These posts are about the songs that can accurately claim to crossed the key line of chart success, becoming Top 40 hits on Billboard, but just barely. Every song featured in this series peaked at number 40.

Ernest Evans was overweight, but just a little. Just enough, in fact, that he was nicknamed “Chubby” by one the bosses at a low-level job he worked. As the story goes, Evans had just done a Fats Domino impression during an audition when he was asked his name. When he responded to a question about his name, he replied with the nickname related to his weight, causing an observer to speculate that if his first name was “Chubby” instead of “Fats,” then his last name was probably “Checker” instead of “Domino.” The pleasingly alliterative name stuck. His career got underway with a novelty song called “The Class,” originally recorded just for American Bandstand host Dick Clark, that gave Checker an angle to bust out a flurry of pop star impressions, including Domino and Elvis Presley (some other major figures, including Ricky Nelson and Frankie Avalon, were mockingly presented as the Chipmunks). It was eventually released as Checker’s first single, and subsequently became his first Top 40 hit. It was the following year that Checker secured his place in rock ‘n’ roll history with “The Twist.” After that, Checker had great success continually chasing different dance crazes. Hell, he even chased variations on the same dance craze, making it onto the Billboard charts with “Twistin’ U.S.A.,” “Let’s Twist Again,” “Slow Twistin'” “Twist It Up,” and, of course, “The Twist (Yo, Twist!” with the Fat Boys. As far as I can tell, “Twistin’ Round the World” did not chart.

Checker also had non-Twist hits, including two different songs that peaked at #40. The first of these was “Lazy Elsie Molly,” which is notable as the first hit penned by the songwriting team of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, who’d later be responsible for a lot of chart damage wrought by the Monkees. A bastardization of an old nursery rhyme set to a loping beat that sounded suspiciously like Checker’s own hit “Limbo Rock,” the track is hardly the pinnacle of songwriting.

Following that minor success, Checker decided it was time to take another stab at a dance hit. After the Hucklebuck, the Pony, the Fly, and the Popeye, Checker turned his attention to the Freddie. The song “Let’s Do the Freddie” was released in 1965, describing all the different moves, including flipping “your wings just like a bird,” waving “your hands up to the sky,” and kicking “your legs out to the side.” Just following along is exhausting. No wonder radio listeners and record buyers alike were more interested in comparatively simpler pleasures offered by all those dreamy British lads.

Previously…
“Just Like Heaven” by The Cure.
“I’m in Love” by Evelyn King
“Buy Me a Rose” by Kenny Rogers
“Who’s Your Baby” by The Archies
“Me and Bobby McGee” by Jerry Lee Lewis
“Angel in Blue” by J. Geils Band
“Crazy Downtown” by Allan Sherman
“I’ve Seen All Good People” and “Rhythm of Love” by Yes
“Naturally Stoned” by the Avant-Garde
“Come See” by Major Lance
“Your Old Standby” by Mary Wells
“See the Lights” by Simple Minds
“Watch Out For Lucy” by Eric Clapton
“The Alvin Twist” by Alvin and the Chipmunks
“Love Me Tender” by Percy Sledge
“Jennifer Eccles” by the Hollies
“Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Olympics
“The Bounce” by the Olympics
“Your One and Only Love” by Jackie Wilson
“Tell Her She’s Lovely” by El Chicano
“The Last Time I Made Love” by Joyce Kennedy and Jeffrey Osborne
“Limbo Rock” by The Champs
“Crazy Eyes For You” by Bobby Hamilton
“Who Do You Think You’re Foolin'” by Donna Summer
“Violet Hill” and “Lost+” by Coldplay
“Freight Train” by the Chas. McDevitt Skiffle Group
“Sweet William” by Little Millie Small
“Live My Life” by Boy George
“Lessons Learned” by Tracy Lawrence
“So Close” by Diana Ross
“Six Feet Deep” by the Geto Boys
“You Thrill Me” by Exile
“What Now” by Gene Chandler
“Put It in a Magazine” by Sonny Charles
“Got a Love for You” by Jomanda
“Stone Cold” by Rainbow
“People in Love” by 10cc
“Just Seven Numbers (Can Straighten Out My Life)” by the Four Tops
“Thinkin’ Problem” by David Ball
“You Got Yours and I’ll Get Mine” and “Trying to Make a Fool of Me” by the Delfonics
“The Riddle (You and I)” by Five for Fighting
“I Can’t Wait” by Sleepy Brown
“Nature Boy” by Bobby Darin
“Give It to Me Baby” and “Cold Blooded” by Rick James
“Who’s Sorry Now?” by Marie Osmond
“A Love So Fine” by the Chiffons
“Funky Y-2-C” by the Puppies
“Brand New Girlfriend” by Steve Holy
“I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” by Bonnie Pointer
“Mr. Loverman” by Shabba Ranks
“I’ve Never Found a Girl” by Eddie Floyd
“Plastic Man” and “Happy People” by the Temptations
“Okay” by Nivea
“Go On” by George Strait
“Back When My Hair Was Short” by Gunhill Road
“Birthday Party” by the Pixies Three
“Livin’ in the Life” by the Isley Brothers
“Kissing You” by Keith Washington
“The End of Our Road” by Marvin Gaye
“Ticks” and “Letter to Me” by Brad Paisley
“Nobody But You Babe” by Clarence Reid
“Like a Sunday in Salem” by Gene Cotton
“I’m Going to Let My Heart Do the Walking” by the Supremes
“Call Me Lightning” by the Who
“Ain’t It True” by Andy Williams

8 thoughts on “Top 40 Smash Taps: “Lazy Elsie Molly” and “Let’s Do the Freddie”

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