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Seminal R&B Songwriter Hank Ballard Dies

Posted in News on March 2, 2003
Hank Ballard, BMI songwriter and one of the originators of the fusion of rhythm & blues and rock & roll, died this week at his home in Los Angeles. He was reported to be 76.

Ballard, born John H. Kendricks in Detroit, wrote “The Twist” in 1958 and recorded it with his group The Midnighters. It wasn’t until the following year, however, that the song became a hit when it was released by Chubby Checker. In 1960, Ballard and his band had three simultaneous hits in the Top 40: “Finger Poppin’ Time”, “Let’s Go, Let’s Go, Let’s Go” and a re-released version of “The Twist.” The last title has nearly 3 million performances according to BMI surveys.  

A number of his records were banned from mainstream radio because of their suggestive lyrics but he charted 22 singles on the R&B charts by the early 60s, including “Work With Me Annie” (also released as “Dance With Me Henry” by Georgia Gibbs and Etta James), “Annie Had a Baby” and “Annie’s Aunt Fannie.”

Ballard, who credited Gene Autry as his first inspiration, was inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.