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Wednesday 25 May 2016

Hank Ballard And The Midnighters (King LP 581)

Side 1:
01. Open Up The Back Door
02. In The Doorway Crying
03. Oh So Happy
04. Let 'Em Roll
05. E Basta Cosi
06. Stay By My Side

Side 2:
01. Daddy's Little Baby
02. Partners For Life
03. Is Your Love For Real
04. What Made You Change Your Mind
05. Let Me Hold Your Hand
06. Early One Morning

Download from:

Originally released in 1958 as "The Midnighters Volume Two", Federal 581, but with the King label on the cover (see below)

In 1963 the LP was reissued as "Hank Ballard And The Midnighters", King 581, in the cover at the top of this post. The LP posted here is a 1987 repro of the 1963 release. The tracks on this album were originally released as singles from 1956 to 1958. All of these singles were credited to "The Midnighters," as was the original 1958 release of this LP. The group's records were credited to "Hank Ballard & The Midnighters" from 1959 onwards when they were released through the King label. The first single to be credited thus was "Teardrops On Your Letter" / "The Twist" (King 5171).

Original single releases of the tracks on the "Hank Ballard And The Midnighters" LP:

Partners For Life - Federal 12251 - 1956
Open Up The Back Door - Federal 12260 - 1956
Early One Morning - Federal 12270 - 1956
Let Me Hold Your Hand - Federal 12288 - 1957
E Basta Cosi / In The Doorway Crying - Federal 12293 - 1957
Oh So Happy / Is Your Love For Real - Federal 12299 - 1957
Let 'Em Roll / What Made You Change Your Mind - Federal 12305 - 1957
Stay By My Side / Daddy's Little Baby - Federal 12317 - 1958

The Midnighters were founded as The Royals in Detroit in 1950. In late 1951 they were spotted at a talent show by Johnny Otis who recommended them to Syd Nathan, the owner of King Records. Before the end of 1951 the group were signed to the King subsidiary label Federal and their first recording session followed in January 1952. Their first single, the Johnny Otis penned "Every Beat Of My Heart" failed to chart, as did their next five singles. However, after their first session, the group were joined by Hank Ballard, whose songwriting and singing talents would transform their fortunes. He composed and sang lead on their first R&B chart success, "Get It", which climbed to number 6 in the R&B charts in the summer of 1953.

The modest success of "Get It" was totally eclipsed in early 1954 by the massive success of another Ballard composition and lead performance, "Work With Me Annie", a leeringly suggestive opus that outraged the moral majority (before they called themselves that), provoked bannings by radio stations and sold by the cartload to storm to the top of the R&B charts. As if that wasn't bad enough, a follow up piece of single entendre filth, "Sexy Ways", reached number 2. By now The Royals were no more, having been renamed The Midnighters. In fact the name change had taken place while "Work With Me Annie" was rising to the top of the charts, so that early pressings of the disc had The Royals on the label, with The Midnighters taking the credit on later pressings.

The Midnighters were back at the top of the charts in the autumn of 1954 with "Annie Had  A Baby", which may well have caused many of the moral majority to die of apoplexy. This disc kicked off a slew of answer songs by other artists which helped to cement the Midnighter's place as THE R&B phenomenon of 1954. However, as the year drew to a close, The Midnighter's next contribution to the Annie saga, "Annie's Aunt Fannie" merely demonstrated the law of diminishing returns as it failed to replicate the success of their earlier discs. In the summer of 1955 the group returned to the top 10 with another classic piece of R&B, "It's Love Baby (24 Hours A Day)" and that, strangely enough, was that.

Between 1955 and 1958 The Midnighters released a string of strong singles which included great R&B sides such as "That Woman", "Rock And Roll Wedding", "Rock Granny Roll", "Open Up The Back Door", "Tore Up Over You" and "Is Your Love For Real", all of which failed to chart nationally. The tracks on the "Hank Ballard And The Midnighters" LP all date from this period of chart failure.

The Midnighters onstage 1957/8
As can be seen from the above picture, The Midnighters were still a popular and dynamic live act. In mid 1958 The Midnighters were released from their recording contract with Federal and they recorded a demo version of "The Twist" for VeeJay. However they were soon re-signed to King where, now billed as Hank Ballard & The Midnighters, they recorded "Teardrops On Your Letter" and "The Twist" which became an R&B hit in early 1959. The record even scraped into the pop charts but it was Chubby Checker's cover version of "The Twist" which became an international pop sensation.

Although Hank and the group missed out on worldwide fame and fortune which should have been theirs with "The Twist", they were once again a successful R&B and even pop act. They had further success in 1960-61, starting with "Kansas City", followed by "Finger Poppin' Time", "Let's Go, Let's Go, Let's Go" and a string of dance records such as "The Hoochi Coochi Coo" and "The Continental Walk." The group broke up in 1962 and Hank continued with a solo recording and performing career into the Soul era.

More info at -

Marv Goldberg's in depth look at The Royals and early Midnighters:

Todd Baptista's overview of Hank Ballard & The Midnighters:

Recommended further listening:

"The Royals featuring Charles Sutton and Hank Ballard - The Federal Singles." Ace CDCHD 1054
- The Royals' complete Federal singles including "Work With Me Annie."

"Hank Ballard And The Midnighters - Come On And Get It: The Singles Collection 1954-1959."
Jasmine JASCD 568. 2 CD set with all The Midnighters singles from "Work With Me Annie" to beyond "The Twist." 58 tracks in all. The Midnighters at their peak.

"Dancin' And Twistin'" - Ace CDCHD 779. 24 Federal & King dance tracks from 1955 to 1969. Some duplication with the Jasmine set.


Anonymous said...

'Teardrops On Your Letter' is a long-time favourite of mine, Boogiewoody.

John A. Jackson wrote in "American Bandstand: Dick Clark & The Making of a Rock 'n' Roll Empire" that though Hank Ballard claimed to have written 'The Twist,' he actually just "modified and embellished" a song that had been given to him by gospel group The Sensational Nightingales who had "no use for the secular number." After reworking the lyrics, he used Clyde McPhatter & The Drifters "What'cha Gonna Do" as a model for the melody. What do you think?

boogiewoody said...

Hi Marie - thanks for commenting. There are several versions of how "The Twist" came to be - according to Marv Goldberg The Sensational Nightingales took the song to The Spaniels (after being turned down by Little Joe Cook & The Thrillers). The Spaniels recorded a demo for VeeJay who decided it wasn't good enough for issue. The Sensational Nightingales then took the song to The Midnighters who recorded a demo version which they sent to VeeJay as they thought their Federal contract was at an end. Syd Nathan re-signed The Midnighters to King for whom they re-recorded "The Twist." The Midnighters' VeeJay demo turned up on a Charley 12 inch single in the 1980s.

All very complicated - a post tracing the musical roots of "The Twist" would be interesting - going back through "Is Your Love For Real" and The Drifters' "What'cha Gonna Do." And perhaps further back to a gospel song called "What'cha Gonna Do."

BTW there's another Midnighters - Sensational Nightingales connection - "Standing At The Corner" is a rip off of "Standing At The Judgement."


boogiewoody said...

Whoops! The Midnighter's "What Is This I See?" is "adapted" from "Standing At The Judgement" I got the title wrong!

I' m off to YouTube to watch Sensational Nightingales videos and get on the Good Foot ....

teddy cat baz said...

thanx boogiewoody