Summary quotation from Wikipedia:
The Twist is a song that gave birth to the Twist dance craze. The song was written and originally released in early 1959 by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters as a B-side (to Teardrops on Your Letter) but his version was only a moderate 1960 hit, peaking at #28 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song, and the dance the Twist, was popularized in 1960 when the song was covered by Chubby Checker. His single became a hit, reaching #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 on September 19, 1960 (one week) and then setting a record by being the only single to reach #1 in two different chart runs when it resurfaced and topped the chart again on January 13, 1962 (two weeks).
In 1988, The Twist became popular once again, due to a new recording of the song by The Fat Boys featuring Chubby Checker. This version reached #2 in the United Kingdom and #1 in Germany.
Songs about doing the Twist went back to nineteenth-century minstrelsy, including Grape Vine Twist from around 1844. In 1938 Jelly Roll Morton, in Winin Boy Blues, sang, Mama, mama, look at sis, shes out on the levee doing the double twista reference to both sex and dancing in those days. As for this particular song, The Twist, Hank Ballards guitarist, Midnighters member Cal Green, said they picked up the general idea from Brother Joe Wallace of the gospel group The Sensational Nightingales, who of course couldnt record it himself. Green and Ballard already had written a song together called Is Your Love For Real, which theyd taken from Clyde McPhatter and The Drifters 1955 song Whatcha Gonna Do, so they simply put the new Twist words to the older melody. They originally recorded a loose version of the song in a Florida studio in early 1958, with slightly different lyrics, featuring Green on guitar playing like Jimmy Reed. However, they didnt get around to recording the released version until November 11, 1958, when the Midnighters were in Cincinnati. Ballard thought The Twist was the hit side, but King Records producer Henry Glover preferred the ballad Teardrops on Your Letter, which hed written himself.
Chubby Checker version
The song became popular on a Baltimore television dance show hosted by local DJ Buddy Dean; Dean recommended the song to Dick Clark, host of the national American Bandstand. When the song proved popular with his audience, Clark attempted to book Ballard to perform on the show. Ballard was unavailable, and Clark searched for a local artist to record the song. He settled on Checker, whose voice was very similar to Ballards. Checkers version featured Buddy Savitt on sax and Ellis Tollin on drums, with backing vocals by the Dreamlovers. Exposure for the song on American Bandstand and on The Dick Clark Saturday Night Show helped propel the song to the top of the American charts.
In 1962, the twist craze belatedly caught on in high society. Citings of celebrities doing the dance made the song a hit with adults, particularly after a report in the Cholly Knickerbocker gossip column. Soon there were long lines at the Peppermint Lounge nightclub in New York, the most popular celebrity twisting spot. This new interest made The Twist the only recording to hit number one on the United States charts during two separate chart runs, and marked a major turning point for adult acceptance of rock and roll music.
Checker re-recorded the song numerous times. An updated 1982 recording (from his album The Change Has Come) was retitled T-82, and in the 1990s, he recorded a country version. In the late 1970s, he recorded a new version that, except for the sound mix and some minor arrangement changes, was identical to the 1960 original; as a result this later version is often misidentified on compilations as the original recording. In 1988, he joined The Fat Boys on a rap version of the song, bearing the subtitle Yo, Twist. This version hit #2 in the UK, #16 in the US, and #1 in Germany and Switzerland. Checker also joined the group to perform the song that summer at a London tribute concert for Nelson Mandela. In addition, he recorded variations on the theme, such as Lets Twist Again to keep the craze alive (although Lets Twist Again was and has remained more popular than The Twist itself in the United Kingdom). Joey Dee and the Starliters, the Peppermint Lounge house band, scored a hit with Peppermint Twist, while other artists, including Sam Cooke scored with other Twist-themed songs. In Europe, Petula Clark scored hits in several countries with Twist themed records.
In the sixth episode of the second season of the TV series Quantum Leap, entitled Good Morning, Peoria (set in September 9, 1959), Dr. Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) and Al Calavicci (Dean Stockwell) have a Kiss with History, meeting Chubby Checker (played by himself) in a radio station (Sam leaps into a radio DJ called Chick Howell), where they sing and dance The Twist. An impressed Chubby asks: Can I use that move?. Sam responds: Yah, but I got it from you!.
According to Billboard Magazine, The Twist held the honor of being the number-one song on its Hot 100 50th Anniversary list of The Billboard: All-Time Hot 100 Top Songs in the first 50 years of the Hot 100 chart. It retained this honor when the All-Time chart was retabulated for the 55th anniversary in 2013.
The song is ranked number 451 on the Rolling Stone magazines list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Jim Dawson wrote a 1995 book about the song and the Twist phenomenon called The Twist: The Story of the Song and Dance That Changed the World for Faber & Faber ISBN 978-0-571-19852-8.
The song is featured on the Spider-Man 3 soundtrack released May 1, 2007, and was featured in the Miss 1959 pageant in the third episode of the TV series Magic City screened in April 2012.
The song has been added to the National Recording Registry in the Library of Congress on March 21, 2013 for long-term preservation.
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