# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Chubby Checker - Interview Part 2

  by Lisa Torem

published: 4 / 12 / 2010

Chubby Checker - Interview Part 2



PB : You’re going to be playing on the Malt Shop Memories cruise in October. What’s the plan? CC: We’re going to tear them up. We always do. We always do. We have that. I’m a scientist in a very, highly developed science studio, an experimental studio. (Laughs). We have that down pat. That live show. We have that if we don’t have anything else and if I have a gig for you and people have a chance to see that then we’ll have the same amount of people that Bon Jovi has and Springsteen has and Mellencamp and all of those guys out there. We would have that kind of success. Since the beginning in the 60s, even in my movies, there is this big heavy racial overtone keeping me from being all that I could be. I have a book coming out- it talks about the pitfalls of being a big star and being Chubby Checker. The pitfalls, the name of the book, well, I can’t tell you the title, but the thing with the pitfalls of being in rock and roll of being a big star and a person like me, in the music industry, how we continue to get raped, raped of our fame and our notoriety. We continue to get ripped off and raped and put on the back burner so lesser talent can come out and be before people like me. There’s a magazine called ‘Pollstar’. Get a copy of it and check the touring schedule – see who’s making all the money. Just check it out. You’re going to say, “Oh, my God, is this really happening?” You look at the tour schedule and see who’s making two million dollars in gross receipts and go all the way down until you see the people like Neil Young and Bob Dylan and go all the way down until you get to the Who – the people who have been around for about 45 years. Their music is still being played. They’re bringing a half million dollars, $800,000 a night, in gross receipts and it’s only because they’re getting airplay. The best way to describe it: do you remember Gordon Lightfoot? Well, they haven’t been playing his records lately for the past ten or twelve years, and he’s almost extinct. It just goes to show when they stop playing your music what happens to someone when that happens. They used to play his music and at the time, he had a great touring schedule. PB: How would you advise a new performer? CC: I want you to understand something, you know. I talk about what I don’t have, okay? Because I’m never going to stop talking about that and I do have a lot. I mean, my cup isn’t half empty, my cup is half full. So, it’s just that I am what I want to be, but I’m not all that I can be because we’ve got all these blockers keeping me from being all that I can be, because they’ve decided I’m not going to be the man I want to be in show business and that’s just going to be the end of that. But, to the new singers coming up, says Chubby, I say, hey, just go on out there and play. I can’t tell you nothing because a new singer is a white sheet of paper. I don’t want to put any ink on it. You have got to find out for yourself, just go out and be the best that you can be. That’s the only advice I have. Just go out and be the best you can be. But, behind all that I say, well, wait till you get your big, hit record and get your big disappointment and you go to New York City and you think you’re going to play Madison Square Garden and you end up playing a little theatre on the side of the street because you’re a black person. It’s not going to happen. I don’t say that. Let them find out for themselves. Even the big, huge singers out there that are black singers, they’re not all that, because when you compare them to the rest of the singers they’re nine or ten or fifteen in the equation. They’re not up there with the rest of them. They’re not, because they don’t get the airplay. Beyonce’s not getting the airplay that Taylor Swift is getting. They’re not getting the airplay. I mean if they’re playing Taylor Swift ten times a day, they’re playing Beyonce six times a day. Back in the music when I was out there my music was getting played from 6:00 until 12:00 at night. The other 18 hours a day I didn’t get any airplay for a long time. Think about it. Just think about airplay around the clock because I’m never going to be Rod Stewart, never, ever, ever, ever. Why? It’s here. I’m not afraid to talk about it, because it’s here. Why aren’t they playing Chubby’s music? Why? Did Chubby do something wrong? Back in the 60s I was going to do this horrible play called ‘Conrad Birdie’. I was the man and the guy said, “Oh, I didn’t know Chubby was black. We can’t use him then, sorry about that.” So I didn’t get the role. When I’m doing the movie, I’m sitting on the couch giving people advice and everybody else is doing everything and I’m just sitting there looking stupid and I got top billing – Chubby Checker coming to the movies - all I did