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Hank Ballard & The Midnighters

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Hank Ballard


Rewind the FiftiesRewind the Fifties
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In the world of early rhythm & blues and doo wop, Hank Ballard was the very definition of earthiness. Though influenced by high-energy gospel vocal groups, Ballard's music with the Midnighters couldn't have been more diametrically opposed in terms of subject matter: his lyrics were filled with raunchy double-entendres that left little to the imagination, pushing the envelope of what was considered acceptable in the '50s. His songs were sometimes banned on the radio, but that only made him an even bigger jukebox favorite among black audiences. Ballard's hard-driving, rhythmic style was also an underappreciated influence on the rawer side of R&B, particularly on a young James Brown; plus, his composition "The Twist" -- recorded for a hit by Chubby Checker -- became one of the biggest hits in rock & roll history.

Hank Ballard was born November 18, 1927 (according to his birth records) in Detroit, but moved to Bessemer, AL, as a young child following his father's death. There he began singing in church and when he returned to Detroit at age 15, he set about forming a doo wop group while working on the Ford assembly line. Around the same time, singers Henry Booth and Charles Sutton were organizing a doo wop outfit called the Royals, which reputedly at one time also featured Jackie Wilson and future Four Top Levi Stubbs; it eventually grew to include vocalists Lawson Smith and Sonny Woods, plus gritty guitarist Alonzo Tucker. Initially copying the smooth style of Sonny Til & the Orioles, the Royals were discovered by Johnny Otis in 1952 and signed with Federal Records. However, when Hank Ballard replaced Smith in 1953, they adopted a rougher, more hepped-up sound in keeping with Ballard's numerous original compositions and Clyde McPhatter influence. Ballard's first recording with the group was 1953's "Get It," which hit the Top Ten on the R&B charts, but it was the following year's ribald "Work With Me Annie" that really broke the group (they changed their name to the Midnighters around this time, to avoid confusion with the Five Royales). "Work With Me Annie" topped the R&B charts and nearly reached the pop Top 20, despite a number of radio stations refusing to air the song. It inspired a number of answer records and the Midnighters themselves entered the fray with the sequels "Annie Had a Baby" (another R&B chart-topper) and "Annie's Aunt Fannie." They also scored another major smash with the Ballard-penned "Sexy Ways," which solidified their reputation as R&B's most risqu' act.

However, after the momentum of "Work With Me Annie" slowed, the Midnighters seemed at a loss as to how to recapture it. They went nearly three and a half years without another big hit, and with the decline in their fortunes came numerous personnel shifts. Lawson Smith returned to the fold to replace Sutton, Norman Thrasher replaced Sonny Woods, and Tucker's guitar post was taken first by Arthur Porter, then Cal Green. Ballard attempted to take his 1958 composition "The Twist" to Vee-Jay, which declined to release the version they recorded; King, Federal's parent label, issued it as the B-side of the Midnighters' R&B comeback ballad hit "Teardrops on Your Letter" in 1959. Still, "The Twist" gained some notice and found a fan in American Bandstand host Dick Clark, who brought the song to Chubby Checker's attention; the rest was history, as "The Twist" became the first song to hit number one during two completely separate chart runs. Ballard and the Midnighters benefited from the exposure, scoring their first Top Ten pop singles in 1960 with "Finger Poppin' Time" and "Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go." A few more R&B hits followed, generally dance-oriented songs in the vein of "The Twist," before the well dried up for a second time. The Midnighters gradually disintegrated and Ballard became a solo act; by the end of the '60s, he was working with longtime fan James Brown, who produced several singles for Ballard during the late '60s and early '70s. After a lengthy absence from music, Ballard re-formed the Midnighters during the mid-'80s, first as a female group, then male, and began touring once again. In 1990, Ballard received his due as an R&B innovator with his election into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. After suffering for several years with throat cancer, Ballard died quietly at his Los Angeles home in March of 2003.

Steve Huey, All Music Guide


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1955The Midnighters
1957Hank Ballard & The Midnighters
1959Singin' & Swingin'
1959The Midnighters Sing Their Greatest Hits
1960Mr. Rhythm & Blues
1960The One And Only Hank Ballard & The Midnighters
1961Let's Go Again
1961Spotlight On Hank Ballard
1961Dance Along, Sing Along
1963Jumpin' Hank Ballard
1963The 1963 Sound
1964A Star In Your Eyes
1965Glad Songs, Sad Songs
1965Those Lazy Days
1969You Can't Keep A Good Man Down
1993Sexy Ways: The Best Of Hank Ballard & The Midnighters
1993Naked In The Rain
1998From Love To Tears
2001The Very Best Of The Royals & The Midnighters


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1955 The Midnighters

1957 Hank Ballard & The Midnighters

01. Open Up The Back Door
02. In The Doorway Crying
03. Oh So Happy
04. Let 'Em Roll
05. E Basta Cosi
06. Stay By My Side
07. Daddy's Little Baby
08. Partners For Life
09. Is Your Love For Real?
10. What Made You Change Your Mind
11. Let Me Hold Your Hand
12. Early One Morning

