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Hank Ballard

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Hank Ballard (born John Henry Kendricks) (November 18, 1936 - March 2, 2003) 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 The Midnighters. He later wrote and recorded “The Twist” which spread the popularity of the dance and was notably covered by Chubby Checker.

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. 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”. Ballard returned to Detroit in his teens and later worked on the assembly line for Ford.

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, although it still made it to number 6 on the Billboard R&B chart.

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