Hank Ballard’s raunchy, earthy style often got him banned from the airwaves, but that just proved to make him a bigger draw on jukeboxes during the 1950s and 60s. Ballard was also an influence on the style of a young James Brown and composed one of the biggest rock and roll hits of the 60s, The Twist as recorded by Chubby Checker.

After growing up in Alabama, Ballard returned to his birth city of Detroit and formed a doo wop group while working on the assembly line at Ford. The Royals included some impressive talents in addition to Ballard, including Jackie Wilson and Levi Stubbs who would go on to greater success with the Four Tops. Ballard’s first record with the gour was 1953’s Get It, and from there the group moved on to Work With Me Annie a song that topped the R&B charts and came close to the pop top 20. At this point Ballard had changed the name of the band to the Midnighters.

It took almost four years for Hank Ballard and the Midnighters to return with a song as popular as their first two. In 1958 Ballard’s label rejected The Twist but he did get another company to release it for him as a B side. Dick Clark was a fan of the song and took it to Chubby Checker who recorded the hit version.

In 1962 Hank Ballard and the Midnighters recorded their biggest hit, Finger Poppin’ time a song that won the band a Grammy nomination. By 65 the band folded and Ballard became a solo act.

Hank Ballard had one more R&B top 20 single in 1968 and had some minor hits during the disco era. Returning too his raunchy days, Ballard had a minor hit with Lets Go Streakin’, a song he recorded in the nude. Hand Ballard and the Midnighters were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.