Terry's Book Club

Welcome to my book club. During our broadcast season, I’ll make a recommendation and tell you why I think it’s worth reading. You can also recommend books to me below. Let’s share.

The Twist: The Story of the Song and Dance That Changed the World” by Jim Dawson

I remember when I was a tyke, maybe three or four, my parents would trot me out when company came over, and ask me to do the Twist for them.

I would happily start twisting – using the instructions Chubby Checker had clearly set out: Dance like you’re wiping your bottom with a towel, while putting out a cigarette with each foot.”

I would shimmy and twist, and my parents and their friends would laugh and clap.

The Twist was a dance phenomenon, and it was historic for many reasons. As author Jim Dawson says, it changed the world in some interesting ways.

For starters, the dance demanded physical separation between partners, which was revolutionary at the time. Think back to all the dances leading up to the early 60s, partners were always holding hands, swinging each other around, or hugging each other in slow waltzes.

The Twist spawned a litany of copycat dances, like the Hully Gully, the Pony, the Frug, the Monkey, the Mashed Potatoe and many more.

It was that influential.

It also inspired many twist-like records, like Twistin’ the Night Away, Peppermint Twist, Soul Twist, Twistin’ Postman, Tequila Twist and so on.

Maybe the most famous of all Twist-inspired tunes was Twist and Shout, covered by the Beatles in what many feel is John Lennon’s greatest vocal.

The original song actually entered the charts twice – rising to #1 each time, which is rare.

A huge success can overshadow an entire career. Chubby Checker is thought of an a one-hit wonder, but he actually had 21 songs in the Top 40, and seven in the Top 10.

“The Twist” is a fun, surprising, quirky read. Originally published in 1995, but easily found online.

Top three reasons to read this book:


A name can be big-time branding. Dick Clarke’s wife took one look at chubby singer Ernie Evans and christened him Chubby Checker, a word-play on Fats Domino.


Every phenomenon is related to other phenomena. Just before the Twist became popular, the Hula Hoop was launched, and it got hips gyrating all over the country. It opened the door to the dance.


The song was first issued as a “B” side for black artist Hank Ballard, and the kids in Harlem created a dance that was “suggestive and dirty.” But Dick Clarke, who saw the (white) potential of the song, asked Chubby Checker to cover it. Good old Chubby had no sex appeal, so he drained the naughtiness right out of it, and parents (like mine) had no problem with their kids shaking their tiny booties to it


Terry’s Book Club

Recommend a book

Terry's Book Club

Recommend a book