|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.