Hank Ballard

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Hank Ballard
Birth name John Henry Kendricks
Born (1927-11-18)November 18, 1927[1]
Detroit, Michigan, United States
Died March 2, 2003(2003-03-02) (aged 75)
Los Angeles, United States
Genres Rock and roll, R&B
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter, musician
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1951–2003
Labels Federal, King, People
Associated acts The Midnighters

Hank Ballard (November 18, 1927 – March 2, 2003),[1] born John Henry Kendricks, was a rhythm and blues singer and songwriter, the lead vocalist of Hank Ballard and The Midnighters and one of the first rock 'n' roll artists to emerge in the early 1950s. He played an integral part in the development of the genre, releasing the hit singles "Work With Me, Annie" and answer songs "Annie Had a Baby" and "Annie's Aunt Fannie" with his Midnighters. He later wrote and recorded "The Twist" which spread the popularity of the dance and was notably covered by Chubby Checker.[2] He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

Early years[edit]

Born John Henry Kendricks in Detroit, Michigan, Ballard along with his brother, Dove Ballard, grew up and attended school in Bessemer, Alabama after the death of their father.[citation needed] He lived with his paternal aunt and her husband, and began singing in church. His major vocal inspiration during his formative years was the "Singing Cowboy", Gene Autry, and in particular, his signature song, "Back in the Saddle Again".[3] Ballard returned to Detroit in his teens and later worked on the assembly line for Ford.

Hank Ballard and the Midnighters[edit]

In 1953, Ballard joined doo-wop group The Royals, which had previously been discovered by Johnny Otis and signed to Federal Records (a division of King Records), in Cincinnati. Ballard joined Henry Booth, Charles Sutton, Sonny Woods and Alonzo Tucker in the group, replacing previous singer Lawson Smith.

The Royals released "Get It" (1953), an R&B song with possibly sexually oriented lyrics, which some radio stations refused to play,[4] although it still made it to number 6 on the Billboard R&B chart.

The group then changed its name to The Midnighters to avoid confusion with The "5" Royales. In 1954, Ballard wrote a song called "Work with Me, Annie" that was drawn from "Get It".[4] It became The Midnighters' first major R&B hit, spending seven weeks at number 1 on the R&B charts and also selling well in mainstream markets, along with the answer songs "Annie Had a Baby" and "Annie's Aunt Fannie"; all were banned by the FCC from radio air play.[5] Their third major hit was "Sexy Ways", a song that cemented the band's reputation as one of the most risqué groups of the time.[4]

They had four other R&B chart hits in 1954–55, but no others until 1959, by which time the group was billed as "Hank Ballard and The Midnighters" with their label changed from Federal to King, the parent label. Between 1959 and 1961 they had several more both on the R&B and Pop charts, starting with "Teardrops on Your Letter", a number 4 R&B hit in 1960 that had as its B-side the Ballard-written song "The Twist". A few months later, Chubby Checker's cover version of the song went to number 1 on the pop charts. It would return to the top of the charts again in 1962[2] – the only song in the rock and roll era to reach number 1 in two different years.

Ballard & the Midnighters had several other hit singles onto 1962, including the Grammy-nominated "Finger Poppin' Time" (1960) and "Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go" (1960) which hit number 7 and number 6, respectively, on the Billboard pop charts. They did not reach the charts again after 1962 and dissolved in 1965.

Later career and legacy[edit]

After the Midnighters disbanded, Ballard launched a solo career. His 1968 single, "How You Gonna Get Respect (When You Haven't Cut Your Process Yet)", was his biggest post-Midnighters hit, peaking at number 15 on the R&B chart. James Brown produced Ballard's 1969 album You Can't Keep a Good Man Down. A 1972 single, "From the Love Side", credited to Hank Ballard and the Midnight Lighters, went to number 43 on the R&B chart. Ballard also appeared on Brown's 1972 album Get on the Good Foot, in a track ("Recitation By Hank Ballard") that features Ballard describing Brown and the album.

During the 1960s, Ballard's cousin, Florence Ballard, was a member of the Detroit girl group The Supremes.

In the mid-1980s, Ballard re-formed The Midnighters and the group performed till 2002.

In 1990, Ballard was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; the other Midnighters were inducted in 2012.[6]

On March 2, 2003, he died at age 75 of throat cancer in his Los Angeles home.[7] He was buried at Greenwood Cemetery in Atlanta, Georgia.

Ballard was the great uncle of NFL player Christian Ballard.


Charted singles[edit]

  • Note: Credited as Hank Ballard and the Midnighters unless stated otherwise.
Year Single Chart Positions
US Pop[8] US
1953 "Get It"
The Royals
1954 "Work with Me, Annie"
The Midnighters
22 1
"Sexy Ways"
The Midnighters
"Annie Had a Baby"
The Midnighters
"Annie's Aunt Fannie"
The Midnighters
1955 "Henry's Got Flat Feet (Can't Dance No More)"
The Midnighters
"It's Love Baby (24 Hours A Day)"
The Midnighters
1959 "Teardrops on Your Letter" /
"The Twist"
"Kansas City" 72 16
1960 "The Coffee Grind" 21
"Finger Poppin' Time" 7 2
"The Twist" (re-issue) 28 6
"Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go" 6 1
1961 "The Hoochi Coochi Coo" 23 3
"Let's Go Again (Where We Went Last Night)" 39 17
"The Continental Walk" 33 12
"The Switch-A-Roo" /
"The Float"
"Nothing But Good" /
"Keep on Dancing"
1962 "Do You Know How to Twist" 87
1968 "How You Gonna Get Respect (When You Haven't Cut Your Process Yet)"
Hank Ballard with The Dapps
1969 "From the Love Side"
Hank Ballard and the Midnight Lighters


  1. ^ a b "Hank Ballard (1927–2003) – Find A Grave Memorial". Findagrave.com. Retrieved 2014-08-20. 
  2. ^ a b Gilliland, John (1969). "Show 20 – Forty Miles of Bad Road: Early '60s potpourri" (audio). Pop Chronicles. Digital.library.unt.edu.  Track 2.
  3. ^ "Hank Ballard". Bluesworld.com. Retrieved 2012-12-07. 
  4. ^ a b c Nite, Norm N. Rock On: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock n' Roll (The Solid Gold Years). Thomas Y. Crowell (1974), pp. 428–29. ISBN 0-690-00583-0.
  5. ^ "The Midnighters Biography". Retrieved January 12, 2013. 
  6. ^ "The Midnighters: inducted in 2012 | The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum". Rockhall.com. Retrieved 2014-08-20. 
  7. ^ "Hank Ballard, Singer and songwriter, Is Dead – New York Times". Nytimes.com. March 4, 2003. Retrieved 2014-08-20. 
  8. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2003). Top Pop Singles 1955–2002 (1st ed.). Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Inc. p. 36. ISBN 0-89820-155-1. 
  9. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1996). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942–1995. Record Research. p. 20. 

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