FORT MILL — A red-carpet event Saturday will bring one of the most famous names in music to Fort Mill.
Chubby Checker, best known for his 1960 recording of “ The Twist” that topped music charts that year and again two years later, will host the 2013 AMG Heritage Awards on Saturday at The Barn at Regent Park.
The 72-year-old is a native of South Carolina, born in Spring Gulley in Williamsburg County. He’s never been to Fort Mill, but last week recalled a trip to Charlotte when he saw a sign for Hwy. 521 from the interstate and his “heart stopped for a minute.”
That highway travels through Williamsburg County on its way to the beach.
“It’s home,” Checker said of the Sandlapper State. “It’s going to be fun.”
The Heritage Awards will feature many acts, including Lynn Anderson (“Rose Garden”), Terri Gibbs (“Somebody's Knockin’”), Dino Kartsonakis (“Chariots of Fire”), Dylan Arms (“American Idol”), The Dixie Melody Boys, Stella Parton, Naomi Sego, Betty Jean Robinson and David Meece. Also included are local performers like The Eddie Mabry Dancers and the Union County Youth Ballet.
The show is part of a weekend of events put on by the Artists Music Guild. David L. Cook, seven-time Emmy Award winner and a member of the Country Gospel Music Hall of Fame, is president of the guild. He and his family performed in the space where the awards will be held during the PTL Show days, when Cook was a child.
“You couldn’t even walk in there, there were so many people,” he said. “We would like to see that place come back to life, and we feel like we’re capable of doing that.”
The current partnership between the guild, The Broadcast Group and The Barn will put the Heritage Awards at The Barn annually. Cook said there’s work on a year-round concert series, too, to feature events every month or two.
Aimed at mentoring young artists, the guild is bringing in schools from across the region for showcases, seminars and workshops during the weekend event.
“It’s very important to us that we give back,” Cook said.
Checker said his role mainly will be as host rather than performer, though he’s looking forward to meeting fans. People who remember his success in the 1960s – “Billboard Magazine” ranked “The Twist” as its top song on the all-time Billboard Hot 100 in 2008, a position it still holds – won’t be surprised at what they get with the singer today.
“I’m a Hershey bar,” Checker said. “I still taste the same. I’m a Coca-Cola.”
Checker still tours and even has a song, “Changes,” charting now. But the success of past performances allows him to keep audiences happy without constant reinvention. He’s most proud of the way “The Twist” and other songs changed the way people dance.
“The dancing that everybody does, that people are out there doing on the dance floor now, is as old as my career,” Checker said. “We’re as old as we are new.”
Events this weekend aim to help young performers, particularly at a time when public education funding for the arts isn’t always a priority, Cook said. Checker was 17 years old when he recorded “The Twist” and was famous by age 18. His story, and lessons learned from it, it something Checker is happy to share.
“The important thing is to display your art wherever you are, because you never know who’s watching,” he said.