02/16/2006 - ARTICLE FROM 'ARKANSAS TIMES'
Robbie Robertson called it "kill music." It just kept "coming at you," he said, pounding away at your cares and troubles. Ronnie Hawkins, who paved the way for its growth, simply called it "racket" (as in noise). Then he practically assaulted the customers who came to hear him with backflips, snarling vocals and outrageous humor.
The rock 'n' roll that grew out of the Ozarks captured the spirit of the hills in an entirely different way from the energetic style that emerged from the mountains of Appalachia. It was in many ways fiercer, more alive, more modern and more vital.
Altogether, it constituted a variation of the time-honored tradition of rock 'n' roll as a supercharged combination of country music and blues. But that was only a polite way of saying "white" and "black" music. American musicians had been freely mixing the two for decades, if not centuries, before rock arrived, especially in the South. Nevertheless, there was something unusually exciting about the rock 'n' roll that sprouted up in the Ozarks, something that reflected the community that produced it.
Hawkins was proof of that. He could bowl over an audience with sheer bombast. He wasn't a picker or a lonesome balladeer. He was a born showman, an ex-moonshine driver, an amateur boxer, a gymnast and a comic vulgarian who could and did eventually charm presidents, record executives, prime ministers and Hollywood moguls. A self-styled rockabilly legend, Hawkins said: "If I knew then what I know now, I would have made Elvis my roadie."
However, it was his musical attack that set him apart. I walked into the Fayetteville High School gymnasium one warm evening in 1960 and heard Hawkins and his band the Hawks playing "Farther on up the Road," a perennially popular blues hit recorded most notably by Bobby "Blue" Bland. It was the first time I'd heard rock 'n' roll live and I've been following the sound of it ever since, searching for the same electricity I felt that night.
I found its cousins, too, a hundred times over in San Antonio, San Francisco, Seattle, New York, New England, the Carolinas and Memphis, among other places. But the kind of music Hawkins was playing generated in me a conviction that the key ingredient in his musical recipe was "country," whether country in the sense of mountaineers' string bands or the country blues of countless Southern wanderers. Hawkins was playing irreverent rockabilly, a particularly exotic variety of it - rockabilly that grew out of the Ozarks plus the Delta farmlands of Mississippi and Arkansas. It was and still is a special flavor.
Now I'm much farther up the road. So is Hawkins, who turned 71 on Jan. 10, and so are those who, along with Hawkins, helped carve out the Ozark/Delta hybrid style - people such as John Tolleson, who despite Hawkins' broader fame had the most popular band in Fayetteville when he was young, the Cate Brothers, who remain a quintessential factor in Northwest Arkansas music; and Randy Stratton, whose father Dayton Stratton was Hawkins' business partner and an indispensable element in the development of rock in these hills.
Categorizing the music that flourishes around Fayetteville is easy: I call it high-country blues or hillbilly blues. But that doesn't begin to tell the whole story. In a sense it represents the bedrock of alternative country. It's bold and individualistic. But it has a rock 'n' roll heart, and rock 'n' roll changed everything, including the performers who created it, the promoters who hustled it and the fans who heard it and loved it.
John Tolleson said it best: "People today don't realize the impact that music had. It was like somebody put a wall down. The old music stopped here. The new music started here." When rock 'n' roll arrived, you either loved it or you hated it. There wasn't much in between. "A lot of guys didn't like it," Tolleson said. "But the first time I heard rock 'n' roll, I knew that was for me." Tolleson even recalled the moment he got that feeling.
I started to answer for him. "It was when Bill Haley and the Comets sang `Rock Around the Clock' over the titles of that movie ..." I said. He finished my sentence for me: " `Blackboard Jungle.' " That was the name of the movie.
Elvis Presley has been so often credited as the commercial avatar of rock 'n' roll (and he was, in terms of pure box-office appeal) that the music's long gestation period is often overlooked. Elvis grabbed the headlines. His manager, Col. Tom Parker, made sure of that. But rock 'n' roll had been there all along both in the Ozarks, where it flourished in Hawkins' hell-raising country, and in the Delta blues that Levon Helm of the Hawks and later The Band grew up listening to in the cotton fields near Helena. The combination of rhythm-and-blues and supercharged country covers that brought Elvis his first taste of fame at Memphis' Sun Records was nothing new to Hawkins.
"Those were 1940s songs," Hawkins said. "Songs by people like Lloyd Price. Muddy Waters had some stuff out there. Ray Charles was already a name ... but I don't know if he was with Atlantic (the label that brought him to national prominence) then. Hell, I sang some of those songs before Elvis did."
Hawkins, always the joker, got off to a rugged start, but he developed into the pre- eminent exponent of Northwest Arkansas rockabilly. By the start of the 1960s, he was competing head-to-head with Tolleson (among others) in a semi-rural loop that stretched from Fayetteville to Oxford, Miss., back through the Arkansas Delta to worn-down towns like Osceola and on to Dallas, then swung north again through Oklahoma to Tulsa and back to Fayetteville. At that point, both Hawkins and Tolleson had come a long way from the mid-'50s, when they first started in earnest. "The competition was rough in them days," Hawkins said. "Even B.B. King couldn't get into the clubs in Memphis and he was playing blues."
During that period, Hawkins said, "A hit blues record sold 10,000 copies and you couldn't get played on anything except those little 75-watt stations that went into the black communities." So Hawkins scrambled for the gigs he could get. He played joints in the Delta that were so mean, as he often described them, that "you had to puke twice and show your razor before they'd let you in."
But Hawkins was game for almost anything, and he first staked out the Northwest Arkansas area that was his home as his own turf. He and his friend Dayton Stratton, who Hawkins met when he was in eighth grade, eventually built a solidly durable rock 'n' roll enclave around Fayetteville and eastern Oklahoma. In fact, Stratton, who died in a plane crash in 1974, has been succeeded by his son, Randy, who currently oversees the Stratton Entertainment Group that his father pioneered. The Stratton group is currently celebrating its 50th year in the music business.
Rock 'n' roll reached to the heart of the heart of the country - to Arkansas and the Ozarks. It was in turn transported to Canada by Hawkins and others, notably Conway Twitty, who was known in the 1950s by his real name as rocker Harold Jenkins. Was it simply the hypnotic spell of the music itself - the beat, as the preachers defined it and condemned it - or was it the spirit of those who embraced it that made it so widely popular? The Band, which Hawkins assembled as one of his ever-changing backup groups he called the Hawks, eventually played for the entire world.
When Hawkins was young, he'd commandeer an old gas station on Dickson street for rehersals. "We'd unplug their outside Coke machine and plug in our instruments," Hawkins said. "They had the warmest Cokes in town." And, pretty soon, Hawkins and Tolleson had the hottest bands in town. "We were too young to get in so we used to stand outside and listen, sort of `through the fan,' " Ernie Cate said. That's the way Ernie, whose brother Earl plays guitar to his keyboards in the Cate Brothers band, remembers the long-gone Rockwood Club. A roadhouse on the south end of Fayetteville, the Rockwood was owned by Hawkins and managed by Stratton. A gentlemanly man and a snappy dresser, Stratton was nevertheless a formidable presence who maintained strict decorum. "He lost his mom at 15," his son, Randy, said. "Then one day he came home and found the place cleaned out and his father gone so he hitchhiked from Whittier, Calif., to Elkins, Ark. That's where his grandparents lived."
After graduating from Fayetteville High, Stratton Sr. served in the armed forces in Korea. When rock 'n' roll came in, he was ready. "He just always wanted to run a club," Randy Stratton said. First, he operated the Tee Table in Fayetteville and later the Shamrock Club (which previously was the Bubble Club and afterward was Mhoon's 71 Club). Being longtime pals, Stratton and Hawkins were a natural pair, rough and ready - and so were the crowds. Still, Stratton knew how to handle them. "He was a tough, good-lookin' cat," Hawkins said, "and he could fight. He didn't look like it but when he was about 185 pounds, he was a hell of a fighter." Eventually, Stratton expanded his business successfully into Oklahoma. But he was at first celebrated chiefly around Fayetteville for importing rock 'n' rollers with big-time reputations: young Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison and Roy Buchanan among the best of them. Fledgling Tulsa rocker Leon Russell (then known by his real name, Leon Bridges) played at the Rockwood while Dayton managed it. Ernie Cate said, "The first time I saw [Dayton], I thought he was a musician. He had that hair all slicked back and he looked like one of those rockabillies." Actually, Dayton Stratton was more or less an honorary rockabilly. He demanded respect and he got it. "He was an amateur magician," Randy said. "He used to do magic tricks." Nobody did more for rock 'n' roll in Northwest Arkansas, it's safe to say, than Dayton. Plus, he kept things peaceable by his sheer patience and, when necessary, with his fists. "[Former Sheriff] Hollis Spencer said `You couldn't teach what he [Dayton] knew. He was born with it,' " Randy Stratton said.
Hawkins, known throughout Canada as the King of Rock 'n' Roll, came appropriately enough from Hawkins Holler (or Hawkins Holler Creek, depending on your source) in Madison County, east of Fayetteville. He and his family moved to Fayetteville when he was 9 years old. "My whole career started in 1952," Hawkins said. More to the point, Hawkins had been exposed to the basics of black music as a kid by Buddy Hayes, a local musician and shoeshine man whom Hawkins recalls as "The Godfather of the Holler." Hayes' "holler" was in Fayetteville and it was usually referred to in its entirety as Nigger Holler. In any event, Hawkins and Hayes became lifelong friends and when Hawkins later served a stint in the Army at Fort Sill, he fronted an all-black band called the Blackhawks.
After his discharge, Hawkins said, "I gave myself 90 days to make the big time. Then I took off for Memphis. Some Sun sessionmen were starting a band down there and I told everybody they wanted me to front it! Well, it took me about three days to get there in my old roadster. The roads were gravel then. By the time I got there, the band had broken up because they couldn't decide who was gonna run it for a few extra bucks a week." That's how Hawkins wound up performing in the Delta. "Hell, I couldn't go home," he said. "I'd told everybody I was going to Hollywood to be a star!"
