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The Glorious Corner

The Glorious Corner

G.H. HARDING

HAWKINS PASSES — (Via Forgotten Hits) We lost another music legend when Ronnie Hawkins passed away this past weekend.

While fronting a band called The Hawks, Hawkins had a hit called “Mary Lou” in 1959.  (#26 Billboard)  Perhaps more famously, The Hawks evolved into The Band, who went on to have a remarkable career of their own. (After backing Hawkins, they would go on to back-up Bob Dylan!)
Hawkins was born in Huntsville, Arkansas, in 1935, but relocated to Canada in 1958 … and that’s where his career took off, becoming one of the top-drawing acts on the circuit.  (His cousin Dale Hawkins also had a memorable hit in 1957 when he cut the original version of “Susie-Q,” #27, later covered with greater success by Creedence Clearwater Revival.)
Our FH Buddy Harvey Kubernik has done extensive writing on The Band, covering their formative years with Hawkins in great detail.  He sent us a few words of remembrance :
Ronnie Hawkins wasn’t just a hell-raiser who kept a step ahead of the competition. Yonge Street was filled with brutal, ass-kicking soul-style revues and other young bucks with windswept hair and itchy guitar licks were vying for his gig, his audience, and, most importantly, his ladies. Over the course of four years he kept trading out players, like a ball club drawing from its farm club, to find the right combination. By 1961, he had them .., a murderer’s row of talent that kept the Toronto music scene buzzing with excitement and anticipation. Ronnie had assembled a team to match his wildest ambitions … maybe they were too ambitious for their own good.
Hawkins and the boys were at the eye of a hurricane; all hell was breaking loose around them, the tempo punishing. He practiced the band during the days, striving for a level of perfection in a music celebrated for its rough, gnarled edges. And no one in the band was safe from being replaced by someone better.
At this time, Hawkins was scuffling for gigs around Memphis; a few session dates and the promise of a career seemed tantalizingly within reach. He decided to form his own band to put his own spin on rockabilly, and that required a special kind of drummer: Levon Helm. An Arkansas razorback to his very marrow, raised in the implausibly named hamlet of Turkey Scratch, Helm imbibed deeply from the smoky admixture of ham hocks and front porch guitar pickin’, where men with names like Memphis Slim and Son House held court.
Levon was about to graduate from high school, which was a big deal for his family; no one in his clan had ever earned that diploma. His parents were never going to agree to let him go out on the road with a seeming reprobate like Hawkins without that parchment. But after graduation, Helm’s real education began, playing roadhouses and juke joints — “every shithole-and-a-half” — the kind of places where if they didn’t like you, you used your guitar like a bayonet to get out alive. When the word came down that the show was heading north, to Canada, it sounded crazy.
Here was Robbie Robertson’s farewell to Hawkins posted today.
My heart sank when I heard “The Hawk” just flew into the sunset.

The story of The Band began with Ronnie Hawkins. He was our mentor. He taught us the rules of the road.

Ronnie Hawkins brought me down from Canada to the Mississippi delta when I was 16. He recorded two songs I’d written and thought I might be talented. He tried me out on guitar and bass the only problem was; I’m too young to play in the clubs they toured, I was too inexperienced, not a good enough musician yet, and there are NO Canadians in southern rock and roll bands. But I practiced until my fingers were bleeding and he ended up hiring me against all odds.

Ron prided himself in always having top notch players in his group. Levon Helm his drummer in the Hawks and I talked Ron into hiring Rick Danko on bass and vocals, Richard Manuel on piano and vocals and Garth Hudson on organ and sax. Along with Levon and me this became the magic combination.

Ronnie was the godfather. The one who made this all happen.

He had us rehearsing constantly into the wee hours. We balked about it, but we got better and better. Our goal whether we knew it or not.

After the Hawks left Ron and went out on our own, we joined up with Bob Dylan. Next the Hawks became The Band and the rest is history, as they say.

All starting out with Ronnie Hawkins.

He was not only a great artist, a tremendous performer and bandleader, but had a style of humor unequaled. Fall down funny and completely unique. Yep, God only made one of those. And he will live in our hearts forever.

My deepest condolences to his family.

Bless his soul.

Ray Parker Jr

CALL RAY –— (from Variety) Ray Parker Jr., the R&B star and singer-songwriter best known for the theme from “Ghostbusters,” gets the documentary treatment in “Who You Gonna Call?,” from Sony Pictures Entertainment, which premieres on digital platforms on June 7.

