TODAY is the birth anniversary of Hank Ballard, perhaps the original bad boy of rock n roll (although Little Richard would surely argue over that). Together with his group the Midnighters, he racked up a string of hits in the mid-1950s despite the fact that most of these records were banned by the FCC from radio airplay due to the sexual nature of the lyrical content. Hank Ballard & the Midnighters specialized in the low down dirty, nitty gritty R&B groove. It was a successful formula for them for a few years until the hit well ran dry. By the late 1950s they were considered passé. As fate would have it, a little song called "The Twist" would revive their careers at the turn of the decade.
For most R&B artists of the 1950s, having one of their songs "covered" by a "clean cut" act was not a positive thing. However, with the Twist things were a bit different. The story of "the Twist" is pretty widely known at this point, but for those who are unfamiliar, here it is in a nutshell:
Ballard and his group had been performing the song as part of their stage act for some time before releasing it as the b-side of dramatic ballad in 1960. The song had done relatively well, but was not exactly a smash hit. That was until Dick Clark noticed kids were starting to adopt the dance moves the Midnighters used while performing the Twist on stage. Clark put together his own version of the song with Chubby Checker and put his promotional power behind it making the Twist the biggest dance sensation of all time.
This in turn brought attention to the group who introduced the song in the first place. The Midnighters stepped out of has-been status and launched a second phase of their career as a result, releasing smash dance records one after another throughout the early 1960s. My selection today is from that period.
When I first stepped out of the radio studio and began DJing dance parties in person, this was a staple of my set. This record feels like an old friend to me. I view it as kind of the Midnighter's dance-era nod to their earlier "low down" blues reputation. It's kind of a fusion of the old Midnighters of the early 1950s with the "new" Midnighters of the early 1960s. Hank encourages his listeners to loosen up and abandon those squeaky-clean dance steps so prevalent at the time. In fact, the record starts off with a near military solo drum beat, making it sound like a "call to arms," or more appropriately, a call to the dance floor.
Get in line and get low down and messy with "little Hanky".
DJ Action Slacks
I'm excited to highlight some of my favorite records in a variety of genres (soul, R&B, classic country, rockabilly, oldies, garage rock, etc). These won't all necessarily be "dance" records per se. They will all be records that I believe deserve a special listen. I simply love good music, rare or not. Hopefully you will spend some time here and love music right along with me! Lets give this a shot!