“The Twist,” is one of the most popular dance crazes of all time and its first version was recorded in the North Miami Armory.
The band was Hank Ballard and The Midnighters. The engineer was Mack Emerman. And the producer was Henry Stone.
Here’s what Stone had to say about the recording of the original, and who gave Chubby Checker the idea to record his version.
“I got a call around 1961 or ’62 to go on the road with Hank Ballard and The Midnighters for like 2 weeks. Driving through the south. I was the white man, so I had to buy food for the band and bring it to the car. True story.
Hank Ballard became a friend of mine. He said “My contract is about to be up with King. I wanna get with either Vee-Jay or Chess.”
I said, “No problem. I called my friend Ewart Abner at Vee-Jay and said “How would you like to sign Hank Ballard?”
Ab said to me, “Record him now.”
I didn’t have a studio then, but Mack Emerman had a lot of portable recording equipment. I brought Hank and The Midnighters to the North Miami Armory and Hank came up with “The Twist,” but like a blues grind. Cal Green was tuning up his guitar and I said, “How bout we do it like a dance song.”
That’s the original record…
At that time it was nothin’, just another record. I sent the tape up to Abner at Vee-Jay and that was it.
Well, actually…It ended up being some bullshit where Hank was still on paper with Syd Nathan at King Records. The contract wasn’t up yet. So Abner sold him the tapes and it came out on the King label.
I did business in records and turned em into cash.
Later, the Cameo Parkway label sent Chubby Checker down to do one of my hops with Bob Green. Chubby came to the studio when I was cutting James Brown doin’ the “Mashed Potato.” I told him that if he’s looking for a song to go look at this little B Side that came out on King Records, and so I’m the man responsible for “The Twist.” But these were just things I did to make a living, I never thought twice about it at the time.”
Text ©Jake Katel and Henry Stone. All Rights Reserved.