It took more than 90 days but Hawkins finally made it. He signed a record deal with the Roulette label's "Big Mafioso" Morris Levy and, before long, he was a familiar TV personality, making appearances on "The Ed Sullivan Show" and "American Bandstand." He also recorded two hit singles for Roulette: "40 Days" and "Mary Lou," the latter selling a reported 750,000 copies.
The Hawks, by this juncture, consisted of pianist Will "Pop" Jones, guitarist Jimmy Ray "Luke" Paulman and drummer Helm, who went on to anchor The Band. But it was 1959 and rockabilly was fading. So was the group. Paulman and Jones "both went home and got married," Hawkins said. "I lost more good musicians because they knocked up 14-year-old girls than just about any other way. They figured it was better to get married than go to jail." That's when Hawkins and Helm began recruiting the four Canadians who (along with Helm) finally made up four-fifths of The Band: guitarist Robbie Robertson, bassist Rick Danko, pianist Richard Manuel and keyboardist Garth Hudson. According to Helm, Robertson was among the first to make a commitment. He rode buses from Ontario to Arkansas, and Hawkins and Helm picked him up at the bus station in Fayetteville. It was an early version of this group that I first encountered. But, even then, they were sensational and they played more blues than any band I'd ever heard. That made them distinctive, too.
There were hard times, naturally. Hawkins often testified that he was the only rock 'n' roller who was "onstage belchin' up gasoline through chapped lips." He carried what he called "an Arkansas credit card" - a five-gallon gas can and a siphon hose. The customers at his gigs often paid for their fun in more ways than they knew. While they were inside waiting for him, he was outside in the parking lot draining their cars' fuel tanks.
Ernie and Earl Cate graduated from Springdale High School, a few miles north of Fayetteville, in 1960. Like almost everyone else in the region, they had grown up with a musical awareness. "We just liked the music," Ernie said. "Our dad took us around to square dances. We played a little in town contests and things like that. Eventually, we started doing these Everly Brothers songs."
The Cates joined with singer Ken Owens to form Ken Owens and the Del-Rays in the early '60s. Through Owens they met Hawkins and in 1965 they took their act on the road, to Tony Mart's famous club in Summers Point, N.J. They landed a recording contract with Asylum in 1975 and toured nationally in support of two albums they made for that label. But home was where their loyalties were and they've stayed close to Northwest Arkansas for the better part of 40 years. "I remember Ronnie [Hawkins] and Levon [Helm] trying to talk us into going to Canada in the '60s," Earl Cate said. "But we told them we were too young to go." Still, he said, he learned a lot about playing guitar from Hawkins' one-time ace picker, Fred Carter Jr. "He used to bend the strings and I didn't know how to do that," Earl Cate said. "This was before they made custom strings. I strung my guitar the way he did, though, with a banjo string on the bottom. That's how I started doing it."
The first club the group played was the Rockwood, Earl said, and he still remembers Dayton Stratton for his efficiency and his way with the customers. "He was such a go-getter," Earl said. "And he would take just so much. Once you crossed that line and he lost it, well ..." Well, there was no stopping him then. Helm recounts in his autobiography, "This Wheel's on Fire," how Stratton hit one man so many times that the man couldn't fall forward because each blow would knock him back on his feet.
The Cate Brothers are an Arkansas institution now, although they're hardly ready for a museum. They're constantly playing festivals, at clubs, in the parks, pretty much wherever they choose. To them, Northwest Arkansas rock 'n' roll is just a natural sound. It's peculiarly original, yes, but they can't really explain it. "Our influence is from Memphis, the Delta," Ernie said. "We just kind of followed in the footsteps of Hawkins and the others who came before us." Earl added, "I feel like Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks influenced most of the bands around here. I remember when we were playing six nights a week in a club in Joplin. The songs on the jukebox up there were a lot different than what was down here and that's not very far away. I guess it was just the kind of territory it came out of that made this music a little different." "I just hated John Tolleson," Hawkins said. "I told him once `You can sing, you can play and you can write.' I just hated him." Tolleson responded later, "It sounds like Ronald is in fine form." Truth is, Tolleson said, "I still call him [Hawkins] up once in a while just to give him a hard time."
It's a form of mutual respect the two have for each other. Hawkins remembers Tolleson (whose souped-up version of the Carter Family's "Wildwood Flower" was a big favorite wherever he played) as a competitor, a colleague and, probably, as a brother of the road. The same is true of Tolleson. He and Hawkins attended the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville together and they're anything but enemies. But they're almost exact opposites in their personalities. Tolleson, who has had a corporate career, works now in a white-collar job in the development department on the UA campus. His view of Hawkins is tempered by the outrageousness that Hawkins has encouraged in everyone since he came out of Hawkins Holler: coarse, humorous boisterousness leavened by an inordinate amount of entertainment value anytime, anyplace. "Hawkins used to say things to these coeds on campus when I was with him that would just make me cringe," Tolleson said. Then he laughed. "That was all a long time ago," he said. "But talking about it sure is fun."
Maybe the reason for that is that the music was fun. It was more innocent, no-holds- barred. It was spontaneous and it was new. Plus, it embodied the natural blending of Helm's hardcore Delta blues and Hawkins' raunchy country funk. Helm and The Band went on to change American music in a profoundly democratic way. The Band's songs sound as if they came somehow out of a past that really existed but which no one had chronicled, the everyday past of hard work and trouble, corn whiskey and family feuds. The Band made the hand-me-down past sound alive in a way that no other rock 'n' roll group ever did because the past they sang and played about was real. You could feel it in your bones.
02/16/2006 - ROMPIN' RONNIE HAWKINS PASSES THE TORCH AT MASSEY HALL - DEC 17/2005 - by Gary Tate in 'Livin' Blues' Magazine
Massey Hall is Canada’s most illustrious concert hall, and it’s almost as much of an institution as Ronnie Hawkins. He may have looked his typically feisty self, but The Hawk told the assembled that his battered body just couldn’t bear the strain of any more shows after this one. The 70-year old Rockabilly icon, and nurturer of hundreds of Canadian rockers since 1959, stayed perched atop a wooden stool, while gently poking fun about his severe health problems. Those great doctors are still confounded as to how Ronnie survived a bout of localized pancreotitis. Mr. Dynamo—another apt moniker for this grizzled legend---then proceeded to blast his way through one last cannonading tribute to old-time Rock 'n Roll. And, as usual, he had magnificent support behind him: a precocious unit that’s been attracting lots of attention by the name of The Weber Brothers.
The Hawk wanted to exit his stage career with a band exactly the same age as the one he’d brought into Canada nearly 50 years ago. Early CHUM deejay John Donabie hosted the evening’s festivities, and The Hawk gave two thumbs up to Toronto’s CHUM-Radio. It had the foresight of going against conventional wisdom back then by adopting a 100 percent Rock 'n Roll format.
One of the first beneficiaries of that decision was Ronnie, who received crucial airplay. Before the curtain would fall on this historic night, a couple thousand emotional fans—-aged from 16 to 84-- would bear witness to the proverbial passing of the torch to a new generation. Amidst all the thanks and laugh-inducing recollections, The Hawk demonstrated that it was all about an abiding love for old-fashioned Rhythm 'n Blues, with a real hot beat.
Things got off to a rousing start with Chuck Berry’s 'Let It Rock', followed up with another Berry rocker in 'Forty Days'. Another Hawkins standby 'Wild Little Willie' kept the momentum in high gear, before Hawkins eased into the seductively grinding throb of 'Down In The Alley'. Mid-way through the show, the baton was temporarily passed over to the Webers, who commenced to let loose on 'Great Balls Of Fire', while showcasing the spirited piano work of Shai Peer. An awesome version of Santo and Johnny’s 'Sleepwalk'--courtesy of 6-string wunderkind Sam Weber--rekindled tons of fond reminiscences of yesteryear. Rockabilly Godfather and Sun Records pioneer Carl Perkins was feted via splendid renditions of 'Honey Don't' and 'Matchbox'.
Ronnie bathed in the nostalgic reflection of dozens and dozens of friends, many in attendance, who had positively touched his life in countless ways, but perhaps Hawkins' most heartfelt words were reserved for Gordon Lightfoot—another Canadian cultural colossus. Ronnie recalled how Lightfoot gave him the OK to do 'Home From The Forest', even before Lightfoot got around to recording it. This mid-sixties Country/Folk song had a real strong storyline, and Hawkins' career got a much needed boost when it became a major Canadian hit.
On perhaps his final performance of it, the magic was still there. The Hawk appeared to lower the curtain on his performing days with one last torrential version of Hey Bo Diddley, the dedicated fans stood, cheered and clapped, in a spontaneous display of love and respect. Memories like these can never fade away!
12/17/2005 - JOHN LENNON ARTICLES
Here are a couple of large images of newspaper articles from the Sunday Mail about the Yoko Ono's new book about John Lennon. Ronnie and Wanda are in one of the pictures.
12/17/2005 - THE HAWK IS BACK, THOUGH HE NEVER REALLY LEFT
Greg Quill - Entertainment Columnist, Toronto Star
As he has been doing for most of his 71 years, Ronnie Hawkins still claims the big time is just ahead. Maybe not the Big Time he used to dream of — international rock 'n' roll glory, mountains of money and women, a tour schedule that trails decades into the future, and towering walls of love and awe.
These days, after a bout with pancreatic cancer a couple of years ago that almost rubbed out the self-styled Prince of Yonge Street, Hawkins says he's "still dreaming of stardom, but just as happy to be staying alive." This from the Arkansas redneck who brought rock 'n' roll in its most primitive form to the placid folks of Hogtown in 1959 and set the local music scene ablaze with a handful of young, road-toughened music students who would subsequently reshape rock history as The Band — without their mentor and boss.
Now laid low by serious diabetes and other health problems he shucks off as a mere nuisance, The Hawk is taking one more flight, a performance tonight at Massey Hall under the billing "I'm Back."
As if he ever went away.
It's no resurrection, Hawkins says, though the title of the show is a celebration of his return from the brink of the grave, and an affirmation of the resilience documentary maker Anne Pick chronicled in her Gemini Award-winning film, Ronnie Hawkins: Still Alive and Kickin', which premiered last year on CTV. The documentary is an intimate account of the ailing rocker's confrontation with an inescapable death sentence pronounced by several medical professionals, and of a miraculous "cure" apparently engineered long-distance by a young Vancouver psychic healer known only as Adam.
