Written and first recorded by Hank Ballard & the Midnighters (early 1958, released 1993)
Based on “Is Your Love For Real” by The Midnighters (1957).
First released by Hank Ballard & the Midnighters (B-side US #28/R&B #16 November 1958 |A-side re-release US #28/R&B #6 1960).
Other hit version by Chubby Checker (US #1/R&B #2/UK #44/AUS #20 1960 |US #1/R&B #4/UK #14/AUS #3 1962).
From the wiki: “Songs about doing ‘the twist’ date back to nineteenth-century minstrelsy, including ‘Grape Vine Twist’ from around 1844. In 1938 Jelly Roll Morton, in ‘Winin’ Boy Blues’, sang, ‘Mama, mama, look at sis, she’s out on the levee doing the double twist’ – a reference to both sex and dancing in those days.
“In 1957, the Midnighters’ Hank Ballard and Cal Green had already had written a song together called ‘Is Your Love for Real’, which they released on the Federal label with no apparent chart success. So, they used ‘Is Your Love for Real’ as the template for a new song by simply putting new words to the older melody and retitling it ‘The Twist’. (‘The Twist’ would, in turn, serve as the template for the Midnighters’ first Top-10 pop hit, ‘Finger Poppin’ Time’ [#7, 1962].)
“The Midnighters first recorded ‘The Twist’ in a rather loose arrangement in a Florida studio for Vee-Jay Records in early 1958 (which went unreleased until 1993). A second recording session in November, 1958 in Cincinnati, OH resulted in a side released by King Records in early 1959 by Hank Ballard & the Midnighters as the B-side to ‘Teardrops on Your Letter’. This version proved to be only a moderate 1960 hit, peaking at #28 on the Billboard Hot 100. But, shortly thereafter, ‘The Twist’, the song, and ‘The Twist’, the dance, would be forever popularized in 1960 when covered by Chubby Checker, becoming an international hit in September 1960. (A 1960 re-issue of the Midnighters’ original, released in the wake of Checker’s chart-topping version, peaked again at #28.)
“In 1962, the Twist craze belatedly caught on in High Society. Citings (and sightings) of celebrities doing the dance made the song a hit with adults, particularly after a report in the Cholly Knickerbocker society column in the Hearst-owned New York Journal-American. Soon thereafter, long lines appeared at the Peppermint Lounge nightclub in New York, the most popular celebrity twisting spot. This new interest rocketed ‘The Twist’ to the top of the Hot 100 – again – the only recording to hit #1 on the US charts during two separate chart runs. It also marked a major turning point for adult acceptance of rock and roll music.”
The Midnighters, “Is Your Love For Real” (1957):
Hank Ballard & the Midnighters, “The Twist” King label single (November 1958):
Chubby Checker, “The Twist” (1960/1962):