"Twist" Writer Ballard Dies

R&B legend succumbs to cancer

March 3, 2003 12:00 AM ET

Legendary R&B singer and songwriter Hank Ballard died Sunday at his Los Angeles home after suffering from throat cancer; according to birth records, which differ from his official biographical information, he was seventy-five.

Ballard, born John H. Kendricks in Detroit, formed his first doo-wop group while a teenager working on the Ford assembly lines. He was discovered in the early Fifties by the writer and producer Johnny Otis and became frontman for the notoriously naughty Hank Ballard and the Midnighters. With songs like "Finger Poppin' Time," "Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go" and the million-seller "Work With Me Annie," the group scored a half-dozen R&B and pop hits in the Fifties and Sixties, even though some of its tracks were banned from radio.

Still, he was best known for writing "The Twist," which he recorded and released in 1958, a year before Chubby Checker's version became a hit and launched a dance craze.

Ballard was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

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