1959 Singin' & Swingin'

01. Teardrops On Your Letter
02. Ring-A-Ling-A-Ling
03. Let Me Hold Your Hand
04. Don't Say Your Last Goodbye
05. Whatsonever You Do
06. Stingy Little Thing
07. Ashamed Of Myself
08. The Twist
09. That House On The Hill
10. Sweet Mama, Do Right
11. Ooh Bah Baby
12. Tell Them
13. Rock & Roll Wedding
14. I'll Be Home Someday

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1959 The Midnighters Sing Their Greatest Hits

01. Hello Miss Fine
02. I Feel That-A-Way
03. Sexy Ways
04. Don't Say Your Last Goodbye
05. Ashamed Of Myself
06. Work With Me Annie
07. I'll Be Home Someday
08. Give It Up
09. Until I Die
10. Henry's Got Flat Feet
11. Why Are We Apart
12. Annie Had A Baby
13. Annie's Aunt Fannie
14. Partners For Life
15. She's The One
16. Tell Them

1960 Mr. Rhythm & Blues

01. Look At Little Sister
02. Waiting
03. Never Knew
04. Don't Go, I Love You
05. Young Lady
06. Give It Up
07. Finger Poppin' Time
08. The Coffee Grind
09. I Said I Wouldn't Bet You
10. I Could Love You
11. Why Are We Apart?
12. I Love You, I Love You So-o-o

1960 The One And Only Hank Ballard & The Midnighters

01. Sugaree
02. Rain Down Tears
03. Cute Little Ways
04. House With No Windows
05. Everybody Does Wrong Some Time
06. So Good To Be Home
07. Kansas City
08. I'll Keep You Happy
09. I'm Crying Mercy, Mercy
10. She's Got A Whole Lot Of Soul
11. I'll Pray For You
12. Move, Move, Move

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1961 Let's Go Again

1961 Spotlight On Hank Ballard

01. Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go
02. Mona Lisa
03. When I Need You
04. Goodbye ' So Long
05. I Must Be Crazy
06. Just One More Chance
07. The Hoochi Coochi Coo
08. If You'd Forgive Me
09. Summertime
10. I'm Sick Of You
11. I'm Thinking Of You
12. These Young Girls

1961 Dance Along, Sing Along

1963 Jumpin' Hank Ballard

1963 The 1963 Sound

1964 A Star In Your Eyes

1965 Glad Songs, Sad Songs

1965 Those Lazy Days

01. Let's Get The Show On The Road
02. Knock On Wood
03. Somebody's Got To Help Me
04. That's Your Mistake
05. Handwriting On The Wall
06. You Don't Have To Cry
07. Watch What I Tell You
08. One Monkey Don't Stop No Show
09. I Done It
10. Seven Nights To Rock
11. Everybody Does Wrong Some Time
12. Winner Never Quits

1969 You Can't Keep A Good Man Down

01. How You Gonna Get Respect
02. Teardrops On Your Letter
03. You're So Sexy
04. Funky Soul Train
05. Slip Away
06. Which Way Should I Turn
07. With Your Sweet Lovin' Self
08. Are You Lonely For Me Baby
09. Thrill On The Hill
10. Woman Is A Man's Best Friend
11. Unwind Yourself
12. Come In Wit It
13. Butter Your Popcorn
14. Blackenized
15. Annie Had A Baby
16. Finger Poppin' Time
17. From The Love Side

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1993 Sexy Ways: The Best Of Hank Ballard & The Midnighters

01. Get It
02. Work With Me Annie
03. Sexy Ways
04. Annie Had A Baby
05. Annie's Aunt Fannie
06. Henry's Got Flat Feet
07. It's Love Baby (24 hours a day)
08. Open Up The Back Door
09. Tore Up Over You
10. Teardrops On Your Letter
11. The Twist
12. Sugaree
13. Never Knew
14. Look At Little Sister
15. Finger Poppin' Time
16. Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go
17. Let's Go Again
18. The Continental Walk
19. The Switch-A-Roo
20. Nothing But Good

1993 Naked In The Rain

01. Down And Dirty Twist
02. The Sky Is Crying
03. Keep That Fat (right where it's at)
04. I Never Touched Your Heart
05. Naked In The Rain
06. You Put Something On My Mind
07. When I Need You
08. Trouble Shoes
09. Catch On Fire
10. Jamming In New Orleans

1998 From Love To Tears

01. How Did We Get (from love to tears)
02. Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy
03. I Ran Nekked In The Rain
04. Too Bad Boys
05. Shake Whatcha Momma Gave Ya
06. Crazy To Be So Too In Love
07. Class Act
08. On The Money
09. Women Are Made For Lovin'
10. Let's Go Again

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2001 The Very Best Of The Royals & The Midnighters

01. Starting From Tonight
02. Every Beat Of My Heart
03. Moonrise
04. Fifth Street Blues
05. Get It
06. I Feel That-A-Way
07. Work With Me Annie
08. Sexy Ways
09. Annie Had A Baby
10. Annie's Aunt Fannie
11. Ring A-Ling A-Ling
12. Henry's Got Flat Feet
13. It's Love Baby (24 hours a day)
14. Rock And Roll Wedding
15. That House On The Hill
16. Open Up The Back Door
17. Sweet Mama Do Right
18. Rock, Granny Roll
19. Tore Up Over You
20. Come On And Get It
21. In The Doorway Crying
22. What Made You Change Your Mind
23. Let 'Em Roll
24. Daddy's Little Baby
25. Stay By My side

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graphics by YSM

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