It's the first time Hawkins has undertaken a major-venue concert in many years, though he has been out there "kicking butt" — as much as his health and the sorry state of the live music scene will allow — since his time among us was inexplicably extended.
"And this Massey Hall thing wouldn't be happening if I wasn't getting paid for it," he says from his home outside Peterborough. "It's a job. It's paying my bills. Someone else is putting up the money, taking the risk.
"These are the people who are buying the rights to my life story. They're making a book out of it, and a stage play and a movie, and they gave me a down payment."
The backers of tonight's event are veteran stage and TV composer David Warrack, and Toronto actor and stage producer Nicky Fylan.
If Hawkins never quite got his fingers round the brass ring in a life memorable for the size of his personality, his vitality, his raw showmanship and his friendship with many of the legends of his time (including Elvis, Dylan and Lennon), his new collaborators seem to be laying the groundwork for a future myth of suitable proportions.
"I can't talk about it yet because it's not a reality," says Warrack, who this week was named musical director of the nightclub/concert room in the new One King West condo-hotel. Warrack has booked Gordon Lightfoot into the venue for January, followed by Hawkins in February.
"We don't even know what form a show would take. What I can say is that we've optioned his life story, and we gave him some money in advance.
"And I'm producing the Massey Hall concert for him because he deserves one more big show — for everything he has done for music and musicians in this country. And because he's just unstoppable."
Uncharacteristically, The Hawk's not talking about the future, either. He has seen too many golden promises turn to dust, too many great opportunities jinxed by his natural propensity for hyperbole. Too much is riding on this deal, and for once in his life, he's reluctant to brag.
But tonight's show, which also features 1960s Toronto rockers Johnny Lee & The Checkmates, is another thing. It's a celebration of his rockabilly roots, Hawkins says, and adds another layer of meaning to the "I'm Back" title.
"I'm doing it with a bunch of young rockabilly kids, three Canadians and two Americans, all of them unknown. We've been rehearsing all them old songs from the '50s, the ones I was doing when I first came up to Canada, and all in the old style, with authentic arrangements."
He has no intention of hitting the road again, he adds. "I would if I could. But I'm not in good enough shape. I don't have much wind left. I've got too many bad habits. And the money out there ain't good enough for me to make the effort.
"After Massey Hall, I'm only going to play once in a while, just do special dates, places where I don't have to rip it up all night."
11/16/2005 - RONNIE HAWKINS RETURNS IN ‘THE HAWK: I’M BACK’
Massey Hall, Saturday, December 17, 2005, at 8 p.m.
Call 416-872-4255 or visit the Roy Thomson Hall Box Office, 60 Simcoe Street, Toronto
Tickets go on sale to the GENERAL PUBLIC on Friday, Nov. 18 at 10 a.m.
Living legend Ronnie Hawkins will bring over four decades of pioneering rock 'n' roll talent and enduring influence to the Massey Hall stage on Saturday, December 17, 2005, at 8 p.m. The opening act will be recently reunited ’60s band, The Checkmates (“Bring It Down Front”). A portion of the ticket sales will aid The Schizophrenia Foundation.
Known for his early work with The Band, the Arkansas-born King of Rockabilly is credited with bringing rock 'n' roll to Canada, his adopted home since 1958. He has recorded over 25 albums, scoring early hits with “Forty Days,” which reached No. 45 on the Billboard charts, and “Mary Lou,” which reached No. 26 on the charts in 1959. Introduced to Dick Clark, he played on all of his shows, including Philadelphia Bandstand, The Beechnut Show and American Bandstand. Ronnie's incredible live show featured his famous 'camel walk' and backflips—antics that led to his moniker, 'Mr. Dynamo'.
Ronnie's influence has earned him several awards and special appearances. His 1984 LP, Making It Again, earned him the Juno award for Country Male Vocalist. In 1989, he helped tear down the Berlin Wall, playing with The Band. In 1992, Ronnie performed at Bill Clinton's inaugural party, The Blue Jeans Bash. Ronnie's 1995 CD Let It Rock earned him a 1996 Juno Award nomination. Ronnie has played for every Canadian Prime Minister since John Diefenbaker, and he enjoyed playing for Poland’s Lech Walesa at a Solidarity music festival. The pinnacle of Ronnie's influence on Canadian music was achieved when he received the Walt Grealis Special Lifetime Achievement Award as CARAS' Industry Builder in 1996. The City of Toronto declared October 4, 2002 to be “Ronnie Hawkins Day” when Hawkins was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame in recognition of his lifetime contribution to music and his generous support of the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario. Ronnie Hawkins was inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame at the Canadian Music Industry Awards on March 4, 2004. In 2005, he was awarded an honourary degree from Laurentian University.
In addition to music, Ronnie has become an accomplished actor. In the 1980s, he hosted his own television show, Honky Tonk, and marked his 25th year in Canada by hosting a nationally syndicated special, 'In Concert'. An award-winning documentary on his career, The Hawk, was released in the early 1980s. His movie appearances include Heaven's Gate with Kris Kristofferson, The Last Waltz with The Band, Renaldo and Clara with Bob Dylan, and Hello, Mary Lou: Prom Night II, which took its title from Ronnie's song.
The recently reunited Checkmates were a ’60s R&B sensation with the hit song “Bring It Down Front” (Sparton Records) in 1967. For nearly four years, Jon and Lee and The Checkmates reigned as one of Toronto's hottest live acts, thanks to a hot rhythm section and the gospel-inspired vocals of Canada's finest soul singer. The band's legacy traveled far beyond the city's limits, creating loyal followings in New York and Philadelphia. The Checkmates opened for the Rolling Stones twice in 1964-65 and for a crowd of 65,000 at Toronto’s Nathan Phillips' Square. U.S. gigs followed with regular appearances alongside the Young Rascals and playing Shea Stadium with The Chiffons and The Temptations. When the group split, members Michael Fonfara, Larry Leishman, Peter Hodgson and John "Jon" Finley formed the core of Elektra supergroup Rhinoceros, enjoying U.S. Billboard and international Chart success with three albums and extensive touring throughout the U.S. as well as Southern Ontario. These four well-seasoned talents now bring back together some of the most compelling elements of that magical chemistry. Combining material from the legendary Checkmates, supergroup Rhinoceros and a naturally evolving R&B, Blues/Gospel direction featuring new recordings (presently being mixed) at Puck’s Farm Recording Studios, the Final Four are closing out a series of select dates in 2005 with this climactic appearance in concert with the legendary Ronnie Hawkins. Presented by Musicgate Warrack Productions.
11/16/2005 - STRATFORD FESTIVAL THEATRE
Rockabilly raconteur Ronnie Hawkins has always looked and talked like an Arkansas relative of Shakespeare's lovable rogue Falstaff.
Now, he is playing on a truly Shakespearean stage at last. Hawkins and Friends, including ex-Londoner Garth Hudson and his wife, Maud Hudson, and Stratford guitar ace John Till are scheduled to perform at Stratford's Festival Theatre on Jan. 28, 2006, at 8 p.m. More friends, guests from Hawkins' fabled past, are expected to be confirmed soon.
The Arkansas-born musician first settled in Ontario in 1958. Hawkins hired many fine musicians, including Hudson and the rest of the Band, over the years. He now lives on Stoney Lake, north of Peterborough. Hawkins turns 71 on Jan. 10.
Tickets can be ordered through the box office at 1-800-567-1600.
09/26/2005 - THE MIRACLE WORKER
Adam, the teenage healer from British Columbia, is shown in his baby photos and in a blurry portrait, all courtesy of his family. Adam refuses to be photographed now, and does not reveal his last name. He was born with a V-shaped birthmark on his forehead that believers say is a sign of his powers of healing. He has a six-figure book deal, speaking engagements and a fan base that includes a U.S. astronaut and an adviser to Bill Clinton. The Vancouver healer first made news when he treated Ronnie Hawkins for cancer. Now, John Goddard reports, his career may be poised for a quantum leap.
The Vancouver teenager who treated Ronnie Hawkins for cancer is reading my aura. We are sitting opposite each other in the darkened cocktail lounge of a Toronto hotel at midday. Officially, the room is closed but Adam, his father, Frank, and I have slipped past the barriers in search of a quiet place to talk. I have shown them a small lump on my left wrist and Adam has shifted his gaze to somewhere over my left shoulder. "I won't go inside," he says, meaning he won't plunge visually into my cardiovascular and lymphatic systems to analyze the obstruction, like a human CT scan. He has to conserve his energy for a six-hour collective healing session the next day for 75 fibromyalgia patients. Instead, he checks my aura for energy blockages, a task that in dim light apparently takes him little effort.
"The problem's not really your wrist," he says, eyes surveying the middle distance. "I see something on your neck, on the left side. "Well, on both sides, really, but especially the left. On the right I see more like a shadow. Your left shoulder blade and left arm — something's going on there." His words resonate with me. If I don't stretch regularly, I get a sharp stitch in my upper left shoulder blade from typing, and stiffness down the arm. The shadow sounds like residue from sharp pains that shot down my right arm for months in 1993, after a barber suddenly twisted my neck. A doctor couldn't help, but several treatments from an osteopath resolved the matter. Adam seemed able to read the patterns and see the interconnections. By contrast, a doctor I had consulted diagnosed it as a (harmless) ganglionic cyst and gave me a choice between having it surgically removed and waiting to see if it disappeared. He was helpful but never seemed to consider the body as an organic whole, or question how the lump formed in the first place — the kind of approach that gets people like me curious about alternative medicine.
When I first showed Adam my wrist, I was asking him about the self-healing techniques he teaches. How does the mind help heal the body, I wanted to know? What is this life force, this qi energy, that Eastern philosophers speak of? And why, with all of Western medicine's pharmaceuticals, advanced surgical procedures and technological diagnostics, do theories of energy and interconnectedness sound so intuitively worth pursuing?
