ABKCO Records has announced a new three-part series curated from the Cameo Parkway archives with the June 19th release of three dance-oriented compilations that underscore the legacy of Philadelphia’s legendary label. The announcement comes on the anniversary of Chubby Checker’s “Let’s Twist Again” having been awarded the 1961 GRAMMY® for Best Rock & Roll Recording. Dancin’ Party: The Chubby Checker Collection 1960 – 1966 is a definitive set of tunes from his career defining period. The second set, titled You Can’t Sit Down: Cameo Parkway Dance Crazes 1958 – 1964 is a collection of the label’s most notable dance releases of the period. The third set, You Got The Power: Cameo Parkway Northern Soul 1964 – 1967, consists of tracks famously embraced by the UK’s iconic Northern Soul movement.
Philadelphia-based Cameo Records was founded in late 1956 by Bernie Lowe and Kal Mann, budding songwriters who would later find success with Elvis Presley’s recording of their composition “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear.” Another Lowe & Mann composition would soon become Cameo’s first hit when “Butterfly,” a rockabilly-tinged smash for South Philadelphia native Charlie Gracie hit #1 on the pop charts. In 1958 the Parkway label was added and by 1959 both labels began to emerge as industry powerhouses with hits from Bobby Rydell and Chubby Checker, whose version of “The Twist” catalyzed a social upheaval, not to mention massive record sales.
Concurrent with the success of “The Twist,” Cameo Parkway became one of the industry’s most successful independent companies, on par with Motown’s rise later that decade. By late 1961, Cameo Parkway Records performance was so consistently strong that ownership took the company public; it became the first independent record label to offer shares on the American Stock Exchange. In all, during its roughly 11-year existence, the company placed more than one hundred singles and several dozen albums onto the Billboard charts.
Though somewhat removed from the pop industry centers of New York and Hollywood, Cameo Parkway’s locale proved to be a boon to exposure insofar as Philadelphia was the home of American Bandstand. The hugely popular weekday afternoon teen dance program, initially hosted by local DJ Bob Horn and ultimately by Dick Clark, was a powerful launching pad for many artists affiliated with Cameo and Parkway. With Clark at the helm from 1956 onward, the show went national and Bandstand, Dick Clark and numerous Cameo Parkway artists became household names throughout the country. Charlie Gracie recalls, “Going on Bandstand was like hitting a home run with the bases loaded.” Notes legendary Philadelphia DJ Jerry “The Geator” Blavat, “The importance of Cameo Parkway was the importance of Bandstand. It was the label that created all the dances. You look at Cameo Parkway’s success and look at Bandstand and there it is.”
Chubby Checker was the single most successful component of the Cameo Parkway artist roster. Beyond “The Twist” and “Let’s Twist Again,” he scored numerous successes, most of which were keyed to dance moves and good times. He recorded numerous dance floor fillers and secured impressive chart successes. Twenty-one of Checker’s recordings are featured in the forthcoming Dancin’ Party: The Chubby Checker Collection: 1960 – 1966. This definitive collection highlights seventeen Top 40 hits of which twelve entered the Top 20; seven charted in the Top 10 with two ultimately reaching the #1 spot.
You Can’t Sit Down: Cameo Parkway Dance Crazes 1958 -1964, features recordings with a corresponding dance to go along with each catchy tune. Artists like Bobby Rydell, The Orlons, The Dovells, Dee Dee Sharp, The Applejacks along with Chubby Checker are featured in this collection. Seven Top 10 hits including The Orlons’, “The Wah-Watusi,” Dee Dee Sharp’s “Mashed Potato Time,” two iconic numbers by The Dovells: “Bristol Stomp” and “You Can’t Sit Down,” plus “Slow Twistin’” by Chubby Checker and Dee Dee Sharp, Bobby Rydell’s “The Cha-Cha-Cha” and sixteen more hits dedicated to get even the wallflowers moving.
You Got The Power: Cameo Parkway Northern Soul 1964 -1967, showcases the numerous Cameo Parkway singles that would go on to become part of the soundtrack of Britain’s Northern Soul lifestyle phenomenon. Northern Soul’s emphasis was on obscure yet danceable records, a number of which became the focus of a cult-like worship years after they were first issued, partially due to the rarity of the 45s on vinyl. Recordings by Frankie Beverly & The Butlers, Bunny Sigler, The Orlons, Evie Sands, Candy and the Kisses, Christine Cooper and Eddie Holman are highlights of the 20-track collection.