On March 2 we lost another one of our great 1950s heroes, Hank Ballard. He was suffering from throat cancer. A great talent with dozens of hits under his belt, he certainly was very underrated.
Even though he released the self-penned song "The Twist" in 1958, it was Chubby Checker, with the help of Dick Clark, who reaped most of the glory.
Ballard had a penchant for risque songs, including "Work With Me Annie", "Annie Had A Baby", "Sexy Ways" and many more. While this theme could have piqued the curiosity of teenagers and others, and thus helping his sales, on the other hand it also probably sealed his fate as far as gaining wider acceptance.
I only saw Hank on stage once, performing at the Palomino in North Hollywood, California. The Palomino was a Country & Western club which also featured Rock'n'Roll, Rockabilly and Rhythm & Blues acts. The show was spectacular, better than I had ever hoped for. Ballard had lost none of the drive and intensity of his 1950s records.
Below is an excerpt from a post that Larry Shell sent to the Rockabilly List:
"Next up was the legend himself, Hank Ballard! Hank had an all-star band for the show including Ian Whitcomb as musical director (and on piano), Texas blues legend, Cal Green on guitar and on sax, Lee Allen! That alone flipped me out! Lee Allen, the sax king of New Orleans R&B!(Larry, I hope you don't mind that I quoted these lines?)
The show to put it mildly rocked from start to finish, Hank ran through all the hits, FINGER POPPIN' TIME, LET'S GO-LET'S GO-LET'S GO, and many more ending up with THE TWIST. It was an amazing set and at one point I looked out at the crowd and saw Ronnie Weiser standing on a table cheering Hank on! Yowsa!!!!"
I talked to Hank Ballard for no more than five minutes, and I asked him if he was planning to change his style, "update" it, "modernize" it, like so many other 1950s artists were trying to do. He looked me straight in the eye, and said - "You can't update something that's perennial, and Rock'n'Roll is eternal, and always will be!" I was extremely pleased by his answer, which was accompanied by a warm friendly smile and a robust hand shake.
Hank Ballard we will miss you as you go on twistin' to Rock'n'Roll Heaven!
Always Rollin' The Rollin' Rock,
Rockin' Ronny Weiser,
The Rockabilly Rebel Westerner From Las Vegas,
The Wild Wild West!
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CD-102 - RIP CARSON & THE TWILIGHT TRIO
CD-103 - THE ORIGINAL BAND (Bill Haley's Comets) - "Still Rockin' Around the Clock"
CD-104 - MACK STEVENS - "Texas Heat"
CD-105 - RIP CARSON & THE TWILIGHT TRIO - "Stand Back"
CD-106 - JOHNNY & THE BLADES - "Let's Make Vegas Tonite"
CD-107 - DRAGSTRIP 77 - "Rockabilly Daze"
CD-108 - THE CHOP TOPS - "Always Wild"
CD-109 - ALVIS WAYNE - "Rockabilly Daddy"
CD-110 - ALVIS WAYNE - "Proud of My Rockabilly Roots"
CD-111 - MACK STEVENS - "Let's Rock Tonite"
CD-112 - THE STARLIGHT DRIFTERS - "Thirteen To Go"
CD-113 - PAUL GALAXY & THE GALACTIX - "Cross the Line"
CD-114 - BILL HALEY'S ORIGINAL COMETS - "Aged To Perfection" - Celebrating 50 Years Of Rock'n'Roll
RONNY'S ROCKABILLY HALL OF FAME COLUMNS
© 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003
Col. #67 for 03/03 - HANK BALLARD
Col. #66 for 02/03 - TRACY PENDARVIS
Col. #65 for 01/03 - CHUCK WILLIS
Col. #64 for 12/02 - Clyde McPhatter: Never Forgotten
Col. #63 for 11/02 - The Texas Cowboy Wins
Col. #62 for 10/02 - Rockmount Ranchwear
Col. #61 for 09/02 - Five Years Of Columns!
Col. #60 for 08/02 - THE 1950s ARE ALWAYS WITH US!
Col. #59 for 07/02 - David's July 4th: Rockabilly Bar Mitzvah
Col. #58 for 06/02 - 44 Years Later ... It Was BENNY JOY!
Col. #57 for 05/02 - RECORDING TECHNIQUES
Col. #56 for 04/02 - VIVA LAS VEGAS 2002 + INTERNATIONAL MEET & GREET
Col. #55 for 03/02 - BUILD FOR A-C-T-I-O-N-!