In the alternative-medicine world, Adam commands a large and loyal following. His patients include a former U.S. lunar astronaut; he has just signed a six-figure, three-book contract with a major publisher, which includes the reissue of two self-published books; and his mass healing sessions of up to 450 people always sell out well in advance. Three are scheduled for Toronto this summer — an event today at the Westin Prince Hotel in North York, and two others at the same venue Aug. 27 and 28. At them, Adam performs what he calls "distance energy healing." From across a room or a continent, he says, he can mentally conjure up images of a person's insides, identify a disease or ailment, and expel it. Most people know him from the Ronnie Hawkins case.
Three years ago, the rockabilly singer was diagnosed at Toronto General Hospital with terminal pancreatic cancer. Three biopsies failed to prove cancer but an inoperable tumour growing around an artery meant his condition was fatal anyway. He was expected to be dead in three months. Through his manager, Hawkins contacted Adam, 16 at the time. From 5,000 kilometres away, he performed a series of energy treatments on Hawkins through a photograph of the singer. Within eight months the tumour had disappeared entirely and Hawkins declared himself cured. Now, to people close to him, Adam appears poised to take distance energy healing to a wider public. Several factors seem to be working for him. At not quite 19, he exudes immediate personal appeal. He is six foot two, with calm brown eyes and an athletic build. He seems intelligent but not intellectual. He speaks like any teenager at a suburban mall, sometimes running his words together into a near mumble. Lecturing to a roomful of people, he appears natural and self-possessed, never like a salesman or somebody striving to create an impression. "I think having a big ego counters the healing process, " he says. Recent trends in the medical community are helping him. Acupuncture and other Eastern treatments, once dismissed by the Canadian health system, are becoming more integrated; acceptance is growing that mental and emotional states directly affect disease and wellness. In Victoria at the end of May, medical doctors invited Adam to demonstrate his mass-healing techniques at the annual convention of the Association of Complementary Physicians of British Columbia. Other influential people are championing him.
One is Effie Chow, a former member of U.S. President Bill Clinton's White House commission on complementary and alternative medicine. She is also founder of the East West Academy of Healing Arts in San Francisco, and a grandmaster in qigong, the ancient Chinese practice literally meaning energy (qi, or "chee"), and discipline or work (gong). "Adam is one of the most powerful healers on this soil, North America," she said in a recent telephone interview. "His healing energy is untroubled and pure." Another fan is former U.S. lunar astronaut Edgar Mitchell. In 1971, he became the sixth person to walk on the moon as a member of the Apollo 14 mission. He holds a PhD science in Aeronautics/Astronautics from MIT, and in 1973 founded the Institute of Noetic Sciences, or IONS, with the goal of proving scientifically that all humans are connected subatomically to each other and to everything else. "I have had two different short bouts with cancer," Mitchell said recently by email. "Both were successfully treated with these alternative techniques — one before I met Adam and a short-lived kidney cancer after meeting Adam and which he treated. I have been cancer free for more than two years now."
A pop-culture trend is also boosting Adam's profile. To explain his powers, Adam often cites quantum physics, the theoretical science of subatomic matter. Some of the same material underlies the Jewish mystic tradition of Kabbalah, or at least the updated version attracting such stars as Madonna, Roseanne and Elizabeth Taylor, with its talk of a parallel universe of wisdom and light. The recent hit documentary film What the Bleep Do We Know?, starring Marlee Matlin, too, turns on quantum physics theory, arguing that people control their own spiritual and physical destinies. Next month, Adam is to appear with some of the film's scientific personalities at Simon Fraser University for a What the Bleep Do We Know? conference. The quantum physics he cites shows up in Kabbalah and is the subject of a hit documentary film.
Adam's goals, he says, are to keep developing his powers and eventually prove scientifically how they work. In September, he starts his second year of university. He intends to graduate with a PhD in biology. He guards his anonymity closely. He never gives his last name. His father is simply Frank, his mother, Liz, his younger sister, Sarah. He states his home address only as "suburban Vancouver" and never allows himself to be photographed. Only when he is ready will he embrace celebrity, he says — if celebrity is still waiting then.
I have attended two of Adam's workshops. One took place in Toronto last summer, the other in Vancouver early this year. Each was a one-day workshop featuring two 20-minute mass healing sessions, the same format he is to follow in Toronto this summer. Each cost $99, slightly below the industry standard. Much of the material I found fascinating. Some I found valuable. Parts I found so far to the outer fringe they shocked me. The workshops are a family affair. Frank acts as emcee, Liz co-ordinates the volunteer ushers — mostly people who credit earlier workshops for their recovered health — and Sarah sells books at the back. After an introduction from Frank, Adam walks to the front without fanfare. He tells how he has always been able to see auras, and asks whether anybody would like him to read theirs. Scores of hands shoot up. Adam picks four or five candidates, who go to the front for a reading with the lights off. In his informal way, Adam invariably identifies a key problem area, just as he had with me.
"Your legs," he told one man at the Toronto workshop. "They look all static, like a TV set on the wrong channel." "I was in a motorcycle accident," the man replied. "I can hardly make it up the stairs." Most cases are tragic but one reading in Vancouver got a laugh. Adam told a man he had trouble reading the energy in his right arm. "I've never seen anything like it before — I don't know what to say," Adam confessed, and the lights came on to reveal the man had no right arm. The readings warm the crowd and establish credibility. Adam then tells a bit about himself. He talks of being born with a red "V" on his forehead — the sign of a healer — and of early telekenetic experiences that led to his discovery of his powers.
Next, Adam covers quantum physics theory. He explains his gift as an ability to manipulate the quantum, or subatomic, energy field — even at great distances — to promote healing. He can conjure up quantum holograms of a person's insides, he says, like Tom Cruise calling up three-dimensional images in the sci-fi film Minority Report. Cancer cells appear to him in green, Adam says. To kill them, he energetically applies red heat, causing them to turn white and disintegrate like dust. Then he energetically vacuums the dust and throws it away. "If something is removed on the energetic level," he tells audiences, "then it will soon disappear on the physical level."
Next, he teaches visualization and imaging. This is the part that interested me most — mainstream techniques covered in his book Dreamhealer 2: Guide to Self-Empowerment. The idea is to engage the conscious mind to heal one's own body. Adam's images include fire, ice, lightning bolts, explosions and what he calls "small energy packets," which swarm like bees over a problem area to spread healing energy. The climax comes at two mass healings, morning and afternoon.
At the ones I attended, participants began by pulling their chairs close together. The crowd grew tightly packed. Adam demonstrated how to expand the aura, so that all our auras would combine — "like two bubbles bursting to form one big bubble in the bath," he said. Then he asked people to close their eyes and self-visualize. I imagined lightning bolts striking my left wrist and energy packets carrying away the debris. Meanwhile, Adam performed what he called energy work on the collective aura, to restore balances and promote healing. Some people cried out. The woman to my right in Vancouver twitched spastically. Other people appeared doubtful. "Oh, phooey," broadcaster and author Bill Cameron wrote of the process in a recent issue of The Walrus magazine. I saw him in the back at the Toronto session last summer, in a late stage of the esophageal cancer that killed him in March.
Despite his initial skepticism, Cameron writes, he later requested — and received — one-on-one treatment. "Adam scanned my body twice, from thousands of miles away, wrestled with my cancer and failed to evict it, but did not charge me a dime for the effort," Cameron wrote with gratitude. "That, in alternative medicine, may be the most rigorous test of faith available." For me, the mass healings felt undramatic but positive. The lump on my left wrist remained, but I liked the feeling of heightened energy in the room and sense of common purpose — experiences that made me want to go back. Then at the Vancouver session, Adam headed to the fringe. He spoke of a vision he experienced. He was flying over the ocean and running through a forest. Eventually, he came upon a large, black bird, which told him to go to Nootka. With his family and other relatives, he told the audience, he travelled by car and supply boat to Nootka Island, off the west coast of Vancouver Island. Soon, he and the others came upon a four-foot-high black bird. They took pictures of it, which Adam projected to the workshop. No ornithologist had been able to identify the bird, he said, but a local chief suggested it might be the thunderbird of Indian legend. At one point, Adam said, the bird telepathically downloaded all the information of the universe into his brain. Ever since, he has been able to see baseball-size orbs of energy and light moving through the air. "When I get a third book together, I'll be releasing a lot more information about them," he said in an interview the next day. For me, the talk of thunderbirds and orbs held no interest. When alternative practices cross into what to me is magical thinking, I turn off. I do not doubt Adam's integrity or that of his parents. Are they self-deluded? If not, Adam might one day prove his theories.
In the meantime, he seems to be helping people. His website http://www.dreamhealer.com brims with testimonials of cures and transformations. People tell of waking from comas, and returning to health after terrible debilitations — phenomena that, to me, suggest his work is still well worth exploring.
09/26/2005 - RONNIE GETS HIS HONORARY DOCTORATE FROM LAURENTIAN UNIVERSITY IN SUDBURY
". . . with all the rights, privileges and honours thereto appertaining . . ."
And in an instant, with those old enough to be his grandchildren cheering as if one of their own had just put something over on the rest of the universe, he joined a long and distinguished list that includes the likes of former governors-general Georges Vanier and Jeanne Sauvé, former prime minister Lester Pearson, Charles Best, Roberta Bondar, Hugh MacLennan, Margaret Atwood, Farley Mowat, John Ralston Saul . . .
Dr. Working Girls' Favourite
Dr. First and Last of the Teenage Idols.
Dr. The Hawk.
Rompin' Ronnie Hawkins, Doctor of Letters, honoris causa.
"I bet I'm the only guy in this room," Ronnie Hawkins, 70, bad-living and cancer survivor, said shortly after Laurentian University conferred an honorary degree on the rock 'n' roll legend, "who ever got to be a doctor without first going to high school."
Not true, of course -- his closest friends claim he not only went to college but can, if so moved, quote Shakespeare at length -- but when you're Ronnie Hawkins, doctor or not, you can say pretty much anything you like and people will wrap their arms around it and dance with it wherever it's headed.
That's the real "privilege" the Arkansas native was granted way back in the fifties when he first hit this northern country and liked so much of what he saw he stayed put, even though there were those who said this wild entertainer who would once do back flips mid- song could have been another Elvis if only he'd stayed south.
The privilege of being outrageous.
