Twistin' the Years Away
The Best of Times|June 2020
Flashback
Randal C. Hill

Though he was never much more than a rock ‘n’ roll footnote, Hank Ballard (1927 – 2003) briefly cracked the 1954 Billboard pop charts as the leader of the Midnighters by offering up such raucous R & B ditties as “Work With Me, Annie” and “Annie Had a Baby.” For the next five years, though, Ballard disappeared from Top 40 airwaves before returning for a few late 1950s/early 1960s hit singles.

The first of these was a now-forgotten 1959 release called “Teardrops on Your Letter.” The B side was Ballard’s original version of “The Twist,” a dance song in which he based the melody on an obscure 1955 R & B Drifters tune called “What’cha Gonna Do?” Stories vary on whether Ballard created the simplistic stage movements or copied them from a group of Tampa teens he saw doing such a dance when he toured the South.

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