Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Look at Little Sister
Hank Ballard and the Midnighters were great. I'm sure that you recall that Hank released the original version of the twist before Chubby Checker had the hit with it. Stole Hank's whole singing style too! Hook, line, sinker and pole! I used to be upset about it.
I was listening to a "best of" up on the YouTube today, shamefully low hit count for such a great compilation by such a great act. And no commercials! I had an epiphany of sorts.
The Twist was a hit very close to the time when it was routine industry procedure to steal a good song from a black man and release a cover version by a white artist who got the hit. Think Pat Boone. Well maybe it was progress that Hank had the twist stolen, not by a white man, but by A LESS THREATENING BLACK MAN. Yeah, I'm pretty sure that was progress.
Hank could be abrasive. As late as 1988, he cut a promo for my favorite radio show on KCRW, the NPR station out of Santa Monica College. (Corsair Radio West!) "On Saturday night," said Hank, "listen to the Cool and the Crazy, on KCRW, or Hank Ballard will break your fingers." There wasn't too much lighthearted about his tone, either.
It was probably white people who decided to give the hit to Chubby, so I guess I won't get too worked up about the progress part.