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Old 10-04-2013, 11:53 AM   #1
Join Date: May 2000
Posts: 15,623
Default Ronnie Hawkins on tour

He's on the road with 50+ years of stories and a few tunes too: bless his heart...
Nick Patch, The Canadian Press| Oct 03, 2013 | Last Updated: Oct 03, 2013 - 7:50 UTC

TORONTO - At 78 years old, Rompin' Ronnie Hawkins doesn't romp so much these days "I can hardly get around anymore, I've chased too many girls and my legs are worn out," he explains but the rocker with the golden Rolodex's knack for gab thankfully hasn't faded a bit.

Punctuating each story with mirthful gut laughter, Hawkins seems to love nothing more than cheerfully regaling audiences of hundreds or a handful with rollicking anecdotes of halcyon hijinks from rock's golden age, starring some of its brightest stars.

Even his pithy asides are fascinating. Of Neil Young, for instance, he guffaws: "They threw him out of every bar I was ever in they wouldn't let him in dressed the way he did." Gordon Lightfoot, meanwhile, was an inseparable pal of Hawkins' until his international touring schedule got too demanding. And country legend Kris Kristofferson was a notorious object of fascination for the opposite sex who often "romanced" in one of the cabins at Hawkins' sprawling Stoney Lake estate.

"He and Bill Clinton ... the women just attack them," Hawkins laughed.

Oh right he knows Bill Clinton too. Hawkins, born and raised in Arkansas like the 42nd U.S. President, remembers the politician attending one of his shows at a bar in Little Rock when Clinton was merely governor. The women Hawkins was with immediately took notice.

"They started saying all the things they wanted to do to him Caligula would be ashamed of the stuff they wanted to do, man, I've never heard anything like it in my life!" he recalled.

These are the sort of anecdotes that will power Hawkins' upcoming tour, a seven-date whisk through Ontario that will find Hawkins mixing a handful of performances (with a setlist that includes "Down in the Alley," "Bo Diddley" and "(Stuck In) Lodi") with more chatting.

He's forthright about the fact that it's "super hard" to perform a 90-minute set where he "screams every number."

"But I can do a few numbers and tell a bunch of lies that's pretty easy," he laughs.

Hawkins doesn't really need to bend the truth. After all, he had an almost unrivalled influence on the fledgling Canadian music industry and has developed a musical social circle like few others.

Bob Dylan cast him as Bob Dylan in 1978's "Renaldo and Clara." Hawkins' famous manor which went on the market this summer for nearly $15 million, since Hawkins says it's too big for him now has hosted the likes of Oscar Peterson, Johnny Cash and David Clayton Thomas. Hawkins, of course, was also instrumental in assembling the Band.

Recently, a rare 90-minute recording of a 1969 interview with John Lennon was auctioned off in which the bearded Beatles luminary mused on Canada being a "good place" with wife Yoko Ono at his side.

The location of that interview? Where else but Hawkins' other residence, in Mississauga, Ont. He still has vivid memories of the couple's stay, recalling that Lennon had been tinkering with his eventual classic ballad "Imagine."

"That was one of the songs he was working on at my house," Hawkins said. "He changed it around and then when it came out, it was a little bit different."

Lennon was "just kind of quiet," he remembers, while Ono was taking telephone calls from the likes of Princess Margaret and Peter Sellers.

"She was something else. Everyone knew her," Hawkins said of Ono. "She could speak six or seven languages I think. So she's a sharpie."

His association with the Band, meanwhile, dates back to the mid 1950s. He met fellow Arkansas native Levon Helm on the local scene, but couldn't recruit the younger Helm into his band until he finished high school, at his father's insistence (even though, Hawkins laughs of their Southern environment, "the teachers didn't even read and write there"). Hawkins, meanwhile, was playing some rough spots, the kind of places "where you'd have to show your razor and puke twice before they'd let you in."

Once old enough, Helm became one of Hawkins' Hawks and they moved to Canada above the objections of Helm's cotton-farmer father, Diamond.

"He hadn't been out of the county. He said, 'Boy, you better be careful up there in Cah-NAY-dee-uh,'" Hawkins remembered with a laugh. "He said, 'They'll stick a knife in you for a dime.'"

After everyone in Hawkins' band dropped out other than Helm, he scoured southwestern Ontario for replacements, ultimately unearthing Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson.

The Band was born, and for his part, Hawkins says he always knew they had star power "I could tell because they were young and very talented and good-looking kids. Lady killers, that's what you want in a bar" and didn't resent for a moment the fame that followed them.

"If somebody gets a chance to go out in another band and make more money, that's the name of the game. That's what everybody dreams for," he said. "A bar is like an off-Broadway show. You play there hoping somebody will see you and you move up."

