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Dancing in the street: Chubby Checker headlines Albuquerque’s Westside Summerfest

For Chubby Checker, visiting Albuquerque is like a chapter in a book.

It’s full of fond memories, all while creating new ones.

This is why the 75-year-old continues to perform.

“I don’t know anything different,” he says in a recent phone interview. “I’ve been performing for well over 50 years now. It’s in my blood. When I get on stage, I’m bringing the music to dance to. I want to see everybody dancing.”

Checker – born Ernest Evans – skyrocketed into mainstream with his 1960 cover of Hank Ballard’s hit “The Twist.”

The song wasn’t only a No. 1 juggernaut. It also brought forth a new dance craze.

“This wasn’t a new dance style. The song brought it out to mainstream. I remember being on ‘American Bandstand’ and realized that the song was going to be bigger than us. I never looked back and have enjoyed the ride.”

Checker will be the headliner at the city of Albuquerque’s Westside Summerfest on Saturday, Aug. 26. The event is free.

Checker’s ride in the music world is that of legends.

After scoring the No. 1 with “The Twist” in 1960, he later became the first – and remains the only artist – to place five albums in the top 12 at once.

Two years later, “The Twist” rose back up the charts to claim the No. 1 spot for a couple weeks. This was also the only time an artist has had a song go to No. 1 in two different years.

Checker handled all of his newfound fame in stride.

“I wanted to be in show business, and I had no idea that I would become a major player in the business,” he says. “I was able to make things happen in the industry. I never thought I would bring something that they would use. We brought dancing back to the mainstream dance floor. There are still people doing this dance, and it’s amazing to have lasting power.”

Having achieved all his goals, Checker knows he could never have a hit as big as “The Twist.”

“I’d be foolish to chase another song that big,” he says. “That’s the crown of my career. I still work on music and now have begun to record church music. I want to step away from Chubby Checker and record under my real name.”

With more than 50 years of performing under his belt, Checker still gives his all on stage.

“Every night, I tell the audience, ‘Ladies and gentlemen, put on your seat belts,'” he says with a laugh. “We’re going up to 30,000 feet and having a ball.”

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