It is now later in the day, the sun setting over beautiful Ramsey Lake, the maples surrounding the residence of the university president newly out. The patio and entertaining rooms are filled with the cream of local society and academia, the wine glasses held just so, all on their best behaviour and as politically correct as the new century so absurdly demands.
Suddenly Dr. The Hawk, white hair swept back like an orchestra conductor, dark sunglasses reflecting, is standing high on a step overlooking the sunken living room. He has on a black T-shirt with his own logo on it, and a red cowboy bandana around his neck -- "This here's an Arkansas tux!" -- and is being introduced by Judith Woodsworth, who has given him this new honour.
"Dr. Hawkins is now here," he shouts, "all the women line up on the left for their physicals!"
They laugh and they titter. Women who would normally never stand for such behaviour blush. Men wonder why, not in a million years or with a million degrees, they could never get away with such behaviour.
On and on it goes through the evening. Every line a crack. Physicals, gynecology, private consultations -- comments so politically incorrect they would be met by slaps and fists if delivered by anyone else. But coming from Rompin' Ronnie Hawkins -- one of the few people left on this earth with a licence to say whatever pops first into the head -- they are not only met with sheer delight but with eager anticipation of more to come.
And more, of course, keeps on coming.
The university president merely shrugs and laughs. Judith Woodsworth would argue that Dr. The Hawk has every right to stand with the Pearsons and Atwoods who have previously received honorary degrees from her school. The Hawk has probably entertained as many Canadians as any person alive. He put together bands that went off and changed the world of music. He found talent like Robbie Robertson, David Clayton-Thomas, David Foster. He made it possible, Burton Cummings of the Guess Who once said, "for Canadians to happen in America."
But most of all, he stayed here, stayed with Wanda, his wife of more than 40 years, raised four children, a great deal of hell and, more recently, money for cancer research and to assist his adopted home, Peterborough, deal with the effects of a devastating flood.
For Hawkins, heading North seemed exactly the right thing for a larger-than- life character with a big talent and a huge heart -- the perfect face, in some ways, for a changing city like Sudbury and some welcome attention for a small university that is only now coming into its own.
The Hawk blows into town with his entourage and a video featuring everyone from former U.S. president Bill Clinton to Kris Kristofferson singing his praises and he will leave town with even more personal endorsements, no matter how politically incorrect the behaviour.
Dr. The Hawk keeps the lines flying -- "Girls can't resist a teenage idol, you know" -- while the women keep blushing and the men begin turning a little green with envy that they have no such "privilege" to behave however they might wish in a world that is supposed to frown on such behaviour.
"You know," the new doctor says in a rare quiet moment, "I do still like to chase the women.
"I just hope to hell I don't catch one."
Tears, Fears and Miracles. Ronnie Hawkins Cheats the Grim Reaper in 'Ronnie Hawkins: Still Alive and Kickin', August 20 on CTV
From a terminal cancer diagnosis to cancer free - Ronnie Hawkins is still alive and kickin’
Toronto, Ontario (July 29, 2004) - To his friends, he’s Mr. Dynamo. To his doctors, he’s a miracle. To the rest of the world, he’s The Hawk, the Arkansas-born King of Rockabilly who made Canada his home and his stage for more than four decades. He’s still rocking the house today – against all odds.
On Friday, August 20 at 9:30 p.m. ET (check local listings), CTV premieres Ronnie Hawkins: Still Alive and Kickin’, a 90-minute original documentary.
In this special, director Anne Pick spends a rollercoaster year and a half with The Hawk, following the story from his original diagnosis of terminal pancreatic cancer in 2002 through to his mysterious recovery. In between, the cameras capture the highs and lows, the frustration, fears and the tears and love during this emotional time in Hawkins’ life. From the family who worship him, to strangers on the street, to friends like Bill Clinton, Robbie Robertson and Kris Kristofferson, everybody is pulled into this truly unbelievable time in the life of a living legend.
“It has been an incredible journey; from the prospect of facing death to an inexplicable new lease on life,” said Bob Culbert, CTV’s Vice-President of Documentaries. “This documentary is the story of his amazing struggle – the dark days and the fun times he had as he worked towards recovery.”
Hawkins came to Canada in 1959, becoming the “Prince of Yonge Street” making a generation of women swoon at the Coq D’Or. The history behind Hawkins is rich, filled with the famous, the wanna-be’s, and a legion of musicians that owe their success to his extraordinary ability to bring out the talent in his band members including The Band.
With a tumor on his pancreas the documentary shows The Hawk struggling with old age and his own mortality, and facing the prospect of meeting “the Big Rocker in the sky.” Viewers get to see all of Ronnie Hawkins: the Idol, the Family Man and the Patient. Alternately the consummate Southern gentleman, a foul-mouthed “old boy,” an unparalleled storyteller, a loving husband, stubborn, vulnerable and dependent, afraid, defiant, one of the funniest men alive, and the Pope of rock ‘n roll. It’s Ronnie Hawkins, warts and all, like he’s never been seen before.
Ronnie Hawkins: Still Alive and Kickin’ is produced by Real to Reel Productions in association with CTV. Real To Reel Productions is a Toronto-based award-winning independent production company producing factual programming whose past credits include Helen’s War: Portrait of a Dissident, Fast Forward: The Life and Times of Pamela Wallin, The Notorious Mrs. Dick, Hearing Voices: the Rich Little Story, Moe Norman: The King of Swing, and Ryan’s Well.
CTV, Canada’s largest private broadcaster, offers a wide range of quality news, sports, information, and entertainment programming. It boasts the number-one national newscast, CTV News With Lloyd Robertson, and is the number-one choice for prime-time viewing. CTV owns 21 conventional television stations across Canada and has interests in 14 specialty channels, including the number-one Canadian specialty channel, TSN. CTV is owned by Bell Globemedia, Canada’s premier multi-media company. More information about CTV may be found on the company Web site at www.ctv.ca.
Canadian Music Industry Hall Of Fame
Canadian Music Week 2004 In Toronto March 3 - 6, 2004
(Toronto) - Rock ‘n’ roll legend Ronnie Hawkins and recording industry innovator Jim West will be inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame at the Canadian Music
Industry Awards on Thursday, March 4, 2004 to be held at the Westin Harbour Castle as part of Canadian Music Week (CMW) 2004.
Involved with the music business for almost three generations of Canadian rockers, many of whom he supported and played with, Ronnie Hawkins is a Canadian icon, JUNO Award winner and the recipient of the Walt Grealis Special Lifetime Achievement Award as CARAS’ Industry Builder. Made famous by his version of ‘Mary Lou’ in 1959, Hawkins helped tear down the Berlin Wall in 1992 playing with The Band, performed at Bill Clinton’s 1992 inaugural party and has also become an accomplished actor hosting his own television show ‘Honky Tonk’ in the early ’80s and appearing in such films as ‘Heaven’s Gate’ with Kris Kristofferson and ‘Hello, Mary Lou: Prom Night II’.
"It's the greatest honor that can ever happen,” Hawkins said when told of his Hall of Fame induction. “This'll make my grandkids think I must have been a somebody."
Jim West created Distribution Fusion III in 1983 with an eclectic roster, everything from a language teaching label to a world music label called Lyrichord Records. He started his own label, Justin Time Records in June 1983, and there was no stopping from there. Justin Time has released some 350 albums over the years with its most famous artists including Diana Krall (who West discovered), Oliver Jones, Ranee Lee, the Susie Arioli Swing Band, and the Montreal Jubilation Choir. The label and its artists have earned many Juno, Felix, Jazz Report and Choc awards over the years. In 1990, Justin Time launched the Just A Minute label, a subsidiary devoted to unique reissues and previously unreleased titles. Jim West is the chairman of CIRPA and FACTOR and is also a board member of the Canadian Association of Recording Arts and Sciences (CARAS).
Commenting on the honour bestowed on Jim West, Neill Dixon, President of Canadian Music Week said, “There are few people in this country who have made such an enormous contribution to the Canadian recording industry and to the development and nurturing of some unique talents.”
“It's a great feeling to receive this award and be honoured by your peers,” said Jim West. “To be a part of the Canadian record industry is very fulfilling and I'm extremely proud to play a small role in it."
CMW is also pleased to announce their new partnership with Solotech, a platinum sponsor for this year’s event. For the past 25 years, Solotech has represented a combination of innovative technology and proficient service on a global scale including complete rental of audio, video and lighting systems with separate divisions in multimedia rental, multimedia sales, project installation and sales and international sales. Some past events include Celine Dion world tours, the JUNO Awards for over 12 years, Cirque du Soleil tours and World Youth Day gatherings.
The Canadian Music Industry Awards are open to the public. Tickets will be available in December 2003 from Canadian Music Week offices, 905-858-4747.
Canadian Music Week is Canada’s largest annual entertainment event dedicated to the expression and growth of the country’s music, media and entertainment industries. Combining two information-intensive conferences; a cutting-edge trade exposition; five awards shows and the Canadian Music Week Festival, CMW spans a four-day period from March 3 to March 6. 2004 at the Westin Harbour Castle in Toronto attracting participants from across the globe. For more information, visit www.cmw.net.
All About Adam (from Globe and Mail)
He's a sporty guy who plays basketball and snowboards. In his spare time, he lifts weights, listens to alternative rock music and hangs out with his girlfriend.
If you met Adam in a mall, you would never in a million years guess that this is the kid who claims to possess an extrasensory X-ray vision that helped him to cure rock 'n' roll legend Ronnie Hawkins of terminal pancreatic cancer.
"The most important thing for us is to protect his anonymity so he can enjoy life as a normal teenager," Adam's mom says when I meet him and his parents this week at a secret location in the suburbs of Vancouver.
Normal might be an odd adjective to use to describe a young man who says he can see a heart beating within a chest, or pop cancer cells inside people on the other side of the planet as effortlessly as most kids squeeze a pimple.
But other than his girlfriend, none of Adam's friends are aware of his supposed abilities. "I'd like to keep it that way for as long as possible," says Adam, attacking a bowl of vanilla ice cream with a fork. "I'll come out when I finish high school."
He says he has healed more than 300 people from ailments that range from breast cancer to genital herpes during the past two years. He charges $75 per treatment, but he says he has never turned anyone away because of an inability to pay.
