Hank Ballard, 75, the singer and songwriter whose hit "The Twist" ushered in a nationwide dance craze in the 1960s, died March 2 at his home here. He had throat cancer.
He wrote and recorded "The Twist" in 1958, but it was released only on the B-side of a record. In 1959, Chubby Checker debuted his own version of the song on Dick Clark's Philadelphia television show.
It soon topped the charts and launched a dance craze that prompted the creation of other Twist songs, including "Twist and Shout" by the Isley Brothers and "Twistin' the Night Away" by Sam Cooke.
Mr. Ballard was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
In a 1996 interview, he described music as his medicine.
"If you're looking for youth, you're looking for longevity, just take a dose of rock-and-roll," he said. "It keeps you going. Just like the caffeine in your coffee. Rock-and-roll is good for the soul, for the well-being, for the psyche, for your everything. I love it. I can't even picture being without rock-and-roll."
Mr. Ballard was discovered in the early 1950s by writer-producer Johnny Otis. He was lead singer for the Royals, which changed its name to the Midnighters.
Mr. Ballard's songs sometimes were banned from 1950s radio for their sexually suggestive lyrics.
By the early 1960s, he had charted 22 singles on the rhythm and blues charts, including "Work with Me Annie," the biggest R&B hit of 1954, selling more than 1 million copies. This was despite such lines as "Annie please don't cheat; give me all my meat."
The song inspired a series of other risque R&B numbers that included "Annie Had a Baby" ("Now I know and it's understood. That's what happens when the going gets good."), "Annie's Aunt Fannie" and "Roll With Me Henry." (The hit cover version for white audiences was "Dance With Me Henry").
Mr. Ballard and the Midnighters didn't suffer from Checker's version of "The Twist." In 1960, the group had three simultaneous hits in the pop top 40: "Finger Poppin' Time," "Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go," and their original version of "The Twist."
Mr. Ballard said his first inspiration to be a singer was Gene Autry. "He had a beautiful voice," he said. "I used to try to emulate him, you know. I had my little toy guns. He was not my favorite fighter, though. He was my favorite singer. He was too handsome to be a fighter."
In the late 1960s, Mr. Ballard embarked on a solo career as a member of James Brown's revue. Brown had cited the Midnighters as an early influence on his vocal group, the Famous Flames.
The Midnighters would reunite for oldies shows and at music festivals in the 1980s and 1990s.
Mr. Ballard, who was born John H. Kendricks in Detroit, grew up singing in church in Bessemer, Ala. At 15, he returned to Detroit and set out to form a doo-wop group while working on a Ford Motor Co. assembly line.
Staff writer Terence McArdle contributed to this report.