• 3/27/2003
  • Los Angeles
  • Rueters

Hank Ballard, the man responsible for starting the “twist” phenomenon that swept the nation in the late 1950s, passed away on March 2 after a battle with throat cancer. Ballard wrote and recorded legendary R&B hit “The Twist” in 1958 as a B-side to one of his singles; the following year, when Chubby Checker unveiled his cover of the song, it became a massive sensation, inciting other groups to record “twist” songs of their own, including “Twisting The Night Away” and “Twist And Shout” — the latter of which was written by the Isley Brothers and became one of the biggest early hits for the Beatles (as well as, many years later, providing one of the best moments in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off). Ballard was the lead vocalist in ’50s doo-wop group the Midnighters, originally known as the royals, and boasted nearly two dozen hits on the R&B charts, including 1954’s “Work With Me Annie,” which sold over one million copies. He became an inductee to the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.