Most of his clients have heard of him by word of mouth. All contacts are made through his Web site (http://www.distanthealing.com) and he no longer heals anyone in person. Because of an overwhelming response, he has recently decided to focus his efforts on people with terminal cancer that has not spread, and in situations when chemotherapy, radiation and surgery are not recommended.
The mysterious, self-professed distance healer has become a minor sensation this week, after Mr. Hawkins issued a press release to announce his recovery and sing Adam's praises. Adam's father, who administers the Web site, says he has had to turn down more than 100 requests in the past few days alone.
"I wish I could treat everyone, but I am only one person," says Adam, who is currently offering help to four cancer patients, and has a waiting list of 10.
Adam and his family are well aware that this interview will only draw more seekers to his site. But they have agreed to sit down and share their story because Adam has just written a book that he hopes will help people heal themselves. Hot off the press this week, DreamHealer was self-published with the revenues that Adam has earned from his treatments. The book costs $23 (plus shipping and handling), and is offered for sale at http://www.dreamhealer.com and http://www.ronniehawkins.com.
The book includes a chapter about Mr. Hawkins's miraculous recovery. Adam says he read about the rocker's terminal illness in the paper. Although he had not treated anyone with cancer, he thought that he might be able to help and contacted the singer's manager in October. The doctors had predicted that Mr. Hawkins would be dead by Christmas.
As long as he doesn't have to throw a dead black cat over his back in a hurricane, he'll try anything, Mr. Hawkins's manager told Adam.
Apparently, Mr. Hawkins was the perfect case study. The doctors couldn't operate because the tumour was wrapped around an artery. The cancer hadn't spread. And the Hawk had refused drugs and chemotherapy.
The treatments began almost immediately. Each evening, Mr. Hawkins would sit at home in Peterborough, Ont., with his feet firmly planted on the floor. (The feet aren't essential, says Adam, adding that he has treated a woman mid-flight from China to Canada before. "But it grounds the energy and makes the treatment more effective.")
Meanwhile, somewhere in British Columbia, Adam would sit in his bedroom and concentrate on a colour photograph of Mr. Hawkins. ("I could do black-and-white, but colour provides more of a vivid connection.")
Within a few minutes, Adam would experience a jolt, Mr. Hawkins would experience a slight tingling sensation, and the connection was made: Adam could visualize the tumour.
"What I see when I go into someone is a 3-D holographic image," Adam says. "I can see energy blockages, the problems, whatever. It looks like a 3-D image of the body, with different layers.
"I can see a physical layer: the heart beating, guts moving, that sort of stuff. Then there's a layer that's just like a hollow image of the person and there are green dots where there are problems -- or green bulges, depending on the problem."
He manipulates the bad dots to heal people. "Just like a computer. I take it out, or whatever," he says, waving his hands to demonstrate, as a conductor might wave a baton. "I move my hands around, because I can see the image in front of me. It's just easier to visualize myself splitting it in half if I use my hands."
Adam says he has developed several different methods for healing. With Mr. Hawkins, he tried to bombard the tumour with energy. "You just vibrate it until it pops. It pops quite easily. It doesn't disperse. It just floats around and eventually your body eats it away.
"With Ronnie, it was dead after a few treatments. But I kept treating him until it was all gone, just to make sure. We did a treatment every day for three weeks, and every other day for another month."
Mr. Hawkins had a CT scan and MRI last month. The cancer is apparently gone. "I've come to believe that the Big Rocker works in mysterious ways," Hawkins writes in a testimonial reprinted in Adam's book.
"For whatever it is that Adam does, whatever he did for me, I don't understand it and I don't criticize what I don't understand. I know Adam can't help everyone on the planet, but I hope people will believe that there is more to our world than we see and understand."
Adam says he discovered his "gift" two years ago. His mother, who has multiple sclerosis, was lying in bed, suffering from a throbbing headache. "I don't know exactly why I did it, but I put my hand over her head and the pain was gone," he says.
His mother interjects: "But the problem was?"
"The problem was, I was just learning how to do this, and when I put my hand over her head, I took the pain. It felt like someone stabbing me inside the head."
His mother nods emphatically. "That's exactly what it felt like."
They were quite scared at first, but not entirely surprised. Ever since Adam was a toddler, his parents have believed that he could see energy fields, more commonly known as auras. They were open to the idea, they say -- Adam's maternal great-grandmother had a similar ability, and there were native shamans on his father's side.
As he got older, he began picking up random images from strangers.
"I've sort of become used to it, and I've learned to dim it down. I've got increasing intuitiveness now. I just know things. Which is much better than seeing it all, because when I used to walk through crowded places, it was blinding. I had to walk with my head down."
The family's research into the phenomenon led them to Dr. Effie Poy Yew Chow, a practitioner of quigong (Chinese energy-flow massage) and a member of the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy, who helped Adam develop his approach to healing.
"I have observed innumerable international healers," Dr. Chow writes in the foreword to DreamHealer. "Adam is amongst the most gifted ones in his field of healing."
Adam and his parents understand that many people might be skeptical.
"I was skeptical too," says Adam's dad, a kindly, olive-skinned man, with a salt-and-pepper mustache, who is dressed in a conservative, button-down shirt. He has taken time off work to attend the interview.
"But I've felt it. He's worked on my tennis elbow. He'd start working on it in the car, right after a match, and by the time we got home, there was no problem."
Adam says he has chosen to do distance healing because it's just as effective as healing in person. "And I don't really have the time to do it in person. When you do it in person, they want to talk a lot and discuss what's happening. I'm still in high school and I've got a lot of homework. And basketball."
Speaking of which, his gift offers a few side benefits, he says. "In basketball, when someone's going to pass the ball, there's a spike in their aura. It only happens a split second before they pass, but that's enough to give you a bit of an advantage. I get a lot of interceptions that way."
And then, like any other normal teenager who has been given parental permission to skip an afternoon of school, he looks at his watch and smiles at his parents. "I guess I'm missing my last class."
Cancer-free, He's Rompin' Again (from Globe and Mail)
A wall of reporters encircles a table in the corner of Sai Woo, a small, second-floor restaurant on the edge of Toronto's Chinatown. Lights from television cameras illuminate the scene. Photographers jockey for position. Questions fill the air.
Ronnie Hawkins, the rock 'n' roll legend and Canadian institution, is back from the almost-dead and eating a plateful of spicy ginger beef.
"I'm cleaner than an angel's drawer!" he hollers as he shovels another mouthful in and unleashes his trademark, smoky chuckle.
Seated around the table are some of his friends, along for the media ride.
There's Cathy Young, all bosom, blond ponytail and big red lips. "I have one dusty Juno," she coos, turning her face to a camera for a smile, when reporters ask who she is. There's Amy Sky, understated in a black outfit, her handsome face unmade-up and gazing at Hawkins with obvious affection. "Ronnie gave me my start 20 years ago in his band," she says. "He invited me to sing for Bill Clinton in Arkansas back in 1983." There's Tailor James, Playboy magazine's Miss Playmate for June, seated beside Hawkins, demurely picking at her plate of saucy noodles. She says nothing and sports a look of confidence that suggests she knows her youthful beauty and her filmy blouse, unbuttoned just so, are all that's required. There's Mark Stenabaugh, a mountain of a man in a faded purple jumpsuit and spiky blond hairdo. "I'm a performer. I'm Canada's Liberace," he declares as identification, his pretty baby-blues twinkling under long, dark lashes. Hovering in the background, his pale face and signature pompadour rising over the shoulders of those seated, stands Gino Empry, a publicist of local fame, known for his show-biz clients and the long-held secret of his true age. Wearing a bright pink shirt with a gold fish dangling at his neck, he surveys the crowd, having convened it, and licks his fingers clean of sauce, one after the other, deliciously, as he finishes off a chicken wing.
It's a scene, baby, it's a scene, and Empry has masterminded it, a two-for-one event. Hawkins is here to communicate two things. He's alive and cancer-free, just as Chinatown is SARS-free and ready (not to mention hopeful) for business.
The outbreak in here is communicable Ronniemania. And it has all the buzz of an Elvis sighting.
"Oh, baby, I like it when it's nice and tight!" roars Hawkins as he squeezes between Sky on one side and James on the other for a photo-opportunity hug.
An attractive young reporter crouches down beside The Legend, holding out her CTV mike like an offer of whisky. "You could eat anywhere, baby. Why are you here today?" she asks the 68-year-old. Dressed in a black T-shirt with the Hawk emblazoned across it in white lettering, a cap cocked on his head of longish silver hair, and his trademark sunglasses that he never removes, Hawkins turns to address her. He is a Santa Claus of big, bad living, of curvy women and dope and booze and bar brawls, his stories like children he bounces on his knee for a little fun.
He tosses off a few riffs, about Canada being the greatest country on Earth, baby! That he came here in 1958 after rockin' in Arkansas, where he was born on a farm with no toilets, no runnin' water. The years in Nashville and Memphis, when he witnessed the birth of rock 'n' roll, first called "hot country" and later "rockabilly." As soon as he crossed the border from Detroit to Windsor, he knew he had reached the Promised Land. He wants to help the city's Chinatown restaurants that have suffered as people stay away for fear of SARS infection. He ate here at Sai Woo for years when he was known as the Ambassador of Yonge Street, home strip to all the taverns he played in and ran. He says he's well, and oh yeah, don't forget, baby, he's planning a tour this summer.
Last July, Hawkins was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and given six months to live. Dr. Bryce Taylor, chief surgeon at Toronto General, operated on him, even held the hard tumour in his hand, legend has it, and then sewed him up again, unable to remove it because it was entwined around an artery. They prescribed painkillers and predicted he'd be dead by Christmas.
Hawkins refused to take any medication. "I'd smoke a stick of pot. It's the greatest healer in the world," he says. "Put that chemical shit [painkillers] in your veins, that's what will get ya in trouble." He knew he was "90-per-cent dying" so he took the advice of some friends, who told him about alternative medicines. He says he tried them all. Robbie Robertson, the famous musician who played in Hawkins's group, The Hawks, and went on to found The Band, put him on to some Indian healers. Lonnie Mack, another legendary guitarist, told him to contact a monk he knew who brewed up some concoction with bark from a white oak tree. A Canadian/Polish doctor he calls Dr. Dorothy prescribed other herbal remedies.