As the documentary shows, there’s much more to Parker’s career than that theme song: He had many R&B hits under his own name and as leader of the group Raydio, and in his mid-teens became an in-demand session guitarist, particularly with Motown acts, like Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, the Temptations and especially Stevie Wonder, even touring with his band when they were the opening act on the Rolling Stones’ legendary 1972 U.S. tour. He later worked with Herbie Hancock, Barry White, Boz Scaggs and many others. Wonder and Hancock both appear in the film.Parker granted filmmaker Fran Strine to his archives and stories to tell his history — from growing up on the segregated streets of Detroit in the 1960’s to winning a Grammy and even getting his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Parker says, “At a very young age, I knew I wanted to be a musician. It was my dream. My life. I did everything and anything I could to make that happen.  I’d like to say that luck was very much on my side, but I think dedication and determination to make my dreams come true played a larger part. I always tell young musicians that if you want something then work hard at it and go after it. When you find something you’re good at, the fun part just comes along for the ride!  Also don’t think about Option 2. Make Option 1 a reality. You are the only one to make it happen. Know that creating music is a collaborative process, so always deliver, have fun and enjoy the process. This usually guarantees call backs.”

Strine says, “When I interviewed Ray for my previous documentary ‘Hired Gun,’ I knew there was a bigger story to tell. From the moment I sat down with him, I was instantly hooked on telling his life’s story.  When most people think of Ray Parker Jr they think of ‘Ghostbusters.’ Yes, he’s had great success with that song, but Ray is so much more than that. The list of legendary artists Ray has performed with and written for is staggering and people don’t know this side of him. After learning more about him I knew right away I needed to tell his story. I’m positive people will draw inspiration from his life story, as I still do, by watching this film.”

I learned about Parker from Arista Records’ late-great Barbara Shelley and celeb-writer Mark Bego, who at one point was tagged to write Parker’s bio. That never occurred, but Parker sure hit pay-dirt with “Ghostbusters.” I knew a  bit of his background-from Stevie Wonder, Boz Scaggs and Herbie Hancock and knew that he was a serious musician.
Funnily enough, in the trailer he sounds almost a bit bitter that people don’t know more about him and what artists he had played with, but that’s the music bushiness. You step into a major success and you’re tagged with that for life. When I see instances like this I always think “I wish I had that problem.”
Here’s the trailer:
SHORT TAKES
Thursday is the album release event, at Steve Walter’s Cutting Room, for the initial Rockers LIVE; the initial compilation album from Donnie Kehr’s Rockers On Broadway series on ROBRecords, distributed by Randy Klein’s Jazzheads. We’ll be on-hand for the event and report back …

Michael Jackson and Debbie Gibson (photo by Harrison Funk)

Debbie Gibson started her 15-date tour this week. Calling it The Body Remember tour after her album of the same name from 2021 …

Eric Clapton

Saw an interview with Lee Dickson, Clapton’s former guitar tech and he said that for him, Clapton’s most exciting gig was when he played with Lenny Karvitz at a 1999 White House-event with Bill and Hillary Clinton. They performed an unrehearsed “All Along The Watchtower” – and, yes, that is Cindy Blackman Santana on drums. Watch it here:


Netflix’s Stranger Things Season 4 premiere Friday (Part 1) broke all of the cablenet’s records for viewership. I watched them all and thought they were sensational.

Kate Bush

Kate Bush’s 1995 “Running Up That Hill” was on the premiere and shot up to #1 on Apple iTunes the very next day … And, Congrats Michael Moritz and Gia Ramsey on their wedding and Happy Bday Bob Dylan!

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Van Dean; Len Berman; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Roger Friedman; Richard Johnson; Emily Smith; Anthony Mason; Jane Gelb; Bruce Grakal; Don Wardell; Heather Moore; Clive Young; Jane Blunkell; Chris Blackwell; Joe Lynch; Melinda Newman; Gary Graff; and BELLA!

Celebrity

G. H. Harding is a four decades insider to the entertainment world. He’s worked for record companies; movie companies; video-production He’s worked for record companies; movie companies; video-production companies and several cable outlets. His anonymity is essential in bringing an unbiased view to his writings on pop culture. He is based in NYC.

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