was sing some songs in the nightclub. I wasn’t going around with a girl. I didn’t have a girl. I didn’t have any fun out there. I was in a stupid nightclub and they wrote the script around the nightclub. I sang, that’s all I did. Racism, that’s all it is. I didn’t have any girl. I didn’t have any girl to be with. When Elvis had a girlfriend, I didn’t have a girlfriend, I had nothing. PB: At what point during your career as an entertainer did you become aware of that racism? CC: Let me tell you something. I cried my heart out when I realized I had the biggest career in the world. I cried my heart out when I couldn’t star over Paul Anka or Bobby Rydell or Fabian or Frankie Avalon. I cried my heart out. PB: How did your management team approach this? CC: They were racists themselves so how could they talk about it? They’re caught up in the racist machine so what could they do about it? What could they say? Listen, you can’t disguise the truth. I got caught up in a racial machine that won’t allow me to be what I want to be and that’s just the end of it. They’re not playing my music. Come on, the number one song on the planet doesn’t deserve to get airplay? I mean it doesn’t make sense and don’t think that I don’t suffer because I do. Did you know why I look at Media Base because it tells you how many times your record is being played a year. They tell you the hour it’s being played because, thank God for new technology. They know everything; so, so, so ‘Twist and Shout’ gets played a thousand times and ‘The Twist’ gets played 37 times. And when you go to Polstar, just see, people like Jay Z, I mean Jay Z isn’t making money in the music industry. He’s doing other things. They’re not playing his music. He took his music money and turned it into something else because he knew they weren’t going to play his music. All of these rappers; they have a very, short life-span, very short life-span, and by the way, the only black people that get played on the radio, if you notice, because I know it goes right past you, real quick, and you don’t understand it. The black people; Marvin Gaye, Barry White, Ray Charles, Nat King Cole – don’t you hear those records all of the time? Thank you. PB: So why do you feel we only hear those records? CC: You’re not going to see them. They’re not going to make any money if they’re dead. It’s all about the same thing. Oh, we play black music. We play Marvin Gaye. We play Nat King Cole. “Really, how interesting”’ When are they going to have a show so we can check out how good they are? Louis Armstrong – you’re not going to see Louis. I don’t even hear Prince on the radio no more I don’t hear Lionel Ritchie. It’s not fair, it’s wrong that we should have to have in 2010 lily white radio with no black people in the rock business. Chubby Checker was never a R & B singer. Chubby Checker was a white boy singing with a tan face. My music’s not being played, just the white boys. I need to get played. I’m not being played and you know something? When you put this in your magazine your editor’s going to edit out all the good stuff, so you’re going to have a little suffering yourself. PB: Oh, I don’t think so… CC: He’s going to take all of the flavour out of your issue. He’s going to take all of the flavour out of it, you’ll see. You can tell me, Chubby, you’re right because these people have a government. That is all gauged in the same direction for people like me not to be all that they can be and that’s just the way it is. They do it in sports. No one can stop you from being all that you can be. They might put you on the bench, but people always come back and score and if the coach tells you not to do something and you think that you can do it, you can do it and if you succeed what’s the coach going to say? They just want to win the game. That’s all they want to do is win the game so if you’re a sports person and you make it happen and you’ve got the chemistry to make your team win, no one’s going to bother you and you’re going to make more money next year than before with all your hard work. But, it’s not in the music business and not so in the movie business. Eveyrbody’s controlled in the music business and if you’re white and they don’t like you they’ll start to say bad things about you to try to get the audience to stop liking you. It almost happened to Tom Cruise over the last four or five years. He started to get too rich and they started to say things against Tom Cruise. They’re just allowing him to get back where he wants to be with his new movie. I noticed that with Julia Roberts. They have a little thing against her lately these days. I mean I can see things. You can know it’s happening even if you can’t see it. They start saying things against you, but Lindsey Lohan, they’re helping that girl. They want her to succeed so they’re helping her in a negative kind of way, but they’re helping her. PB: What has kept you in Philadelphia all these