker’s signature tunes. He had bet his American friend that he would love the show, and it soon became very clear: Chubby Checker’s the guy who gets you to defy the odds, gambler or not.











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Commenting On: Horseshoe Casino, Hammond, Indiana, 23/1/2011 - Chubby Checker








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20268 Posted By: Lisa (Chicago)

Hi Katie,

I believe the reason you can't find the record is that Chubby recites these phrases only during live performances, Katie.

As far as I know, I don't think this if from an actual recording, but Chubby certainly does do a great job of getting the audience involved when he makes these claims!

Thanks for reading Pennyblackmusic!

Lisa Torem

20195 Posted By: Katie (Florida)

I cannot find "When I touch you, you're gonna like it" ANYWHERE! Does Chubby Checker sing it or was it a cover? If it was a cover, whose song is it? And what is the exact title? I'd never heard the song before CC singing it Tuesday night at the fair here. I'd love to find it or download it. HELP! One4Buffett@hotmail.com


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