Hank Ballard (born John Henry Kendricks November 18, 1927 in Detroit, Michigan - died March 2, 2003 in Los Angeles, California) was an R&B/rock singer and the lead vocalist of Hank Ballard & the Midnighters. He played an integral part in the development of rock and roll music, releasing the hit singles "Work With Me, Annie" and "Annie Had a Baby" with his Midnighters, and later as the sole writer of Chubby Checker's smash hit "The Twist".
Ballard was born John Henry Kendricks in Detroit, Michigan, but grew up in Bessemer where he began singing in church and later aspired to a career in music. In 1951, the 15-year-old Ballard moved back to Detroit and formed a doo wop group. He worked at the Ford Motor Company during the day and sang with the group at night.
He soon joined a group called The Royals along with Henry Booth, Charles Sutton, Sonny Woods and Alonzo Tucker. The Royals had already signed to Federal Records when Ballard joined, and the group soon released Get It (1953), an R&B hit.
The group then changed its name to The Midnighters to avoid confusion with The "5" Royales. Sutton was replaced by Lawson Smith, while Thrasher was replaced by Sonny Woods. Tucker was replaced first by Arthur Porter and then by Cal Green.
The Midnighters' first major hit was "Work With Me, Annie", a 1954 R&B hit that also sold well in mainstream markets. It topped the R&B charts for 7 weeks. Numerous "answer songs" were inspired by it, including the Midnighter's own Annie Had a Baby, which topped at #1. Their third major hit that year was "Sexy Ways," a #2 charted song that was banned from radio airplay in many markets, bolstering the group's reputation for risqué lyrics.
They had four more R&B chart hits in 1954-55. The Midnighters continued releasing singles and albums, and also changed their name to "Hank Ballard and The Midnighters". Their label also changed to King. They had no hits in 1956-58. Then between 1959 and 1961 they had several more both on the R&B and Pop charts, including "Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go".
In 1959, Ballard's song "The Twist" was released as the B-side of "Teardrops on Your Letter", a #4 hit on the R&B charts. A year later Chubby Checker's cover version of the song went to #1 on the pop charts. (It would return to the top of the charts in 1962.) Though this brought about renewed interest in Ballard and The Midnighters for a time, this lasted for only a few years, and the group dissolved in 1967. Ballard tried to launch a solo career, working with James Brown. Though he later tried to re-form The Midnighters, the new lineups never achieved much success.
- "Hank Ballard." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 27 Jul 2007, 04:17 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 3 Sep 2007 .