Friday, May 10, 2019

“Man with a Mandolin” – Al Hawkes remembered and honored by fans and musicians

By Lorraine Glowczak

“Lorraine, we are in the presence of many chapters in Maine’s musical history,” Dr. Richard Nickerson said to me with passion as I walked into the pub door of Lenny’s at Hawkes Plaza in Westbrook. This past Sunday, May 5, the pub that was once the recording studio of the nationally known bluegrass musician, Al Hawkes, was filled to the brim. It was standing room only as fans of the late recording artist came out to honor and celebrate the gifted performer and instrumentalist.

Friends of Al Hawkes outside Lenny's Pub
(which used to be the recording studio. Event Records ,
owned by Hawkes
Also present were over 15 bluegrass, country music and folk artists who personally knew, jammed in the backyard and/or performed with Hawkes, playing their favorite tunes from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

In addition to honoring and remembering the “man with the mandolin”, it was an afternoon of fundraising for the Al Hawkes Scholarship Fund. “I made a promise to Al,” Nickerson told the crowd before the performances began. “He wanted to start a scholarship fund to help area music students. Today we are asking for donations toward this scholarship. The funds will be used to help students purchase musical instruments and with the cost associated with performances and studies.” Nickerson added that the performers were donating their time to help with the cause.

Musician, Jack Jolie, was among the many talented artists that came out to support and donate their time. Acting as the MC for the day, Jolie performed with Hawkes for five years. “I was one of the Night Hawkes and it was one of the greatest experiences of my life,” he stated. Jolie further explained that Hawkes is a distinguished musician and known in the bluegrass scene as a pioneer in the field. “He is even highlighted at the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Kentucky.”

Rick Nickerson
Mike Stackhouse and Friends was another gifted musical group who performed in the afternoon. Stackhouse stated he didn’t get to know Hawkes until he and his band started performing at Lenny’s when it opened in 2016. “After one of my performances, Barbara [Al’s wife] told me that Al really liked my music. ‘He doesn’t go out often to see performers, but he always wants to see you when you perform,’ is what Barbara told me,” Stackhouse explained.

Soon, Hawkes and Stackhouse became friends. Stackhouse wrote the song, “Man with a Mandolin” after their friendship grew. He played the song for Hawkes one afternoon, soon after he recorded it. “After the second line, Al asked me if this song was about him,” Stackhouse told the audience. “He knew immediately.”

Many audience members also knew Hawkes personally and came to enjoy the show, donating towards the scholarship fund that was imperative to the late musician. One such fan was Terry Chinnock from North Yarmouth. Chinnock is the daughter of the well-known country artist, Dick Curless.“ If you were a musician in Maine,  you loved and were a big fan of Dick Curless,” stated Travis Humphrey.

According to the New York Times, “Curless's albums included "Live at the Wheeling Truck Drivers' Jamboree," released in 1973, which portrayed life on the highway in songs like "Truck Stop" and "The Lonesome Road." Among his other successes were a truckers' anthem, "Tombstone Every Mile," which climbed near the top of the country music charts in the 1960's; "All of Me Belongs to You"; "Big Wheel Cannonball," and "Six Times a Day."

Mr. Curless took country music to Asia as host of the "Rice Paddy Ranger" show on the Armed Forces Radio Network during the Korean War. After the war, he appeared on television with Arthur Godfrey and toured with Buck Owens.”

“I came today because I’m very good friends with both Al and Denny and I wanted to support them and the scholarship fund,” Chinnock said.

When Chinnock mentioned Denny, she was referring to Denny Breau, who also performed Sunday afternoon – in the very pub named after his brother, Lenny.

Briefly, Lenny Breau, at the age of 15 made his first professional recordings in Hawkes’ studio, Event Records (now Lenny’s Pub). Lenny performed internationally in Canada and the U.S. with well-known professionals such as Merle Travis and Chet Atkins to name just a few – and he appeared on the Jackie Gleason Show, eventually hosting his own “The Lenny Breau Show”. He died under unknown circumstances in 1984 in Los Angeles.

“My brother was a musical genius,” stated Denny who is a musical prodigy in his own right. “My parents knew Lenny had a gift by the time he was five years old and they fed that gift, having him become a part of their band by the time he was 12 years old.”

