Let's Twist; We Are Still Doing It Today
The Twist was a rock and roll dance popular in the early 1960s named after the song that originated it, The Twist. It was the first major international rock and roll dance style in which the couples did not have to touch each other while dancing.
The dance was first popularized by Chubby Checker in 1960 with a hit cover of the 1959 B-side and minor hit "The Twist" written by Hank Ballard. Checker's single became a smash hit, reaching #1 on the US charts. The song set a record, being the only single to reach #1 in two different chart runs (as it reached #1 in 1960, and then resurfaced, reaching #1 again in 1962).
Faced with explaining to the youthful audience how to do the dance, a member of Checker's entourage came up with the following description:
"It's like putting out a cigarette with both feet, and wiping your bottom with a towel, to the beat of the music."
At It's Height
In 1961, at the height of the Twist craze, patrons at New York's hot Peppermint Lounge on West 45th Street were twisting to the music of the house band, a local group from Jersey, Joey Dee and the Starliters.
Their house song, "Peppermint Twist (Part 1)," became the number one song in the United States for three weeks in January 1962. Sailors and hookers, hipsters and weekending Yalies danced alongside New York's social elite, including the Duke of Windsor, at the legendary Peppermint Lounge.
Although dancers no longer touched when dancing the Twist, it was still usual to dance with a partner while dancing it socially and the basic twisting of the hips technique came straight out of the Lindy Hop. Chubby Checker released the song 'The Twist' in 1959 and its world debut on the Dick Clark Show in August 1960 set the world a twistin'.
We Do It Today
Once upon a time on a cruise through the Panama Canal, Sue and I entered a twist contest. While we did not think a lot about it after the fourth dance, we were exhausted. We made it ot the semi-finals but we were so tired, Paul nearly collapsed on the floor!
Sue reminded me that her mother broke her wrist doing the twist at the Peppermint Lounge in New York City.