years when so many artists relocate to the coasts for film and music? CC: You know I’m in showbiz and it doesn’t matter where I live. I don’t want to live more than 200 miles from New York City. LA is too spread out for me. LA is too spread out and I have a little island that I live on, we call it ‘S-H-I-P,’ a little island and you go up the driveway and it’s 14 acres and the deer are all around the place and away from all the traffic and - when we built the driveway - it’s peaceful and no one bothers me in the neighborhood and I’ve been living here since 1965 in February. PB: What do you recall about working with Dick Clark and ‘The American Bandstand’? CC: (Laughs). I wonder why you asked that question. Well, you know, Dick Clark’s wife gave me the name Checker (she suggested this surname after Chubby had done an imitation of Fats Domino) and Dick Clark really is responsible for giving me the opportunity to be on TV and on ‘American Bandstand’. I always thought that Dick never appreciated me for what I did for him. I always talk about him, but he never talks about me. Dick said one thing in my favor and I don’t know if he knew what he was saying or he said the three most important things that ever happened in the music industry were Elvis Presley, the Beatles and Chubby Checker. I almost swallowed my tongue when he said that. It was some years ago. But you know something? Whenever Dick Clark had his celebrations and he had all of his hoopla and the shows he brought people on he never included me and listen to this. When Dick Clark started ‘American Bandstand’, he was filling in for a guy named Don Horn. You know the history of it? PB: No. CC: Bob Horn lost the show to bad publicity and Dick Clark came in and took over and at that time he was just replacing Bob Horn. But the same format was going on> Nothing changed except that now they had a nice looking Dick Clark and he was very nice and people loved to watch him. But, Dick Clark did not become the man, the M-A-N until dancing apart from the beat was born on his show. Are you with me here? PB:I am. So you also boosted his career. CC: Now the man had something to talk about because now ‘American Bandstand’ became ‘Dick Clark’s American Bandstand’ because dancing had changed and everything that Bob Horn had done was finished. But, he never, Dick Clark had several radio stations, he never played my music. I mean, I love him, but he needs to know that, and everybody’s dancing apart from the beat on his show and he forgot who put it there. He just forgot who put it there. He said that I was next to Elvis and the Beatles but he didn’t try to prove that by bringing me on, just think if Dick Clark would have me on his shows, his New York rock and eve shows, how much more money I would have made in my lifetime. But, he never did. How can you forget about it? I’m overlooked. You made me the man that I am, but for God’s sake, I helped you be the man that you are. But, why? I honour you, but you never honour me. I’m the guy who made it happen for them. So there you go, so there it is. Dick Clark, I love him. Without him I wouldn’t be here. But he also has to understand that dancing apart from the beat was born on his show and who put it there, Chubby Checker. He didn’t honour what I did. I honoured what he said to me. He hasn’t honoured what I did for him. That’s all. I’m glad you asked the question because now everybody knows. Thank you very much. I don’t want this interview to be an interview of bitterness. I’m not bitter. I don’t want people to hear, ‘Oh, he’s bitter.’ Are you kidding me?’ Is this a joke or something? I’m bitter? Fred Astaire said the worst thing that could happen is to be overlooked. I’ve been overlooked. I’m almost as famous as Pretzels, but I’ve been overlooked. All the fame I’ve had without the advantage of hearing my music, can you imagine? If you heard my music, along with my fame, do you know where I would be today? Amazing. PB: Have you been approached about doing a movie of your life? CC: We’re writing a book at this point. The book will probably be finished early next year. In fact, I’m coming to Florida right now. We’re up to 1974 right now and we’re going to get into it a little bit more and I think maybe by April we’ll be finished with it. It’s a big book; it’s a mini-series. My life can change a lot of things. I mean a lot of little things; I mean the first eight years of my life are the first chapter of the book; almost two chapters. It’s amazing who I came from to get to this point in my life. I feel like I haven’t gotten very far and the most interesting part of my life is happening in the last five years. I mean, everything was leading up to this. So, we’ll see… I want the world to know how I feel. I want them to know what’s going on here; all those patents and those trademarks of the twist. I mean, everybody’s making money from Chubby Checker, but I didn’t get anything. I’m