Thursday, January 19, 2012

Hank Ballard--Another Cat Outta Detroit

Hank Ballard was born in Detroit, Michigan on November 18, 1927

(although some later bio info claims he was born 10 years later!!!).

 Hank was a singer and songwriter who earned acclaim in the 1960s with his music and singing. Originally known for his lewd lyrics with the group the Midnighters, Ballard's true claim to fame came when he penned and recorded "The Twist"

THE TWIST became not only a top R&B hit (Chubby Checker, for whatever reasons had the hit!?!), but also a dance craze throughout the United States and Europe. Throughout his lifetime, Ballard recorded over 20 singles that reached the upper positions of the R&B charts and by the time of his death in 2003 had been performing for almost 50 years…

On one day, January 18 in 1954, Hank owned five spots on the R&B and Pop Charts:
January 19, 1954: Hank Ballard & the Midnighters hits #1 on the R&B chart and #22 on the pop chart with "Work With Me Annie"

#2 on the R&B chart with "Sexy Ways”

and #1 on the R&B chart and #23 on the pop chart with "Annie Had A Baby".

Between the ages of seven and 15, Ballard lived in Alabama, being raised by very strict Baptist relatives
At 15 he could no longer take the restrictions of his life in Alabama, so he ran away from his relatives and went back to Detroit,

 where he found a job working on the line for the Ford Motor Company.

(One of his cousins, Florence Ballard, was also in Detroit at the time. Florence Ballard later worked for Motown and was a member of the Supremes)

While working on the assembly line at Ford Motor Company,  Ballard met Sonny Woods who was singing with a doo-wop group called the Royals.

At that time, the Royals featured Lawson Smith,  when Smith, the group's lead singer, was drafted, Ballard joined the group. Hank made his singing debut in 1951 at an amateur contest organized by bandleader Johnny Otis.

The contest was at Detroit's Paradise Theater.

Otis was so impressed by the group and by Ballard's rich baritone-tenor voice, that the Royals were contracted to the Federal label to record their first record "Every Beat of My Heart"

The tune would become a smash hit in later years for Gladys Knight and the Pips.

In 1963 Ballard disbanded the Midnighters, but retained rights to the name. He reactivated the group later in his life. Of course he had to contend with the British Invasion’s impact of American R&B at the time. Ballard's popularity dwindled and he started performing solo in small clubs. During part of this time he also joined James Brown and performed with the James Brown Revue.

In the late 1960s, he had several single recordings that hit the charts. "How You Gonna Get Respect (When You Ain't Cut Your Process Yet)" reached number 15 on the R&B charts in 1968.

Recording with the “JB’s” (from the James Brown Revue). He had a minor hit in with “From The Love Side” in 1973

Ballard was recognized by his peers and inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

Hank passed away on March 2, 2003, at his home in Los Angeles ...

"There's no medicine out there as great as music. Music has been more therapeutic than holistic  medicine. There's something about music that's just therapeutic. If you're looking for youth, you're looking for longevity, just take a dose of rock 'n' roll."
—Hank Ballard

The Continental Walk

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