Hank Ballard

In the world of early rhythm & blues and doo wop, Hank Ballard was the very definition of earthiness. Though influenced by high-energy gospel vocal groups, Ballard's music with the Midnighters couldn't have been more diametrically opposed in terms of subject matter: his lyrics were filled with raunchy double-entendres that left little to the imagination, pushing the envelope of what was considered acceptable in the '50s. His songs were sometimes banned on the radio, but that only made him an even bigger jukebox favorite among black audiences. Ballard's hard-driving, rhythmic style was also an underappreciated influence on the rawer side of R&B, particularly on a young James Brown; plus, his composition "The Twist" -- recorded for a hit by Chubby Checker -- became one of the biggest hits in rock & roll history.