Col. #54 for 02/02 - THE AMERICAN DINER
Col. #53 for 01/02 - The Cowboy Mirror of American Culture
Col. #52 for 12/01 - LITTLE RICHARD
Col. #51 for 11/01 - The Rock Pioneers Were Patriots
Col. #50 for 10/01 - !!! Gasp, It's Fifty Columns !!!
Col. #49 for 09/01 - TEDDY REDELL: Sooo Underrated!!!
Col. #48 for 08/01 - THE UNSTOPPABLE RAY CAMPI
Col. #47 for 07/01 - BILL HALEY'S COMETS ROCK THE FOURTH OF JULY
Col. #46 for 06/01 - PAUL GALAXY AND THE GALACTIX AT ROLLIN' ROCK
Col. #45 for 05/01 - Second Annual Viva Las Vegas Picture Show
Col. #44 for 04/01 - WHAAAAAAT, NO ROCKABILLY!!!?????!
Col. #43 for 03/01 - VIVA LAS VEGAS 2001
Col. #42 for 02/01 - ELVIS: Never Forgotten
Col. #41 for 01/01 - MACK STEVENS + HIGH PLAINS DRIFTERS + POISON OKIES
Col. #40 for 12/00 - WHATEVER HAPPENED TO COUNTRY MUSIC?
Col. #39 for 11/00 - KATS LIKE US
Col. #38 for 10/00 - JERRY LEE LEWIS IS 65
Col. #37 for 09/00 - THE STARLIGHT DRIFTERS
Col. #36 for 08/00 - ALVIS WAYNE AT ROLLIN' ROCK
Col. #35 for 07/00 - HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA 2000
Col. #34 for 06/00 - THE CHOP TOPS AT ROLLIN' ROCK!!
Col. #33 for 05/00 - VIVA LAS VEGAS 2000 PIX!
Col. #32 for 04/00 - DRAGSTRIP77: TEARIN' IT UP!
#30 & #31 for 02/00 & 03/00 - VIVA LAS VEGAS 2000!
Col. #29 for 01/00 - ROCKIN' 2000!
Col. #28 for 12/99 - JOHNNY AND THE BLADES AT ROLLIN' ROCK!
Col. #27 for 11/99 - AN UPDATED IMPROVED SOUND?
Col. #26 for 10/99 - TIME TO RECLAIM "THE ROCK"
Col. #25 for 9/99 - YOUNG ROCK AT ROLLIN' ROCK
Col. #24 for 8/99 - COMETS RECORD AT ROLLIN' ROCK
Col. #23 for 7/99 - HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA!
Col. #22 for 6/99 - FINLAND IS A ROCKABILLY LAND!
Col. #21 for 5/99 - THEY ARE NOT FORGOTTEN
Col. #20 for 4/99 - ROCKABILLY REBEL: A SHORT HISTORY
Col. #19 for 3/99 - PINBALL MILLIONAIRE
Col. #18 for 1/99 & 2/99 - VIVA LAS VEGAS 1999
Col. #17 - 12/98 - INTERNATIONAL ROCKABILLY REBELS MEET & GREET
Col. #16 - 11/98 - GROOVEY JOE POOVEY: Reminiscing
Col. #15 - 10/98 - CHARLIE FEATHERS
Col. #14 - 9/98 - NARVEL FELTS AT ROLLIN' ROCK!
Col. #13 - 8/98 - IT'S WESTERN WEAR!
Col. #12 - 7/98 - THE JORDANAIRES
Col. #11 - 6/98 - ROCKABILLY HOF - 15,000 HITS!!
Col. #10 - 5/98 - MAC STEVENS RECORDS AT ROLLIN' ROCK
Col. # 9 - 4/98 - VIVA LAS VEGAS
Col. # 8 - 3/98 - KAY WHEELER
Col. # 7 - 2/98 - 10 ROLLIN' ROCK CDs
Col. # 6 - 1/98 - SAM COOKE
Col. # 5 - 12/97 - LAS VEGAS IS A 1950's TOWN
Col. # 4 - 11/97 - GOD BLESS TEXAS
Col. # 3 - 10/97 - FATS DOMINO
Col. # 2 - 9/97 - RAB DISCUSSION GROUP
Col. # 1 - 8/97 - 25 YEARS OF ROLLIN' ROCK RECORDS