From the Land of Band Box Records

I Got to Thinking About Life and ……

Image result for group of people doing the twist

…..perhaps at no other time in human history, would the entire world come together more completely than when the nations of the world agreed to unite by doing a simple little dance together called “The Twist”!

“Saving the World”


So before exploring my theory, I decided to see if by some crazy chance, that someone had possibly put forth this theorem …. And lo and behold – there it was – a little book (under 200 pages – with 146 pages of narration) – called – ready? — “The Twist – The Story of the Song and Dance That Changed the World” by Jim Dawson, published first in 1995.

Dawson took my theory a step further with ‘changing the world’ – but at least it was a start.  Back when I was playing disc jockey at local sock hops and oldie dances there were a couple of things I could always do to get everyone out on the old dance floor – The first was to play Chubby Checker’s “Limbo”.  Everyone thinks they can Limbo.

Very few can.  But it is great fun.  I always turned it into a contest, bringing the bar lower and lower and tapping folks young and old on the shoulder if they touched the bar or fell to the ground – eliminating them from running back into the long Limbo line.

Most of the young would cheat – and keep returning to the Limbo line.  How could they not?  You don’t get to Limbo just any old time.

How Low Can You Go?

Twisting & Shouting

Image result for ferris bueller's day off movie posterAnd then there was the Twist!  Everyone can twist – and I mean everyone!  And there are so many personal styles of twisting!  And after the 1986 motion picture “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” where Ferris gyrated to the Beatles’ “Twist and Shout” – that completely reset the stage so to speak.

The Isley Brothers first brought fame to the song in 1962 (composed by Bert Russell and Phil Medley).  Their version peaked at number 17  on the Billboard Pop Charts and number 2 and the R&B charts.  The song was actually introduced by a group called “The Top Notes” in 1961 but failed to make any noise.

The Beatles’ original release of “Twist and Shout” was in the Spring of 1964  – and was their seventh charting single reaching number 2 where it remained for 4 weeks.  So after Ferris Bueller’s antics in 1986 – the song won over a new generation and I could spin the fab four’s version for a middle school dance and fill the floor with excited students, teachers and often – many parents.  “Twist and Shout” by the Beatles charted again in August of 1986 following the release of the movie and remained for 15 weeks reaching number 23.  It wasn’t re-recorded but released as was in ’64.

The Power of movies manifested itself again at sock hops (and weddings) everywhere after the Isley Brothers’ “Shout” was featured in 1978’s “Animal House” at a Toga party.

Twisting Roots

Harlem Twist 1928 – Perry Bradford – Buster Bennett – Jelly Roll Morton

The Twist’s beginnings/roots are traced back by Mr. Dawson – a sort of fascinating exploration culminating in the arrival of the song we came to know and love in the early 1960’s.

Dawson presents many tales of the Twist’s origins including (but certainly not limited to): a 1844 song called “The Grape Vine Twist” composed by Don Emmett; a 1912 Perry Bradford composition “Messin’ Around” which more or less evolved through the years all the way up to a version by Ray Charles “The Mess Around” featured in “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” in 1987; a tune by The New Orleans Owls called “New Twister” in 1928.

Red Nichols released “Harlem Twist” in 1928 on the Okeh label and Ferdinand “Jelly Roll” Morton cut the “Turtle Twist”.  Moving along to Buster Bennett in 1947 we get a song called “I Want to Boogie Woogie” containing the lyrics “Mama, mama, look at sis, she’s out in the back yard trying to do the twist….”.

Lawson leads us through many more before arriving at the more formative moments taking us up to the real deal.

Twisting Time

You would think that a song a basic as “The Twist” could have simply been a matter of a couple of guys or gals sitting in a cubicle perhaps in New York’s Brill Building, tinkling away on the piano keys, exchanging verses, revising, finalizing and then running down the hall to do a spontaneous demo for a mover and shaker or gosh knows who.

But not necessarily.  The Twist winds its way back to a group of Gospel singers called “The Sensational Nightengales” of all places, where group members brother Joseph Wallace and Bill Woodruff would toy with a tune containing the lyrics again alluding to a little sister and then “Come on baby, let’s do the twist”.

Sensational Nightengales

Nightengale Joe Wallace decided to shop the song around first approaching Joe Cook who recorded as “Little Jo” with “The Thrillers” – of “Peanuts” fame, who passed on taking it.  This ditty was just not destined to become a Sensational Nightengale staple and so apparently group member David Edwinton eventually passed it along to a group who were first known as “The Royals”.

