The raciest R&B hit of its time, Hank Ballard & the Midnighters' "Work With Me Annie" might be far less explicit than anything by today's freaky-deeky R&B love men, but the unmistakable clarity of the song's meaning is still startling. Released in 1954 -- the year before Bill Haley brought a somewhat more respectable rock & roll sound to the masses -- "Work With Me Annie" was everything that rock & roll's detractors feared, from its salacious lyrics to the easy, loping, suggestive swing of its rhythms. Naturally, it received barely any radio airplay, but was a smash hit with jukeboxes and record retailers, rocketing to number one on the R&B charts (while missing the pop side completely). Black audiences knew perfectly well the kind of work that was meant in the slang phrase "work with me," and Ballard reinforced it with his fervent pleading of the recurring line "Let's get it while the gettin' is good," with the rest of the Midnighters purring "so good, so good, so good" behind him. Ballard's voice sweeps up into a falsetto at the end of most every line, making him sound as though he's in the throes of something primal as he tosses out couplets like "Annie don't cheat/Gimme all my meat" and "Work with me Annie, don't be ashamed/Work with me Annie, call my name." And if any further doubt about the song's subject matter remained, it was obliterated in the first of many sequels and answer records, the Midnighters' own "Annie Had a Baby." The risqué nature and earthy grit of prime Ballard -- with "Work With Me Annie" best exemplifying those qualities -- was a major influence on the young James Brown, who repaid the debt by signing Ballard to his own label many years later.