Then, a month before a blow-out tribute to Hawkins in October, when death seemed imminent and friends, including David Foster, famous Canadian music producer, and former U.S. president and fellow Arkansas boy, Bill Clinton (via video), showered him with adulation, his manager and daughter-in-law, Mary McGillis, received an e-mail with a header that read "Help for You." Her office had been getting thousands of e-mails, up to 38,000 in a period of four months, Hawkins says later in a one-on-one interview. She read the letter which seemed "bizarre but honest," she says, and told Hawkins about it. The sender was Adam, a 16-year-old who lives somewhere undisclosed and apparently surname-less in British Columbia.
"He explained that everything is made up of the same matter," says Hawkins, in a moment of calm bemusement during our interview. "His parents told me that from the time he was 5, they knew he had special gifts."
Hawkins was willing to do anything for a possible cure. Adam apparently cleansed him a half-dozen times or so, Hawkins recalls. "Now here's the scary part," he says, suddenly sober, his eyes like big saucers behind the tinted shades. A month ago, Adam's family phoned to say that "he had flushed it completely out and that I should go back and tell those doctors to do another scan." Hawkins did. "We told them that Ronnie was feeling well but that no one would hire him if they thought he was dying," explains McGillis. Hawkins is broke. He has had to sell his cars from the sixties and artifacts from his home near Peterborough, Ont., where he lives with Wanda, his wife of 42 years. He needs a few gigs.
A CAT scan and a later MRI showed no sign of a tumour. "Baby, it was gone," exclaims Hawkins. Neither Dr. Taylor, nor Dr. William Hughes -- a cardiologist who looked after Hawkins when he suffered heart problems two years ago and had to undergo a quadruple bypass ("I told everyone I was going in for a penis reduction," Hawkins chortles) -- were available for comment.
Hawkins doesn't like to say it was Adam who cured him. He prefers to list the alternate therapies he tried and suggests that maybe one or a combination of them cleared his tumour. "The way I feel is that there is only one healer, the Big Rocker up there," he says pointing to the sky.
Besides, he has seen the number of people who approach him about his miracle and it can spook a guy, even a rocker like him who has seen more than his share of living. At Sai Woo, a small and intense bearded man, named Norman Evans, director of Hope for Health, Foundation for Cancer Research, parked himself at Hawkins's table, trying to bend The Legend's ear. "Multiply him by a hundred, and add a hundred, and you sure got shit on your hands," says Hawkins, shaking his head.
The point he wants to make is that he's here, still rockin', still making people laugh. "I've been the luckiest guy in the world," he says. "I've been shot at," he says, recounting a tale of driving in Oklahoma. "I had hits put on me," he says, spinning a yarn about sleeping with beautiful girls in Memphis who "belonged" to members of the mafia. "And this?" he says, pawing a deep, permanent bruise on his jaw that peeks above his beard. "Baby, it's them brawls in the bars. Got a bottle shoved in my face more than once. Came close to dying a few times."
His miraculous cure? Think of it as just another part of the legend, another tale to tell in the vaudeville act that is his life. Just like that story that lingers still about the time he bought his first Rolls-Royce. That was back in the sixties. A car salesman rebuffed him, thinking that such a rough-looking character couldn't afford such a car, then worth about $18,000. So Hawkins went to the bank and got the cash, stuffing it in a paper bag. He returned to the car lot and counted out the money to the dumb-founded salesman.
It's a story, just like this most recent one, and life is made up of them.
"Write this up and give me a big spread," laughs the Hawk. "Could help me get that Order of Canada," he says as he pushes his cap to the back of his head and waves a hand over his head as he turns to go.
A review of "Still Cruisin'" from Sound Waves is here.
The Hawk is cleared for takeoff!
"I couldn't be happier", said the Hawk getting off the phone from one of his doctors who called with the good news. "Few months back I thought all those girls had nothin' to worry about. Turns out they better start runnin'! Now, I'm back and ready to rock!"
Ronnie and his family wish to thank all of the fans all over the world for their prayers and support during this very difficult time. Musicians gathered at many locations to pay tribute to Ronnie in the past 12 months including major shows at Massey Hall and in Hamilton. Ronnie Hawkins is acknowledged as one of the leading influences in Rock 'n' Roll credited with helping hundreds of international musicians, including The Band, achieve remarkable success.
Ronnie is very thankful that a 16-year-old healer named Adam got in touch with him and they worked together treating his cancer until it was gone. A book called DreamHealer explains the type of treatment that was successfully done on Ronnie over the past 7 months.
Ronnie's office confirmed that The Hawk is working hard this spring and ready for a busy schedule of shows this summer. "The Big Rocker helped me and I want to get back out there to thank Him!" Ronnie said in an interview.
CD Review - 'Still Cruisin' by Joe Curtis
"Can’t Stop Rockin’", is a real rouser, written by Ronnie’s guitarist son, Robin Hawkins, who also produced the CD.
It's energy sets the pace for the whole album. "Friendship" is a slow duet, combining the vocals of Ronnie and his old friend Kris Kristofferson.
Ronnie’s daughter, Leah Hawkins adds some charm on background vocals.
A Review of the September 15 dinner
The news of Ronnie's illness sucked the breath right out of me.. Oddly, my first reaction was to tell David Foster, somehow we think of Ronnie as our "father", our leader. The man who long before the masses endorsed Foster's genius and knew instinctively that my talent was, putting it all together... David immediately got involved, he called the doctor, and then called Ronnie's dear friend President Clinton to see if he had heard the news.
In a heartbeat, both these powerful incredibly busy men, started making plans to come and spend time with Ronnie. As it turned out, because of logistics, David asked me to over-see it all and that was all I needed to hear! With the help of Klaus Tenter and his unbelievable staff at the Four Seasons, we managed to spend one of the most enjoyable nights that I'm sure will stay in all of hearts, for many years to come..
The men who Ronnie lovingly refers to as the "ARKANSAS MAFIA" the power men, some life-long friends and also good pals of the President, wanted to be part of the celebration. So in total, 22 people were in attendance, including Paul Anka, who rewrote and sang a special version of MY WAY. David played the piano all night, even his wife Linda Thompson got in the act and sang. The only musician invited, was Domenic Troiano, a long time favourite of Ronnie, plus Whoopi Goldberg was staying in the hotel and spotted by the secret service. She's an devoted friend of the President, and had met Ronnie a few years back, so was thrilled to be invited. The fact that there was no press invited made it even better, it was a real intimate gathering with Ronnie in the Chair of Honor, and of course with his loving and devoted wife of 40 years, beautiful Wanda at his side, he held court and made all of us laugh until we cried! The President took notes all night, each time Ronnie told one of his brilliant and incredibly funny stories, he wrote it down on a note pad. He laughed until he had tears streaming down his face, we all did. Peter Pocklington sang, even I, on request sang Wildflower and of course, Paul sang 'Diana'.
The highlight of the evening was when Paul and the President sang a version of Leon Russell's, A Song For You...to Ronnie, it was touching and the President can sing! The intent was to let Ronnie know just how much his presence means to all of us, I think that night he got a glimpse of that, he knows how much he's loved.
From someone who has been standing beside him for 32 years, I believe that's just about the most important thing to him. Knowing that he's touched the lives of so many people, that having him around has altered the course of destiny for so many of us. That, a couple million dollars and a record deal, would just about do it!
A Tribute to “The Hawk” Rompin’ Ronnie Hawkins
Friday, October 4, 2002 was declared Ronnie Hawkins' Day in Toronto, Canada by Mayor Mel Lastman! A tribute and an honor to Stoney Lake resident Ronnie Hawkins, age 67.
The day kicked off with an emotional tribute to the rock legend as he was inducted onto Canada's Walk of Fame. Everyone can now see Ronnie's star in front of the Royal Alexandra Theatre on King Street West in Toronto! Dignitaries in the crowd included musicians Kris Kristofferson, Michael Burgess, Amy Sky and the Tragically Hip. Toronto's Ed Mirvish, boxer George Chuvalo and The Toronto Sun's Andy Donato joined the many fans, close friends and family at the induction. There were many good wishes from all sectors of government, including Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Governor General Adrian Clarkson.
After Ronnie was presented with a Key to the City of Toronto (and a beautiful caricature by friend Andy Donato), an emotional tribute was offered up by film star, fellow musician and good friend, Kris Kristofferson. Mr. Kristofferson, unable to keep his emotions in check offered a fitting tribute to his friend, “They were exciting times and they were full of action and music and art and I came to find that he had a heart as big as he was, which is pretty big. If there is a god of rock and roll, I know he looks just like this guy,” he said.
The evening’s events were a fitting tribute. No one else could get such a combination of talent together for one night. The show was emceed by comedian actor Patrick McKenna (The Red Green Show). It was obvious he was having a good time. The line up of stars was wide ranging from Ronnie’s own house band “The Hawks” including long time friend, songwriter and original back up singer B.J. Cook, The Band's Levon Helm and Garth Hudson (and his beautiful wife Maud!), The Tragically Hip, David Wilcox, Amy Sky, Domenic Troiano, Tom Wilson, The Partland Brothers, Greg Godovitz (Goddo), Kelly Jay (Crowbar), Leah Hawkins, Buzz Thompson, The Weber Brothers, Mark Jordan, Michael Burgess (Phanton of the Opera), Tom Cochrane (Red Rider), Jeff Healey and Kevin Hearn of the BareNaked Ladies. Each performer offered tribute and dedicated songs to their hero and mentor. David Wilcox opened with “There would not be a David Wilcox if there had not been a Ronnie Hawkins”.
The musical entertainment was interspersed with filmed tributes from friends, musicians and dignitaries, including former President Bill Clinton, David Foster, Whoopi Goldberg, Paul Anka, Peter Pocklington, Burton Cummings and Randy Bachman.
The house band, Ronnie's "Hawks" were incredible - their show was stunning, most notable was a performance by Leah Hawkins, Ronnie’s daughter, with her soulful and raucous rendition of “Proud Mary”. (Make that one Proud Papa!!!) Mr. Buzz (Brian) Thompson, also a “Hawk” accompanied by famed guitarist Domenic Troiano wowed the audience with a song he composed entitled “Find Out For Yourself.” They may be the “House Band”, but they offered up as much if not more talent than the big names they shared the stage with! The Hawk does himself proud once again.
