1962 Billy Joe and the Checkmates – Percolator (Twist)

1962 Billy Joe and the Checkmates – Percolator (Twist)

Lewis Joseph Bedell was born in Texas and moved to Los Angeles with his mother when his parents divorced. He performed in a comedy duo with Doug Mattson in clubs across the country. The duo broke up in 1953, but Lew continued appearing as a solo act. He even had his own television show for a brief time on WOR-TV in New York City.

In 1955, Lew and two of his relatives started Era Records. The label had hits with Wayward Wind by Gogi Grant and Chanson d’Amour, by Art and Dotty Todd. In 1958, they also started Doré Records. That label released Phil Spector’s To Know Him Is To Love Him by The Teddy Bears and Baby Talk by Jan and Dean.

Maxwell House advertised their coffee using a fun little instrumental jingle created by Eric Siday in 1961.

Ernie Freeman was an arranger and composer and had played piano on records by the Platters. In 1957, he had a top five hit of his own when he covered the Bill Justis recording of Raunchy. In 1961, Lew asked Ernie to put together a group of studio musicians and record a rock instrumental version of the Maxwell House theme. Lew and Ernie took credit for writing the song when their single got released. They might have initially titled the song Percolator based on the coffee ad.

It was a hot time for any new song related to the twist, and in a moment of brilliance they renamed their new song by appending the word “twist” to the name: Percolator (Twist).

The song doesn’t sound like any other twist records, but the title helped the single reach #10 on the Hot 100 in 1962.

Studio musicians were used to create at least eighteen more singles released using the group name, but none of them reached the Hot 100.

Lew returned to comedy and released a comedy album in 1967. He also recorded a few comedy CDs in the late nineties and 2000 and released them as Lew Bedell. He died from cancer shortly after releasing his last CD.


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