Chubby Checker will twist into Wilkes-Barre May 7 at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts
WILKES-BARRE — There will be a lot of history in town on May 7.
That’s when Joe Nardone will present another of his doo-wop shows at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts.
The DuPrees — “You Belong to Me” and “Have You Heard” — will be there. The Platters — “Only You” and “Great Pretender” — will be there.
Nardone represents a lot of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s history, but his headline act this night will be the iconic Chubby Checker.
Talk about history.
Voted the No. 1 song of all time by Billboard Magazine, “The Twist” still gets people out of their seats and on the dance floor.
“Come on baby, let’s do the Twist.”
Nardone and Checker, 74, go way back, Nardone said.
“We go back to the early days in Philadelphia,” he said. “He was a struggling artist and I was a struggling record store owner who was hoping to be successful in a business.”
Nardone remembers when Checker’s career exploded with the release of “The Twist.”
Chubby Checker took some time to talk to the Times Leader about his career that continues today with the release of “Looking for Me,” a country song.
Although “The Twist” was first released in 1959 by Hank Ballard & the Midnighters, it didn’t catch on until Checker released it in 1960. And the rest, as they say, is history:
• “The Twist” was voted the No. 1 hit of all time by Billboard Magazine.
• It was the first dance craze that didn’t require dancing partners to touch each other.
• Basically The Twist is a simple twisting of the hips — pretend to stamp out a cigarette while you dry your back with a towel.
The man with the iconic name and the most iconic song of all time will be in Wilkes-Barre once again, brought here by the man who has dedicated his life to bringing oldies groups to town for audiences to relive special times.
“I was in the right place at the right time,” Checker said. “That’s all I can say. And that song is probably the most important song in the music industry. It changed our dance form.”
Checker said in the two and a half minutes it took to perform “The Twist” on American Bandstand, the world was changed forever.
“What people fail to understand is the style of the Twist is the style of everything else on the dance floor,” Checker said. “We all use it, this style of dance, and it’s here and it started with Chubby Checker.”
Checker said for some 15 years of his career, all his musicians were from Wilkes-Barre and Scranton. He loves the hot dogs in Wilkes-Barre, always getting “one wit and one witout.”
Born Ernest Evans, Checker’s friends called him Chubby. The name was given to him by the owner of a market where he worked. The Checker part came from Dick Clark’s wife, after she heard him do an impression of Fats Domino.
Checker is excited about returning to Wilkes-Barre. He said he still has friends here and in the Scranton area.
Nardone said this latest doo-wop show is one of a long list of shows he has promoted at the Kirby Center.
“It’s where we bring back the memories of the best times of our lives,” he said. “Our community supports the shows and they keep coming back to see the groups that made history in the formation of what we now know as doo-wop.”
Nardone strives to bring the original groups to his shows but, in some cases, some members have passed away and the remaining members of the “legally named” groups have found wonderful replacements.
“These are wonderful times for the fans of doo-wop where they are able to see and hear what is considered the beginning of rock n roll, because doo-wop was before Elvis Presley, Bill Haley, Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly.”
Some of the big names Nardone has brought to town include Little Anthony & The Imperials, Lou Christie, Kenny Vance, The Drifters, Flamingos, Chiffons, The Tokens, Larry Chance & The Earls, Harold Melvin’s Blue Notes, Gary U.S. Bonds, The Shirelles, Johnny Tillotson, The Coasters and many more.
Nardone said going way back, he brought in Neil Diamond to Sans Souci Park, Billy Joel, KISS, Rush, Barry Manilow, Frankie Vallie & the 4 Seasons, Kansas, Queen, and Mott The Hoople. He also brought the Grateful Dead, Sly & the Family Stone, Bob Seger, Jethro Tull, Chicago and Grand Funk Railroad.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.
IF YOU GO
What: Joe Nardone presents The Best of Doo-Wop and Rock
Where: F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts
When: 7 p.m. Saturday, May 7
More info: Visit kirbycenter.org or call the box office at 570-826-1100