The Twisting Midnighters

The Royals found their way onto the King record label signed by label owner Syd Nathan in Cincinnati, Ohio.  They would change their name to “The Midnighters” due to the existence of another King Records’ act, “The Five Royales”.   Midnighters Hank Ballard and Cal Green would work on the song drawing from a couple of other tunes for inspiration, “What’cha Gonna Do” which was recorded by Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters in 1955 and a song of their own, “Is Your Love For Real”.

The First Twist

The group recorded “The Twist” in late 1958 which was designated as the “B” side of King catalog number 5171.  The “A” side was “Teardrops On Your Letter” and that track would chart number four R&B and number 87 Hot 100 while “The Twist” reached number 16 R&B and ran for 16 weeks and then disappeared not causing any major stir and launching any dance crazes.

First and Second Releases of the Twist by Ballard

(Ironically, the Midnighters thought they were probably going to have their contract cancelled by Nathan, and actually sent a demo tape of the “Twist” to Vee Jay Records.  When they were surprisingly resigned by Nathan, Vee Jay put the demo tape away, and it would be forgotten for over 30 years.)

The King version was slowed down considerably and the song found it’s way onto the Baltimore teen program “The Buddy Deane Show” where it gained popularity with black teenagers, who would create the moves that would come to be known as “The Twist”.

Image result for the buddy deane show

The song and dance would come to the attention of Dick Clark in Philadelphia who, while concerned about the reputation of the Midnighters and their suggestive songs in the past, was still intrigued enough to want to explore it’s possibilities further.  Enter young Philadelphia singer Ernest Evans who had been wallowing with lackluster results from his first three releases on Parkway Records out of Philly.

Image result for chubby checkerEveryone knows that Evans got his new recording name from Dick Clark’s wife when she watched him work on a Fats Domino song.  Chubby was Dick Clark’s answer for a more acceptable and marketable approach to performing the song which was getting attention up in Baltimore.  It took awhile, but by finally in June of 1960, Chubby’s version was released and that was that!  Things just exploded from there on out.

When Hank Ballard first heard the Checker version on the radio he thought it was himself singing.  King quickly responded by recording an updated version of the song – this time mimicking the arrangement they were hearing on the Parkway hit.  It was released in July, hot on the heals of Chubby’s version, but the battle had been won.  Checker got to debut his song on Dick Clark’s very popular Saturday night version of Bandstand and he was well on his way to his number 1 hit.

The Ballard remake entered the Hot 100 charts on July 18th and reached a respectable number 28 but it was no contest as to who the world would accept as the genuine item. (The second release by King carried the same catalog number 5171 as the original – It is distinguished from the first release by the use of a thicker font – shown above).

Twisting At the Peppermint

The world was ready for the Twist and after the kids on Bandstand adopted it from the Baltimore kids, it was only a matter of time before the previous generation would get in on the act.  The catalyst for the crossover would be a funky bar in Manhattan.  A Peppermint Lounge publicist came up with the idea to advertise a new group they had appearing regularly, Joey Dee and the Starliters, and to announce a new dance that the teen set were doing at the Peppermint (drinking age was 18 and thus teenagers).

Celebrities were lured from nearby night clubs that were starting to wane.  Before long the “jet set” began to test the waters at the Peppermint and to test the new dance as well.  From there things took off – not only at the Peppermint Lounge, but across the nation wherever people yearned to ‘bust a move’.

And the dance and music was not limited to all ages in the U.S.  It quickly spread around the globe.  China and Russia as well as East Germany all attempted to suppress the ‘evil Western dance’ – Russia by attempting to introduce their own clumsy and awkward dance steps.  The Russkies and Euro’s and Asians were having none of it.  It was Twist or die!

Image result for JOEY DEE STARLITERS

Joey Dee and Starliters

Did the Twist change the world?  Well, maybe for a year or two it may have seemed that way.  Everyone was twisting and everyone was rushing into the studio to jump on the Twist wagon.  Old songs were dusted off and renamed, adding a “Twistin'” somewhere in the title line.

Checker kept twisting and recorded his twistin’ fanny off with an incredible string of singles and long plays which, according to Dawson, were for the most part unbearable.  Dawson does give a nod to the actual “Twist” original and also “Let’s Twist Again” which he begrudgingly paid tribute to.  Lawson was not tolerant of the syrupy sounds coming out of Cameo Parkway, or appreciative of the general tamed down direction that rock and roll had taken going into the 1960’s.