not making any money. I mean 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 people making money off Twist trademarks. Kraft is doing the Twist, Hershey is doing the Twist. Tropicana’s doing the Twist; everybody’s doing the Twist. The light bulb people are doing the Twist. I mean, they could say, Chubby, we got a twisted light bulb. We want you to advertise on TV. No one came to me for nothing. PB: What is the process for writing your book? CC: Oh, no, no. We sit and we do the book and we sit and the tape recorder goes on and we talk about things and then we get together two months later. We get together and we correct some things and we put things back together again and this is how we do it. But, it’s a very informative book; all the hurts, I didn’t miss anything, all the hurts, everything; all the pain is all there. It’s all there; all the pain’s there. PB: Will you tour the book? CC: I’ll tell you something. I really don’t know. I think I’d kind of like to leave it alone a little bit because I don’t want to show up at places and nobody’s there because of lack of my airplay. I have that fear and the thing is if they ask me to play with someone who has a record out, I can’t play with that person. They have airplay. I can’t play with that person. They have airplay and I don’t have airplay. So, I can’t compete with these people. There is a lot of things that I just don’t do. I would like for the book to come out and be a movie right away and then sell the book afterwards. PB: Who would play Chubby Checker? CC: I don’t know. It would be someone I’d have to pick. They’ll pick the wrong person because the producers have their own thoughts about things. Like this Ali movie, I thought Will Smith was great for the part but he didn’t look enough like Ali. He didn’t look enough like Ali. I mean he did a good job. I mean, when I look at him, that doesn’t look like Ali. I would rather them get someone who was unknown who was a great actor and the movie would have been more successful. I think so. So I would like to be able to choose the people that I would like to be Chubby Checker. Like when I did the Nabisco commercial for the Oreo Cookie, they allowed me to pick out the kid who looked most like me when I was a kid and it’s the only commercial that Nabisco has ever done that got an award. So we do have power out here. When we’re put in the right situation then we have the power to do great things, but it can’t be bits and pieces. It’s got to be the right production. It’s a movie they really got to do it right. If it costs 24 or 30 or 40 million to make that movie, it might gross maybe 500 million to make that movie because there’s a lot of stuff in there, man. Wow. Oh, my, there’s stuff in there. I don’t attack racism like most people. I look racism in the face and call it for what it is. I don’t take a back step to that. I look it in the face to talk to what it is. I will tell a DJ in a minute. He says, ‘what’s up. I’m playing this music.’ You only play dead niggers, don’t give me that. You don’t play anybody living because you don’t want niggers to make any money. Chubby! You say it when I’m not around. You don’t want us to make any money. That’s the whole thing. What do you got against black people making money? What’s the big deal? You know how I got my sound? PB: How? CC: White people always like to imitate black people singing. So what I did, I imitated them imitating black people. That’s how I got my sound and it worked and I was ten years old when I decided I was going to do that. I was ten years old. PB: Were there other musically-inclined people in your family? CC: My mother was a good singer and her family were good singers. My father’s father was a mulatto and his father was a white man. They didn’t have any rhythm (Laughs). So it got into my blood and I got the rhythm (Laughs). Hey, I’m living a good life. I enjoy the fight because it keeps it interesting, you know, and it gives me something to do every day that I wake up. Oh, here I go again another fight. I wonder what’s going to happen today. Is it going to be exciting? And the phone rings and there it’s you (Laughs). PB: Thank you, Chubby.

Picture Gallery:-
Chubby Checker - Interview Part 2

Chubby Checker - Interview Part 2

Post A Comment

your name
ie London, UK
Check box to submit


Interview Part 1 (2010)
Chubby Checker - Interview Part 1
In a two part interview Lisa Torem speaks to bestselling artist Chubby Checker about his worldwide 60's dance hit, 'The Twist' and the racism which he feels has blighted his fifty year career

live reviews

Horseshoe Casino, Hammond, Indiana, 23/1/2011
Chubby Checker - Horseshoe Casino, Hammond, Indiana, 23/1/2011
Lisa Torem watches 60's icon Chubbby Checker play an enthusiastic and humorous set of his classic rock 'n roll hits at Horseshoe Casino in Hammond near Chicago

most viewed articles

most viewed reviews

Pennyblackmusic Regular Contributors