"The Twist" by Hank Ballard

Piano AR guidance for “The Twist”

Singer-songwriter Boz Scaggs gave the introduction during Hank Ballard’s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. Scaggs quoted Ballard’s perspective on life as “all about having a good time, and feeling good, and looking fine, and having some laughs, and getting others to do the same.” Scaggs spoke of Ballard as being a “very vital, very positive, very dynamic man.”

Hank Ballard rose to fame with the controversial 1954 song, “Work with Me, Annie,” which was followed by two subsequent releases, “Annie Had a Baby” and “Annie’s Aunt Fannie.” The suggestive nature of these songs led to the FCC banning them from radio airtime. Nevertheless, the tracks would remarkably top the year’s R&B charts and bolster Ballard’s success and popularity.

An unsung b-side of his went largely unnoticed, with the significant exception of Dick Clark, host of the popular television show American Bandstand. Clark didn’t share Scaggs’ impression of Ballard, yet he saw something in the tune. His desire to stay away from controversy led him not to highlight Ballard, but instead to seek out the young Ernest “Chubby” Evans to re-record the single. Barbara Mallery, Clark’s wife, after hearing Evans do an impersonation of Fats Domino, provided Evans with the name the public would forever recall, Chubby Checker.

Chubby Checker recorded “The Twist” and Clark provided the publicity. Not only did it become a number one hit and huge dance craze in 1960, it did something no other song had done before or has since. Two years later, because of a tabloid gossip column about a Eurasian actress and a Russian exile dancing the Twist all night, the song re-entered the Billboard charts. It became the only song to not only chart twice with the same recorded version, it reached number one a second time, capturing a whole new, and older, audience.

Chubby Checker’s version of “The Twist” ranks number one on Billboard’s list of all-time top 100 songs. Hank Ballard is credited as the song’s composer.