The 12-year old Lenny joined his parents’ country music band, Hal Lone Pine and the Lone Pine Mountaineers, with his father, Hal Lone Pine and mother, Betty Code who had been performing in the U.S. and Canada since the 1930s. “He began playing the washboard and then moved on to the lead guitar,” Denny said and then paused for a moment. “We still have that washboard.” asked if he had any advice or words of wisdom he wanted to share, Denny was very clear about one thing. “Get out and support local live music. Musicians wouldn’t be able to perform without that support and people would not get to experience great music, like we are experiencing today.”

As I left the pub, Dr. Nickerson reiterated to me one more time – this time with even greater zeal and enthusiasm, “We are in the presence of amazing Maine music history. We are witnessing it – a part of it - Today! Right here! Right now!”

His statement was true. I felt it in the building in which remarkable music was born and great music continues to live. I saw it in both the fans’ and musicians’ eyes, many of which were filled with tears. It truly was a special moment – as the crowd of Al Hawkes devotees and supporters came together under the same roof to honor and remember the celebrated musician. Under the very roof that was once his recording studio.

The scholarship, which was set up just prior to Hawkes death on December 28, 2018 currently has over $3000. Donations to the scholarship fund can be made at: Cumberland County Credit Union, 101 Gray Road, Falmouth, ME. 04105, Attn. Al Hawkes Scholarship.

1 comment:

  1. My name is Slim Andrews, Induction Committee Chairman of the Maine Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum. I met Al when I returned to Maine from Boston in 1971. Being a country music performer since age 11 living in Lewiston and a listener to the Great Dick Curliss on WCOP in Boston, I knew of Event Records. Some time after being back in Maine where I grew up until 1946 I met Al and found out all about Event Records and Al and Allerton. A few years passed and I had formed my own Country Band, The Cumberland Valley Boys. In 1976 with the help of Gini Eaton who owned the Eaton Hall Bottle Club, and another Country music promoter, Barry Deane, I created the First Annual State of Maine Country Music Awards Show at the Eastland Hotel Ballroom. We promoted that beginning show as "Taking country music out of the Bar Room and into the Ball Room. We presented a number of the best country and Bluegrass Bands all day and that night WPOR broadcast the awards and the winners. It was a huge success and the following year Al Hawkes came aboard as a member of the State of Maine Country Music Awards Committee along with Dick Curliss, Fred Pike, Betty Gribbin, myself, and others. In 1977 Al recorded the bands and contestants leading up to the October country music month and the Awards for the best country music performers in the entire state. He continued with the rest of us through 1980 and his contribution to the success during those years was quite valuable. As an offshoot of the Award Show begun in 1976, the Maine Country Music Association was born in 1977 and that organization in turn created the Maine Country Music Hall of Fame. The first three inductees in 1978 were; Nationally famous Dick Curliss of great country hit,"Tombstone Every Mile"; Hal Lone Pine who as The Lone Pine Mountaineer in 1938 broadcast the first ever coast to coast, live Country Music show from WABI ABC Network in Bangor Maine to Los Angeles California, this was before the Grand Ole Opry or the Wheeling Jamboree!; & WGANs Ken MacKenzie 34years on radio and 17 years on CBS Channel 13 TV in Portland. Al Hawkes became The Chairman of the Hall of Fame Induction Committee for a number of years. After 16 years of Kalamazoo MI and Savannah GA I returned to Maine in 2000, re-created The Cumberland Valley Boys of prior years, (1972 through 1985) and am now since 2005 the Chairman of the Hall of Fame Induction Committee which Al Hawkes led for those years back in the 80s & 90s. The fund raiser at Lenny's on last Sunday was a wonderful way to show the continuing way that Al Hawkes and Barbara are helping others with the Al Hawkes Scholarship to aid some youngsters with the costs connected with their musical efforts. That is a legacy of which we as performers can all be proud. Thanks for letting your readers know how important it is to give back to the community as Al & his lovely wife Barbara are continuing to do. I am proud to comment on the show last Sunday at Lenny's in Westbrook. Slim Andrews, Maine Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum, Mechanic Falls Maine.


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