Hank Ballard & The Midnighters were a highly acclaimed and influential R&B group with a great deal of crossover appeal that became famous beginning in the early 1950s. Their best known songs include the earthy "Work With Me Annie" (1954) and "Annie Had A Baby" (1954), the feel-good "Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go" (1960), the foot-tapping "Finger Poppin' Time" (1960), and the original version of "The Twist" (1960) soon after made famous by Chubby Checker, which kicked off an era-defining dance craze.
Formed in Detroit, Michigan in 1952 by guitarist/songwriter Alonzo Tucker and first known as The Royals, the original lineup also consisted of Henry Booth, Charles Sutton, Sonny Woods, and lead singer Lawson Smith. Detroit-born Hank Ballard (November 18, 1927 - March 2, 2003) joined in 1953 as a backup singer when Smith was drafted and soon after became the group's lead singer and main songwriter. Famed producer, bandleader, and songwriter Johnny Otis discovered the group that year and became their manager, and they were signed to King Records subsidiary De Luxe. In 1954, the group became known as The Midnighters and signed with another King subsidiary, Federal Records. After a number of personnel changes and a three and a half year absence from the charts, they re-emerged in 1959 as Hank Ballard & The Midnighters.
The group made its debut in 1953 as The Royals on the R&B charts with "Get It," a Top 10 hit. As The Midnighters, they topped the R&B charts twice in 1954 with the then-controversial "Work With Me Annie" and one of its many sequels, "Annie Had A Baby," which both made the Pop charts Top 40 and went gold. These smashes inspired such answer songs as Etta James' "The Wallflower" (1955, a.k.a. "Roll With Me Henry") and Georgia Gibbs' less salacious "Dance With Me Henry (Wallflower)" (1955). Hank Ballard & The Midnighters had one more R&B chart-topper in 1960 with "Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go," which became a Pop/Rock Top 10 hit and their greatest crossover success. The group's long string of hits, which continued on both charts through 1961, also include "Sexy Ways" (1954), "Annie's Aunt Fannie" (1954), "Teardrops On Your Letter" (1959), "Finger Poppin' Time" (1960), "The Twist" (1960), "The Hoochi Coochi Coo" (1960), "Let's Go Again (Where We Went Last Night)" (1961), "The Continental Walk" (1961), "The Switch-A-Roo" (1961), and "Nothing But Good" (1961). Hank Ballard had several hits thereafter that include "How You Gonna Get Respect (When You Haven't Cut Your Process Yet)" (1968, as Hank Ballard Along With "The Dapps"), which made the R&B Top 20, and "From The Love Side" (1972, as Hank Ballard & The Midnight Lighters), his final charting song.
Hank Ballard & The Midnighters' numerous honors and accolades include the Rhythm & Blues Foundation's Pioneer Award (1992) and being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (1990), the Vocal Group Hall of Fame (1999), and the Rhythm & Blues Music Hall of Fame (2015). They also made chart history in 1960 when they became the first-ever act to place three singles in the Billboard Hot 100 at the same time (a record broken soon after by The Beatles). After the group disbanded in 1965, Hank Ballard went on to a solo career and continued to tour and perform actively through the early 2000s. He was a cousin of Florence Ballard of The Supremes.
- The Guardian remembers Hank Ballard.
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Hank Ballard And The Midnighters
- The Continental Walk 1961
(This song also became a hit for the Rollers (1961).)
- Finger Poppin' Time 1960
- Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go 1960
- The Switch-A-Roo 1961
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