Ronnie Hawkins and his beautiful bride of 40 years, Wanda, sat front row center, their cheshire cat grins evidencing the pride and enjoyment of the entertainers before them.
The evening was capped off with the “God of Rock N Roll” himself - taking to the stage and joining his band and other musicians in a rompin' rendition of his trademark “Hey Bo Diddley”. Everyone jumped to their feet.
The outpouring of love for this man was so evident, it was obvious that Ronnie was humbled and blessed. We all wish him well as he recovers from his recent spate of health issues.
(We thank Terena Shaw, Ronnie's good friend, for writing this memoir!)
Rompin’ Ronnie Hawkins’ Tribute Concert at Massey Hall, Toronto, Ont. Was a Real Winner, Fri. Oct. 4, 2002
The Rompin’ Ronnie Hawkins Tribute Concert at Toronto’s Massey Hall the evening of Friday, October 4, 2002, was a real winner from beginning to end! The audience that evening had a very special musical treat awaiting them. Ronnie Hawkins’ band The Hawks, came on like gangbusters, playing the Hawkins classic “40 Days”. It was great to see the Hawk having so many friends and fans turn up that night to pay homage to their old friend and music mentor. They were all here for one reason only – to show Ronnie the love and admiration he so richly deserves for having given so much to so many during all his years as an entertainer and a genuine humanitarian.
After the Hawks got the place going in high gear, David Wilcox and his energetic band took over. The audience seemed to really get off on them, and vice versa. David was smiling all the way through his performance. Ronnie was only a few feet away, front row center with Wanda, his beautiful wife for the past 40 years.
One of the very special musicians that helped make this musical tribute to the Hawk a rockin’ reality, was long-time friend and ex-Hawk, Levon Helm of The Band, manning the helm on his drum kit for part of the night. He was playing dual drums with Hawks’ mainstay Doug Inglis (who’s also in Goddo and the Paul Fenton Blues Band.) Although an incredible drummer in his own right, I could see Doug’s face lit up in admiration at Levon’s presence playing the skins beside him on stage. Doug echoed these same sentiments to me later at the after-concert party.
As far as star guitarists go, Domenic Troiano’s presence on stage was really something to behold. The audience stayed transfixed throughout his incredible performance. He seemed to be channeling his music from Guitar Heaven. He played with other band configurations throughout this incredible evening of music, as well as during the phenomenal encore to the night’s festivities.
Another Hawks’ alumnus and Goddo founder, Greg Godovitz, sang up a storm as only he can on an early Jagger/Richards tune, “Little By Little”. He was playing his Gibson Les Paul guitar, and was backed up by the Hawks. His was the most rousing musical effort that night by far!
Leah Hawkins (Ronnie’s talented and beautiful daughter), sang up a storm on “Proud Mary”, which really got the whole crowd going. It would have been nice to see her sing more tunes that night. I remember her presence on stage at the ’95 Let It Rock 60th Birthday bash for the Hawk at Massey Hall (with Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Jeff Healey etc) captivated me so much I hardly had the inclination to watch the rest of the musicians performing. (Seeing Eric Clapton in the audience, seated near me that night, as well as saying hello to him, didn’t even measure up to Leah’s memorable stage presence.) Her performance on stage Oct. 4th brought back those beautiful memories vividly!
Garth Hudson, keys/sax player for The Band, was there in full force too, with his lovely wife, Maud. Maud sang a moving solo in “Days Gone By” towards the end of the evening, and another touching tune, accompanied by Garth on piano. Kelly Jay of Crowbar sang a rousing rock ‘n roll tune, solo, while playing keys. Joining him on keys for his second great tune was Hawks keys guy, Brent Bailey. At this point they both played awesome licks together on the same keyboard, while Kelly sang up a storm. Kelly greeted his old friend Ronnie after these tunes and shook his hand, then left the stage. It was obviously a very emotional and touching time for both of them.
Kris Kristofferson’s powerful and captivating solo performance was outstanding. Sab joined him on his second tune, performing a rare duo arrangement with Kris.
The Tragically Hip played some out-of-this-world stuff as only they can. A couple of the members of the Hip play on two very cool tracks on Ronnie’s new CD, Still Cruisin’. Jerome Godboo wowed the crowd for much of the evening with his charismatic stage presence. His version of “Born In Chicago”, along with his blues harp wizardry, was beyond compare. Roly Platt’s harp playing was also superb. His soloing, and Jerome’s harp duet with him, was very special to see and hear. Jeff Healey’s incomparable guitar work was without question my highlight of the evening as far as guitar playing went. His magnetism on stage was indisputable. The Weber Brothers (recent Hawk additions), played up a storm on guitar and vocals on some tunes. Tenor sax great Gene Hardy wailed away on an incredible solo later in this long, enjoyable evening of music.
My personal favorite of the night, other than the Hawk’s appearance on stage at the end of this great evening was 13-year Hawk veteran, Buzz Thompson’s performance of his own original “Find Out For Yourself”. It’s on Buzz's Mr. Soul Thompson’s R&B/Soul inspired CD, Find Out For Yourself – Live at the Red Dog. This tune was a truly beautiful and romantic surprise inclusion in the show for me. It’s Luther Vandross feel is so much different than the material Ronnie’s band is known for, that I was surprised at first that it was included in the set list. However, when I looked at Ronnie watching Buzz’s truly enchanting performance (backed up admirably and soulfully by Troiano, who shared a solo with him), the Hawk also appeared totally enamoured by Buzz’s performance. I was wishing at the time that an entire, beautiful, romantic concert of tunes like this was performed by Buzz and the rest of the band. (His own great band often plays the Red Dog in Peterborough, Ont.) I think Ronnie, Wanda and the rest of the audience were feeling the same romantic buzz at the end of this original and excellent Buzz tune. The fact that the inclusion of this romantic masterpiece was Ronnie-approved, indicates the deep respect that Ronnie has for Buzz, his own originals and romantic creations like “Find Out …“ Buzz has been steadily performing with Ronnie longer than any other Hawk, (with the exception of 32-year Hawk veteran BJ Cook‘s frequent appearances), and has toured Europe and other places with Ronnie and the Hawks. A source close to the Hawk told me Ronnie thinks of Buzz as a second son – I could see a paternal look on Ronnie’s face as he was enjoying Buzz’s entrancing performance. The standing ovation at the end of this great tune, indicated the crowd felt about it as I did. Earlier in the evening, Buzz’s slide guitar mastery was a joy to listen to and watch on “Down in the Alley”. Buzz backed up most of the musicians on stage that night, and remains a loyal and dedicated Hawk.
Comic/actor/host of this fine evening’s entertainment was Red Green and Traders star, Patrick McKenna. During band personnel changes, he bridged these brief gaps with hilarious jokes and audience jibes, leaving everyone in stitches. Some of these good-natured jibes were directed at the guest of honor himself, the Hawk. During these brief intervals (the music seemed almost non-stop for four enjoyable hours), several of Ronnie’s old friends appeared with greetings on the two huge TV screens perched high above the stage. Notable among the well-wishers were Domenic Troiano and ex-U.S. President Bill Clinton. Clinton’s joyous and truly friendly words to Ronnie were obviously right from his heart – as if he was talking to his boyhood hero. (Maybe he was!) When Clinton was a college student in Arkansas decades earlier, he and his friends at school used to go to Ronnie Hawkins concerts, because they knew they’d be great party nights guaranteed! (An additional, heartwarming and friendly message from Clinton to Ronnie was playing at the end of the concert, as fans were leaving Massey Hall.) Clinton also had the consideration to phone Ronnie long-distance in August of this year, when he first heard that Ronnie had pancreatic cancer (which was operated on.) This friendly conversation between Ronnie and Clinton, (both Arkansas natives) lasted over an hour, and really helped cheer up the Hawk when he needed it most!
David Foster, famed music producer and former Hawk, delivered a touching message to Ronnie via the giant TV screens. He wasn’t able to make it to the tribute concert, although he would have loved to be there. His extensive work schedule wouldn’t allow it. Back in August, it was he who contacted Clinton, who in turn phoned Ronnie.
Long-time Hawk, BJ Cook, joined Hawks backup singers Patti Jannetta, Shawne Jackson-Troiano and Sharon Lee Williams in a rousing version of the Hawkins’ classic “40 Days”. It was really a great sight to see. BJ stayed there singing her heart out while Ronnie himself joined this incredible lineup next, to sing his immortal version of “Bo Diddley”. He didn’t quite finish the song, standing there full of deep emotion while the rest of the Hawks echoed their respect and admiration to him as they finished the song. Ronnie got a much-deserved standing ovation after this memorable song, from fans and performers alike. If walls have memories, the walls of Massey Hall will echo this praise for years to come.
There was one major loss to the show, to the audience and also to the musicians on stage alike. Local musician, composer and long-time Hawk fan, Neil Cotton, wrote a beautiful tribute song about Ronnie Hawkins, entitled “Mayor of Old Yonge St.” This tune chronicles and immortalizes Ronnie’s influence on the lives of Torontonians; Toronto’s famed Yonge St. strip; and the Canadian music scene as a whole. The time allotment for the whole show was stretched beyond it’s limit and more … so Neil wasn’t able to be fit in. The show ran overtime (to the crowd’s delight), and was an impressive, non-stop four hours, from 8 p.m. to 12 midnight.
Countless musicians and singers have honed their musical talents directly or indirectly through Ronnie Hawkins’ many contributions to the Canadian music scene. His special influence on music and Popular Culture started early in the Fabulous Fifties. This influence continues to be felt strongly until the present day, early in the new Millenium. Many of the better-known Hawkins’ proteges he’s taken under his wing, have been able to showcase these talents as part of this heartwarming and very sentimental October 4th tribute to the Hawk. This concert was not so much about music as it was about the love, appreciation and admiration being showered on Ronnie from the countless, talented individuals he’s touched with the magical muse of rock ‘n roll over the past four decades. Ronnie Hawkins is appreciated and loved by many – We all wish him well!