Let’s Twist Again

In late 1961, the Twist was again released by Parkway this time backed by a different “B” side “Twistin’ U.S.A.”  Both sides found their way onto the charts with “U.S.A.” reaching number 68 and “The Twist” rising once again to the number one spot in the nation, this time for two weeks instead of one.  This achievement put Checker in pretty exclusive company by reaching the top position twice with the same song in different time periods, joining Bing Crosby with his “White Christmas” but being the only song in the rock and roll era ever to accomplish the feat.

Checker would enjoy many new dance hits and nearly reached the top pinnacle once again – just missing with “Limbo Rock” (#2) in the fall of 1962.  Checker’s final dance hit would be a sort of sad “Let’s Do the Freddie” in April of 1965 (#40).  His final appearance on the Hot 100 would come with a vocal accompaniment with The Fat Boys, performing “The Twist (Yo Twist)” in the summer of 1988 reaching number 16.

The Peppermint Lounge was sold in 1965 and closed in December of that year.  Joey Dee and the Starliters would move on from the Peppermint for other venues and his group would disband with members of the Starliters eventually forming The Young Rascals.

The Berlin Wall would tumble.  The Soviet Union would disband.  China would become a capitalist power.  And the Twist?  Well, if you go to a wedding or a an oldies dance and someone puts on an old crackling disc which begins with buzzing distinctive sax intro….and then….

“Come on baby
Let’s do the twist
Come on baby
Let’s do the twist
Take me by my little hand
And go like this…”

Then – Let there be Twist on Earth and Let it Begin With Me!

Band Box Goes Twisting

Twist on the Big Screen

Twist Motion Picture – “Hey, Let’s Twist”

Twist Motion Picture – “Don’t Knock the Twist”

Twist Motion Picture – “Twist All Night”

Twist Motion Picture – “Twist Around the Clock”

On the Charts with The Twist

Here are the singles that hit the Top 40 during the Twist Era (1960-1963)”

Chubby Checker – Parkway 811 – “The Twist – 1960 – #1

Hank Ballard & The Midighters – King 5171 – 1960 – #28

(The second release of “The Twist” by Ballard – Labels with slight differences in font size)

Danny & The Juniors – Swan 4060- “Twistin’ U.S.A.” – 1960 – #27

Chubby Checker – Parkway 824 – “Let’s Twist Again – 1961 – #8

The Marvelettes – Tamla 54054 – “Twistin’ Postman” – 1961 – #34

Chubby Checker – Parkway 811 (different B side) – 1962 – #1

Chubby Checker – Parkway 835 – “Slow Twistin’ – 1962 – #3

The Chipmunks – Liberty 55424 – “The Alvin Twist” – 1962 – #40

The Dovells – Parkway 838 – “Bristol Twistin’ Annie – 1962 – #27

Chubby Checker – Parkway 842 – “Dancin’ Party” (Twist in lyrics) – 1962 – #12

Joey Dee & The Starliters – “Peppermint Twist” -1962 – #1

Gary U.S. Bonds – Legrand 1015 – “Dear Lady Twist” – 1962 – #9

Gary U.S. Bonds – Legrand 1018 – “Twist, Twist, Senora” – 1962 – #11

Sam Cooke – RCA Victor 47-7983 – “Twistin’ The Night Away” – 1962 – #9

Billy Joe & The Checkmates – Dore 620 – “Percolator (Twist)”  1962 – #10

King Curtis & The Noble Knights – Enjoy 2 – “Soul Twist” – 1962 – #17

The Isley Brother s- Wand 124 – “Twist and Shout” – 1962 – #17

Joey Dee and the Starliters – Roulette 4408 – “Hey, Let’s Twist” -1962 – #20

Jimmy Soul – S.P.Q.R. 45-3300 – “Twistin’ Matilda (and the Channel)” – 1962 – #22

Bill Black’s Combo – Hi 45-2042 – “Twist-Her” – 1962 – #26

Chubby Checker – Parkway 879 – “Twist It Up” – 1963 – #25

The Beatles – Tollie 9001 – “Twist and Shout” – 1964 – #2

(The most successful single outside of the Twist Era)

The Fat Boys with Chubby Checker – “The Twist” – 1988 – #16

Beyond the Twist with the Chubster

Chubby dropped a lot of weight over the years, always working hard with his dance routine (he was always expected to dance and not just sing).  Checker hung in there releasing dance tracks right up to the end and beyond his Parkway label contract:

Everybody’s Twistin’ (Everybody!!!)

A look at the long plays in the era of the Twist!

