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Lest We Forget

Posted on March 2, 2003

Hank Ballard

Original Performer – “The Twist”

1936-2003

Hank Ballard, the singer and original performer of the “The Twist”, passed away Sunday, March 2, 2003. Ballard, who was suffering from throat cancer, died Sunday at his home, friends said. Friend and caretaker Anna Ayala said Ballard’s birth records indicate he was born in 1927, but biographical information lists his birthdate as 1936. Ballard was discovered in the early 1950s by writer-producer Johnny Otis. He was lead singer for the Royals, which changed its name to the Midnighters. Ballard’s songs were sometimes banned from 1950s radio for their sexually suggestive lyrics. Ballard charted 22 singles on the rhythm and blues charts, including “Work with Me Annie” – the biggest R&B hit of 1954, selling more than 1 million copies. The song inspired a series of other risque R&B numbers that included “Annie Had a Baby,” “Annie’s Aunt Fannie” and “Roll With Me Henry.” (The hit cover version for white audiences was “Dance With Me Henry.”) Ballard and the Midnighters didn’t suffer from Checker’s version of “The Twist.” In 1960, the group had three simultaneous hits in the pop top 40: “Finger Poppin’ Time,” “Let’s Go, Let’s Go, Let’s Go,” and their original version of “The Twist.” Ballard was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

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