Chubby Checker may be almost 70 years old, but on Thursday evening under the I-787 underpass, he sang and danced around the Alive at Five stage with the energy and intensity of a man half his age.
Although it was Hank Ballard who wrote the song “The Twist,” recorded it and invented the dance, it was Chubby Checker’s version of the song that sold more than three million copies. And he took the single straight to the top of the charts – twice – in 1960 and again in 1962, launching the biggest dance craze of the rock and roll era.
He followed with several more big hits – including “Pony Time,” “Let’s Twist Again” and “The Fly” – but just a few years later the Beatles, the Stones and the entire British Invasion pushed Checker off the charts and onto the golden oldie nostalgia circuit.
Checker’s music is nevertheless very much an integral part of the American pop music canon. And who can possibly resist its infectious dance rhythms? Certainly not the thousands who showed up to “shake all over” to Checker’s tunes at the rain site for the City of Albany’s Alive at Five free concert series. Checker even invited a several women of various ages to come up on the stage and dance with him – individually.
Albany’s own Ambassador of the Blues, Ernie Williams and his band opened. Now more than 80 years old, Williams can still hold the crowd’s attention with blues standards like “Mustang Sally” and others – all performed with a huge grin on his face and a professional showman’s polish.
Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
As excerpt from David Singer’s review in The Daily Gazette: “He mostly sped from song to song — and through each song — covering a good portion of his two-dozen hits. He also sang other artists’ hits, like ‘(I Found My Thrill) On Blueberry Hill.’ His sound is still quintessential early ’60s, though he drove hard a few, like ‘Twist it Up’ and particularly ‘Dancin’ Party,’ which was a bit rough. There wasn’t as much dancing as you’d expect in the crowd. ‘Loddy Lo,’ the perfect twist machine, did little to move them. Then came ‘Pony Time,’ the kind of tune they play at your cousin’s corny wedding to get everyone on the floor. People shook a little, but the lid never blew, like other Alive at Fives.”