"In two minutes and 42 seconds, the world changed," Chubby Checker says about debuting "The Twist" on American Bandstand in 1960. People were still swing dancing to Buddy Holly songs, he recalls, prior to his dance revolution. "Before Chubby Checker, that style of dancing wasn't here," he says. "And it's been going on 24/7 until this very moment we're talking."
The 72-year-old dance-floor game changer, who put out his most recent single, "Changes" last year, still looks back fondly at the early days of rock. This Saturday, he will be hosting a tribute to that period on My Music: '50s and '60s Party Songs, a PBS showcase of music by Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis and more, as well as reunion interviews with Danny and the Juniors ("Rock & Roll Is Here to Stay") and the Dovells ("Bristol Stomp").
But what he is still most excited about is his wiggling contribution to music history, "The Twist." "We changed the dance floor," Checker says. "We changed the world."
Checker says the secret to his dance craze was slowing down rock's beat, and along with other dances he helped popularize – the Pony, the Fly, the Shake and the Hucklebuck – "The Twist" paved the way for the Boogie and several other dance rages. Because Checker is an aficionado on dance fads, we grilled him for his opinions on a handful of trends that came in the decades since "The Twist."
"Listen, that's not a dance – that's an event," he says, laughing. "I mean, I guess people get so happy they just run into each other. In other words, it's like 'bumping cars with people.' That's a different kind of fun."
"That's the Shake! Shake your bottom – that's done already. Like I said, the Pony, the Twist, the Fly, the Shake or the Huckleback. We did that already."
"The Robot is just the Pony."
"That's the Pony, too. You can get so much out of [music] once they slowed it down. The Robot came from it, breakdancing came from it, the spinning dancing on the street. All that is part of the Pony."
"Michael Jackson is the most awesome person who ever walked onstage. He was just incredible. The Moonwalk is like the Slop. But nobody moonwalks on the floor together. They don't do that. That's not a dance. It's a move we do on the stage but we don't do it on the dance floor."
The "Gangnam Style"
"It's something you have fun doing, but it's not a 'dance.' No one does that."
The Macarena and the Electric Slide
"People don't do the Macarena together. Or if they do, they do it to get closer, to get together. It's the same thing with the Electric Slide. It's like the Bump – if you don't 'bump,' you're doing the Twist."