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Hank Ballard: The Man Who (Probably) Wrote “The Twist”

Last week, The Daily Music Break posted a clip of Chubby Checker singing — and dancing — “The Twist” on the 50th anniversary of his appearance on 55th anniversary of his appearance on American Bandstand.

One of the interesting tidbits is that Checker didn’t write the song. The credit goes to Hank Ballard, though there is some controversy about that. Here is the beginning of his profile at The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, into which he was inducted in 1990:

Hank Ballard is remembered for recording a trilogy of risqué R&B numbers: “Work with Me, Annie,” “Annie Had a Baby” and “Annie’s Aunt Fannie.” Yet Ballard’s contribution to rock and roll goes much deeper than that. With the grinding guitars, distorted sound and fervid call-and-response of those and many other recordings made for the King and Federal labels, Ballard helped define the sound of rock and roll.

Hank Ballard was born in Detroit on November 18, 1927 (some sources list 1936). After the death of his father, he and his brother, Dove Ballard, moved to Bessemer, Alabama, where they were raised by their paternal aunt and her husband. Hank began singing in church, but his major influence was the “Singing Cowboy,” Gene Autry and his signature song, “Back in the Saddle Again.” (Continue Reading…)

Above “Finger Poppin’ Time.” Here is an interesting interview with Lawson Smith, one of the members of Ballard’s band, which was Hank Ballard and the Midnighters.

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame website and Wikipedia were used to write this post. Homepage photo: Norm Buller.


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Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.


What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.


The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.