Twistin’ with Mike Adams and The Red Jackets – “Twist Contest”

Twistin’ with The Adventurers – “Can’t Stop Twistin'”

Twistin’ with Steve Alaimo – “Twist With”

Twistin’ with Aki Aleong – “Twistin’ The Hits”

Twistin’ with Gene Ammons – “Twisting the Jug”

Twistin’ with Ray Anthony – “The Twist”

Twistin’ with Hank Ballard & The Midnighters – “The Twistin’ Fools”

Twistin’ with Hank Ballard and the Midnigthers – “The Twist, The Twist, The Twist”

Twistin’ with Jimmy Beasley – “Twist”

Twistin’ with Chuck Berry – “Twist”

Twistin’ with Bill Black’s Combo – “Let’s Twist Her”

Twistin’ with The Blue Barrons – “Twist to the Great Blues Hits”

Twistin’ with Gary U.S. Bonds – “Twist Up Calypso”

Twistin’ with James Browns – “Twist Around”

Twistin’ with James Brown – “Good, Good Twistin'”

Twistin’ with Ray Bryant and His Combo – “Dancing the Big Twist”

Twistin’ with Sam Butera & The Witnesses – “The Continental Twist”

Twistin’ with The Cadillacs – “Twisting With”

Twistin’ with Jo Ann Campbell – “For Twistin and Listenin'”

Twistin’ with The Candymen Orchestra – “Let’s Twist”

Twistin’ with The Candymen – “The Twist”

Twistin’ with The Carroll Brothers – “College Twist Party”

Twistin’ with Cal Carter – “Twist Along”

Twistin’ with George Cates – “Twistin’ Twelve Great Hits!”

Twistin’ with The Champs – “Great Dance Hits”

Twistin’ with Ray Charles – “Do The Twist With”

Twistin’ with Chubby Checker – “For Twisters Only”

Twistin’ with Chubby Checker – “Let’s Twist Again”

Twistin’ with Chubby Checker – “Your Twist Party”

Twistin’ with Chubby Checker – “King Of Twist”

Twistin’ with Chubby Checker – “For Teen Twisters Only”

Twistin’ with Chubby Checker – “Don’t Knock The Twist”

Twistin’ with Sam Cooke – “Twistin’ The Night Away”

Twistin’ with Warren Covington – “Everybody Twist”

Twistin’ with The Crystals – “Twist Uptown”

Twistin’ with Gugat – “Twist With”

Twistin’ with King Curtis – “Soul Twist”

Twistin’ with King Curtis – “King of the Twist”

Twistin’ with Bobby Darin – “Twist With”

Twistin’ with Meyer Davis – “Plays the Twist”

Twistin’ with Joey Dee and the Starliters – “Doin’ The Twist”

Twistin’ with Joey Dee & The Starliters – “Hey, Let’s Twist!”

Twistin’ with Joey Dee and His Starliters – “Peppermint Lounge In Miami Beach”

Twistin’ with Joey Dee and His Starliters – “All The World Is Twistin’!”

Twistin’ with Bo Diddley – “Bo Diddley’s A Twister”

Twistin’ with Fats Domino – “Twistin’ The Stomp”

Twistin’ with Stereophonic Sound – “Twist”

Twistin’ with Duane Eddy – “Twistin” and Twangin'”

Twistin’ with Les Elgart – “The Twist Goes To College”

Twistin’ with Various Artists – “Let’s Twist to the Oldies”

Twistin’ with – “Come On Everybody Let’s Do The Twist”

Twistin’ with Irving Fields – “Twisting!”

Twistin’ with Connie Francis – “Do The Twist”

Twistin’ with Ernie Freeman – “Twistin’ Time”

Twistin’ with Stan Freeman and His Twister s- “Everybody’s Twistin'”

Twistin’ with – “Come On Everybody Let’s Twist!”

Twistin’ with Bill Haley and His Comets – “Twistin’ Knights at the Roundtable”

Twistin’ with Slide Hampton- “Jazz with a Twist”

Twistin’ with Dale Hawkins – “Let’s All Twist at the Miami Beach Peppermint Lounge”

Twistin’ with Carl Holmes and the Commanders – “Twist Party at the Roundtable”

Twistin’ with Joe Houston – “Doin’ The Twist”

Twistin’ with Joe Houston – “Twisting In Orbit”

Twistin’ with Various Artists – “Hullaballoo”

Twistin’ with The Isley Brothers – “Twist Shout”

Twistin’ with The Isley Brothers – “Twisting and Shouting”

Twistin’ with Chubby Jackson – “Twist Calling With”

Twistin’ with Etta James – “Twist With”

Twistin’ with Sammy Kaye – “New Twists”

