In 1962, Chubby Checker's sold-out Twist Party was quite the show

Sixty years ago this week, the Cow Palace in South San Francisco saw its first major concert when Chubby Checker headlined for his "Twist Party." At that time, "The Twist" was in the number one spot again, having first charted as number one in 1960. Two San Francisco deejays were crucial in the event's sell-out success which also paved the way for other well-known acts.

The story is so interesting!

The DJs, Tom Donahue and Bobby Mitchell, are on the powerhouse station KYA-AM, so they have no trouble lining up big names for the show, including Checker, Jan & Dean, Bobby Day and Gene Chandler. They sell out the venue, packing in 17,000 mostly teenage fans for the show – a testament to the power of "The Twist." Bobby Freeman of "Do You Want To Dance" fame, low on the bill, sparks a new dance craze when he is brought back on stage for an encore. Instead of singing, he makes up some dances, including one called "The Swim," where he acts like he's swimming on dry land. Eighteen-year-old Sly Stone is working the show, and takes note of The Swim. Two years later, when he finds himself working for Donahue and Mitchell's label, Autumn Records, he and Donahue write a song based on Freeman's dance called "C'mon And Swim," which Freeman records. Released in 1964, it makes a big splash, going to #5 in the US and unleashing The Swim dance craze nationwide. A few years later, Sly Stone becomes a superstar at the helm of his groundbreaking group Sly & the Family Stone.

Chubby Checker doing "The Twist" on American Bandstand (1961)

SFGate covered the story on its 40th anniversary:

"There were fights outside," said Chubby Checker. "People couldn't get in."

Home of the Grand National Livestock Exposition, Horse Show and Rodeo, the Cow Palace didn't host a lot of concerts in those days. Frank Sinatra had appeared at the cavernous hall five years earlier and drawn fewer than 3,000 customers.

…At the Cow Palace, Donahue and Mitchell made out like bandits, taking home more than $23,000 on gross box office receipts of $46,000. Not having to pay performers undoubtedly helped the bottom line. They produced a subsequent series of Cow Palace concerts — Limbo PartySurf Party — including two appearances by the Beatles.

When Chubby Checker, working for another promoter, returned to the Bay Area just 10 weeks after the first "Twist Party," his two scheduled shows at the San Francisco Civic Auditorium were canceled after only 800 of 16,000 tickets were sold.

Happy to report that Chubby, now 80, is still doing his thing, which includes selling his eponymous beef jerky.

image via Tom Joad's Ghost/Flickr