Thursday, November 18, 2010
Ahead of his time
Girl, I'll beg mercy
Oh, hugging and more teasing
Don't want no freezing
A-work with me, Annie
Let's get it while the gettin' is good
Those lyrics from the Hank Ballard classic "Work With Me Annie" provide a pretty good understanding why mainstream radio wasn't interested in playing R&B music back in the day. It was 1954, after all, and suggestive lyrics like that just weren't going to cut it, especially coming from the mouth of a black artist.
"Work With Me Annie" did become a No. 1 hit on the R&B chart, so as Steve Earle can sing today with nobody even paying attention, "F*** the FCC."
Ballard was the real deal, an early rock 'n' roller who could make 'em squeal. "If you're looking for youth, you're looking for longevity, just take a dose of rock 'n' roll—it keeps you going," Ballard once said. "Just like the caffeine in your coffee, rock 'n' 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 'n'roll.''
Our kind of guy. He eventually got his due, scoring a pair of Billboard top 10 pop songs with the Midnighters ("Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go" and "Finger Poppin' Time"). And Chubby Checker never would have had a No. 1 with "The Twist" without Ballard, who wrote it for the flip side of his "Teardrops on Your Letter."
Ballard was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 and died of throat cancer in 2003. He would have been 83 today.