Who would’ve guessed that out of all the shows I’ve seen in my lifetime, Chubby Checker’s concert would take first prize? I didn’t think anyone could possibly displace the double bill of the fantastic Tina Turner and the inimitable Joe Cocker, but there it is. Chubby Checker skyrocketed.
His show didn’t begin with an announcer’s usual warnings, “There will be no flash pictures allowed during the show” and “Turn off all cell phones.” Once the show started, I understood why. Because if a cell phone rang, no one would’ve heard it anyway.
Only one prior statement was made–“Chubby will be available in the lobby after the show to sign autographs and say hello.”
Then his band walked out, took their places and the sax player walked up to the mic and simply said, “Chubby Checker.”
Chubby walked out onto the stage and proceeded to sing non-stop for an hour and a half. He embraced the audience and they embraced him back.
By the mid-point of his concert, it became obvious he needed no back-up singers or performers, because his audience filled the bill. People were dancing in the aisles, standing at their seats dancing and those who couldn’t get out of their seats were dancing in their seats.
Whenever he sang a song that came complete with its own dance, he’d shout, “If you know how to do the Pony, come on up.” People of all ages went up to the stage and danced. At one point, he had over 20 women onstage teaching them how to do the Fly. Toward the end of the show, he had 20+ men on stage doing the Twist.
He encouraged people to sing and since everyone in that audience knew the lyrics, everyone in that audience sang. He didn’t just perform his own songs, he sang songs that were well-loved in the 60’s. Songs by Little Richard, Marvin Gaye, Bill Haley, and so many more I couldn’t keep track. He sang Blue Suede Shoes and he didn’t massacre it. He did Elvis proud.
At other concerts I’ve attended, when a recognizable song is about to begin, there is a hushed sort of “ahhh” that permeates the audience. At this concert, every time Chubby started to sing, people screamed their approval.
Senior teenagers! It was a night to reminisce, to do things we hadn’t done in many years. Some folks who climbed up on stage had to be helped up the steps. In one case, a man actually used a cane to get up on stage to join the rest of the guys.
Inhibitions be damned! Everyone was a kid again.
Many people stayed to talk to Chubby after the show and get his autograph. Some held old 33 1/3 record albums for him to autograph. Others just wanted to tell him what he meant to them when they were growing up.
I was there well over an hour and there were still people waiting to talk to him. They took pictures of him with their cell phones. He was gracious, never rushed anyone, and he signed every autograph requested.
It was a party!