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Ted Hawkins

Overseas, he was a genuine hero, performing for thousands. But on his L.A. home turf, sand-blown Venice Beach served as Ted Hawkins' makeshift stage. He'd deliver his magnificent melange of soul, blues, folk, gospel, and a touch of country all by his lonesome, with only an acoustic guitar for company. Passersby would pause to marvel at Hawkins' melismatic vocals, dropping a few coins or a greenback into his tip jar.

That was the way Ted Hawkins kept body and soul together until 1994, when DGC/Geffen Records issued The Next Hundred Years, his breakthrough album. Suddenly, Hawkins was poised on the precipice of stardom. And then, just after Christmas that same year and in a bout of cruel irony, he died of a stroke.

Hawkins' existence was no day in the park. Born into abject poverty in Mississippi an abused and illiterate child, Hawkins was sent to reform school when he was 12 years old. He encountered his first musical inspiration there, from New Orleans pianist Professor Longhair, whose visit to the school moved the lad to perform in a talent show. But it wasn't enough to keep him out of trouble. At age 15, he stole a leather jacket and spent three years at Mississippi's infamous state penitentiary, Parchman Farm.

Roaming from Chicago to Philadelphia to Buffalo after his release, Hawkins left the frigid weather behind in 1966, purchasing a one-way ticket to L.A. Suddenly, music beckoned; he bought a guitar and set out to locate the ex-manager of Sam Cooke (one of his idols). No such luck, but he did manage to cut his debut 45, the soul-steeped "Baby"/"Whole Lot of Women," for Money Records. When he learned no royalties were forthcoming from its sales, Hawkins despaired of ever making a living at his music and took to playing on the streets.

Fortunately, producer Bruce Bromberg was interested in Hawkins' welfare, recording his delightfully original material in 1971, both with guitarist Phillip Walker's band ("Sweet Baby" was issued as a single on the Joliet label), and in a solo acoustic format (with Ted's wife Elizabeth occasionally adding harmonies). The producer lost touch with Hawkins for a while after recording him, Hawkins falling afoul of the law once again. In 1982, those tapes finally emerged on Rounder as Watch Your Step, and Hawkins began to receive some acclaim (Rolling Stone gave it a five-star review). Bromberg corralled him again for the 1986 encore album Happy Hour, which contained the touching "Cold & Bitter Tears."

At the behest of a British deejay, Hawkins moved to England in 1986 and was treated like a star for four years, performing in Great Britain, Ireland, France, and even Japan. But when he came home, he was faced with the same old situation. Once again, he set up his tip jar on the beach, donned the black leather glove he wore on his fretting hand, and played for passersby, -- until DGC ever so briefly propelled him into the major leagues. Ted Hawkins was a unique talent, unclassifiable and eminently soulful. For a year or so, he was even a star in his own country. Love You Most of All: More Songs from Venice Beach was issued posthumously in 1998. ~ Bill Dahl, Rovi
full bio

Comments

I discovered Ted from KBCO in Boulder about 20 years ago. I was immediately transfixed by his voice, and I still could pick his vocals out 100 in a mashup. I give folks (that I think can appreciate Ted) the gift of Ted's music with some regularity. They never fail to thank me, and I have actually seen Ted's recorded voice bring folks to tears. What a talent, who left us much to young, and mush too underappreci a t e d . Rest easy, old sport.
oxsteel
I am grateful to learn of this amazing man and musician who rose above the hardships of his life to share such a gift with others. I will seek out his albums right now!
Goosebumps on my soul...break t a k i n g l y beautiful..
millycooper
My husband and me heard him playing on the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica in the early 90's. We were totally transfixed and later found his cd after his passing. A beautiful soul.
I miss him too. In Dec 1994 I met Ted after he opened at Orchestra Hall (Chicago) for Pop Staples & the Staples singers and Michelle Shocked. No one could mistake his huge frame lumbering across the lobby. I said Ted, we came her just to see you! and he said Really? and was all smiles. At his suggestion we saw him again the next week at Shubas and loved both shows. I am so grateful that that I had a chance to see him perform, and to tell him that before he died.
I met Ted Hawkins in a Los Angeles music store promotional apperance for his "The Next Hundred Years" CD, quite introspectiv e gentleman, better to go out in a blaze of glory than to fade away. I miss you Ted.
unclecammac
Makes me wanna cry, I tip my glass & wipe the tear from my cheek as I toast this fine gentleman... I will always be indebted to his heart &
soul that he shared with us all...
my greatest accidental find,he doesen't do bad music.gotta find ad learn all his stuff.that voice!
nate10dogg
Incredible stuff :D Such great emotion in his voice !
good comination of blues and jazz .. got to hear some more
This is the finest adaptation I've ever heard. Such soul.
jbbaker_2000
"You're beautiful to me.......Sun s h i n e so bright...... "
-I'm glad I found him at this juncture in my life.
juanitac4
How incredible.. . . . I just heard him and about him two nights ago, what an incredible artist.
I am sad to hear he is dead. I only first heard him because of Pandora. Thanks Pandora for turning me on to a powerfully emotional performer. Now I'm sad because he is gone.
Revenge of Scorpio is the shiznit.
One of the Best Ever!
"TED HAWKINS" CAN REALLY LAY IT DOWN,LOVE HIS STYLE,KEEP ON PICKEN AND SINGING YOUR SONGS TEX..THANKS PANDORA
It's ashame that great artists like Ted go basically unknown here in America...an d guess what there hundreds like him out there going quietly un-noticed thru our streets because music labels are so trapped in their narrow minded and opinionated worlds
I was lucky enough to see Ted before he died at the Backstage in Seattle. Just him and his guitar sitting in a chair keeping time with his foot. Amazing
I agree with Winepoem. "California Song" is very catchy. I've found myself looking forward to Pandora playing it. This is one of my best finds from Pandora. I'm a fan of this guy now! It's ashame he had to die before he could really get popular. His story would make a great movie!
Wow. This guy was amazing. As soon as I heard this cat, I just about fell out of my chair. Isnt it beyond explanation the way some music just sounds true. I wish I had known about this guy sooner, I will definetly be exploring deeper into his back pages. His story is amazing.

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