- Ballard, Hank
▪ 2004John H. KendricksAmerican singer and songwriter (b. Nov. 18, 1927, Detroit, Mich.—d. March 2, 2003, Los Angeles, Calif.), lit up the rhythm-and-blues (R&B) charts in the 1950s with a series of earthy blues-inspired songs and wrote the dance hit “The Twist.” In 1953 Ballard was asked to step in as front man for a doo-wop band called the Royals. Ballard's first record with them, “Get It,” made the top 10 on the R&B charts. The group changed its name to the Midnighters to avoid confusion with another group with a similar name. The Midnighters released the salacious “Work with Me, Annie” in 1954; it topped the R&B charts for seven weeks and made number 22 on the pop charts, though a number of radio stations refused to play it. A series of hits in a similar vein followed. In 1958 Ballard wrote and recorded “The Twist,” and one year later Chubby Checker's cover of the song spawned a national dance craze. Ballard was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
* * *▪ American musicianborn November 18, 1936, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.died March 2, 2003, Los Angeles, CaliforniaAmerican rhythm-and-blues (rhythm and blues) singer and songwriter best remembered for songs that were frequently as scandalous as they were inventive, most notably the salacious "Work with Me, Annie" (1954). He also wrote "The Twist" (1959), which sparked a dance craze in the United States.Ballard grew up in Alabama but as a teenager returned to his birthplace, where he worked at an automobile assembly plant before joining the vocal group that would record for Federal and King first as the Royals, then, more successfully, as the Midnighters. Although he was responsible for "The Twist," a crossover sensation when later covered by stalwart Chubby Checker, Ballard's popularity was confined primarily to a wildly appreciative black audience that made the Midnighters a hit on the chitlin circuit (music venues that attracted African American audiences). "Work with Me, Annie" —which prompted a raft of answer songs, most notably "Roll with Me, Henry" by Etta James (James, Etta)—was opposed by radio programmers who disapproved of its “explicit lyrics”; however, it and the similarly criticized "Sexy Ways" and "Annie Had a Baby" were Top Ten rhythm-and-blues hits for the Midnighters in 1954. Later hits included "Finger Poppin' Time" and "Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go" (both 1960). Both the gospel (gospel music) phrasing with which Ballard infused his high tenor and the scorching guitar of the Midnighters' backing band played important roles in the development of rock and roll. Ballard pursued a solo career after 1963, performing regularly with the James Brown (Brown, James) Revue. After years of relative obscurity, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
* * *