Twistin’ with B. B. King – “Twist With”

Twistin’ with Bob Keene Big Band – “Twist KLIF Radio”

Twistin’ with Bob Keene Big Band KRLA Radio – “Twist”

Twistin’ with Moe Koffman – “Plays for Teens”

Twistin’ with Lester Lanin – “Twistin’ in High Society”

Twistin’ with The Lions – “Twist With”

Twistin’ with Mad Magazine – “Twists Rock and Roll”

Twistin’ with Chuck Marshall and the Twist-Stars – “Twist to Songs Everybody Knows”

Twistin’ with The Marvelettes – “Smash Hits”

Twistin’ with Jimmy McCracklin – “Twist With”

Twistin’ with Johnny McGee & His International Twisters – “Everybody Twist”

Twistin’ with Mike Vinnie And His Twisters – “Plenty of Twist!”

Twistin’ with Roger King Mozian – “El Twist!!!!!!”

Twistin’ with Arthur Murray and King Curtis  – “The Twist!”

Twistin’ with Tommy Navarro – “Twist Around the Town”

Twistin’ with The Night Owls – “Twisting the Oldies”

Twistin’ with Oliver and the Twisters – “Look Who’s Twistin’ Everybody!!”

Twistin’ with The Orchids – “Twistin’ at the Roundtable With”

Twistin’ with The Original Twisters – “Come On And Twist”

Twistin’ with Earl Palmer – “Percolator Twist and Other Hits”

(Earl Palmer was actually featured drummer on the original track by “Billy Joe and the Checkmates” who were a studio group.

Twistin’ with Danny Peppermint – “Twist”

Twistin’ with Perez Prado – “Now! Twist Goes Latin”

Twistin’ with Louis Prima – “Doin’ The Twist”

Twistin’ with Teddy Randazzo – “Twists!”

(Randazzo played Joey Dee’s brother in the film “Hey, Let’s Twist”)

Twistin’ with Robby Robber and the Hi-Jackers – “The Twist”

Twistin’ with Robby Robber – “The Twist America’s No, 1 Dance Hit”

Twistin’ with Tito Rodriguez – “Latin Twist”

Twistin’ with Shirley Scott – “Hip Twist”

Twistin’ with The 7 Blends – “Twistin’ at the Miami Beach Peppermint Lounge”

Twistin’ with Dee Dee Sharp – “It’s Mashed Potato Time” (with “Slow Twistin'”)

Twistin’ with The Sherrys – “At the Hop” (with Bristol Twistin’ Danny”)

Twistin’ with The Shirelles & King Curtis – “Give a Twist Party”

Twistin’ with Mike Simpson and His Ranch Hands – “Dixie Twist”

Twistin’ with The Charlie ‘Hoss’ Singleton Combo – “The Big Twist Hits”

Twistin’ with Frank Slay – “Twistin’ All Night Long” – with Various Swan Artists

Twistin’ with Keely Smith – “Twist With”

Twistin’ with The Invaders and Kintups Steel Bands – “Steel Band Limbo Twist”

Twistin’ with The Temples – “Bei Mir Twist Du Schon”

Twistin’ with The Tennessee Twisters – “Twist Country Hits”

Twistin’ with Tommy and the Twisters – “Let’s All Do The Twist”

Twistin’ with George Torres and the Twisters – “Let’s Do The Twist”

Twistin’ with Bobby Trammell – “Arkansas Twist”

Twistin’ with Tubby Chess and His Candy Stripe Twisters – “Do The Twist”

Twistin’ with Ike and Tina Turner – “Dance” (with Twistaroo and Trackdown Twist)

Twistin’ with The Twisters – “Peppermint Twist”

Twistin’ with “The Twist a Swingin’ Neww Party Album of Your Favorites”

Twistin’ with The Twistin’ Kings – “Twistin’ The World Around”

Twistin’ with Jim Tyler – “Twist”

Twistin’ with Various Artists – “The Twistin’ & Swingin’ Mood”

Twistin’ with Various Artists – “Teh Most Of The Twist”

Twistin with Various Artists – “Twist (The Twist)”

Twistin with Various Artists – “Twist!”

Twistin’ with Various Artists – “Twist With the Stars”

Twistin with Various Artist s- “The Greatest Twist Hits”

Twistin’ with The Ventures – “Twist”

A Billion Twist Singles

Sort of strange – There were about a billion records released during the twist-era when actually, probably only one was needed!  It wasn’t about the versions – It was about the dance!  Here are is a sample discography of those crazy twisters:

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