Still, he remembers that in the late '50s and early '60s, the prevailing notion among club owners was that Canadians did not want to pay to see Canadian talent.

He used to loan bands his car with its Arkansas licence plates to dupe discriminating bookers, so Canuck bands could show up and present themselves as American.

Given that he lived in Arkansas until he was a young adult, his deep appreciation for all things Canadian is a subject of curiosity for fans, he says. And he acknowledges that he "didn't know nothing about Canada" growing up, save for the Dionne quintuplets ("they were on every calendar and everything in Arkansas") and figure skater Barbara Ann Scott, whom he says he "fell in love with" as an adolescent in 1948.

"Boy, was she a cute little thing," he said. "She was beautiful."

Given his loyalty to his adopted homeland, he was deeply moved to be appointed to the Order of Canada earlier this year.

"It's the greatest honour we could have," he says.

That moment of earnestness is fleeting.

"It's been hard for me to be humble ever since they gave that to me," he added, laughing again. "I have the urge to go around and kick sand in people's faces and stuff like that."

In a different time, Hawkins would go back to Arkansas to show off the honour to his friends.

"But all my friends are dead. I don't got anyone down there to show off for anymore," he says, laughing again.

Hawkins' own health has been a cause for concern in recent years, since he endured an ordeal with pancreatic cancer in the middle part of the last decade. The cancer apparently retreated after Hawkins sought alternative treatments.

Asked about his health now, and the jocular rocker allows another smile to peek out from under his thicket of white whiskers.

"I've got one foot in the grave and the other in a puddle of WD-40," he said. "I'm just taking it in stride."

He traces his health issues back to his hard-partying years on the road.

This leads him to recall that famed music agent Albert Grossman once guaranteed him $1 million a year if he would have moved to Woodstock, N.Y., to play with the Band full-time.

At the time, Hawkins demurred because he had kids (also: "I had 3,000 girlfriends. They wouldn't have followed me all the way to Woodstock I don't think. I didn't want to leave them too many tears.") Now, he muses on whether he could have physically handled more of those good times.

"I think we overdid it. That's what's wrong with me now. We had too much fun," he said. "That's what happened to the Band. They had way too much fun because they had money that's why there's only two left.

"That one time I almost joined ... I'd be worse than them. I'd be dead a long, long time ago if I'd gone out with that wild bunch. Too many women, too many drugs, too much fun."

Hawkins' sense of mischief is certainly intact. Following the interview, he proudly withdraws a hand-rolled cigarette (of uncertain origin) and brandishes it for a photographer, slyly joking that the stuff inside is not habit-forming after all, he notes, he's smoked every day for 60-plus years and hasn't become addicted.

Though he can't soar across the stage as he once did, he's visibly excited about the upcoming Ontario tour which launches in Burlington on Friday and runs to Nov. 28 with stops in Brantford, Windsor, London, Lindsay, Toronto and Belleville and speculates on which guests might materialize, pointing out that "in the old days, anybody could show up from Bob Dylan to Jesus."

Even as he makes cracks about being in his "twilight years" or the discouraging effects of his reckless youth, he seems certain of one thing: this story he's still spinning will have a happy ending.

"To this day, I thank the big rocker every day for letting me do what I wanted to do in my life," he says, gesturing to the sky.

"If I die today, I've done a lot of things that nobody could have ever thought I'd get to do, or not too many people have done, even.

"It's been a pretty wild, exciting 50-something years."
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charlene is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 10-06-2013, 10:18 AM   #2
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Default Re: Ronnie Hawkins on tour

Can't believe it was forty eight years ago when I first saw "The Romper."

It was in a bar on the Yonge Street Strip called "Le Coq'Dor" and he was there rockin' it up pretty good with his band of fine musicians.

The guy had a stage presence (and still does) like nothing I've ever seen, and he's funny, witty and forever entertaining.

He would come around and talk to everyone and his "off stage" show was as entertaining as when he was on stage.

There was no shortage of women in his camp either. It was the "go go girl" era and beautiful young women would dance in various "cages" set up in the room.

He knew how to make the connection with them believe me.

During that period Gord wrote "Go Go Round" and I recall reading somewhere that the song was about Rompin Ronnie.

It's a really great little tune and this thread has become an inspiration for me fetch my guitar as there's a song I would like to play.
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Old 10-06-2013, 01:59 PM   #3
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Default Re: Ronnie Hawkins on tour

In Peterborugh a few years ago Ronnie was there and when I was leaving the venue after the meet and greet he was outside 'smoking' and he certainly could still say the right things to charm the ladies ...if that lady was so But the twinkle in his eye was adorable...
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Old 10-06-2013, 07:33 PM   #4
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Default Re: Ronnie Hawkins on tour

Conrad Black and Ronnie!!
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