Sunday, June 26, 2011

Watch Your Step....

Ted Hawkins was almost pre-destined for a troubled life, being the unwanted son of a prostitute and alcoholic mother and an absent father. A the age of 12 he was sent to a reform school where, fortunately for us, he started to show a fascination with the guitar. During his teens he continued getting into trouble with the law but also continued his love of music. As well as teaching himself guitar Ted was by now getting noticed as a bit of a singer, being heavily influenced primarily by the emotive vocals of Sam Cooke.

In the mid 60's he packed himself off to L.A. to try and make it in the music industry. It was here in the early 70's whilst busking on Venice Beach that he was discovered by producer Bruce Bromberg who encouraged Ted to record some songs in his own personal blues style, rather than the cover versions that had been his mainstay up until then. Unfortunately, Ted's habit of getting mixed up with the local police had followed him to California and he spent a number of years in jail. During this time he lost contact with Bromberg and the 1971 recording sessions were left just gathering dust.

Eventually in 1982, out of prison and free from an earlier heroin addiction, Ted once more met up with Bromberg and the tracks that they had cut 11 years earlier were released as an album, Watch Your Step on Rounder Records. True to form, Ted wandered off after making this one album and it was another four years before he could be pushed into a studio to record again. This time the session produced the 1986 release, Happy Hour and this was the record that was to be the catalyst that launched his career around the world.

Part of the problem with Ted's music was that it was almost impossible to categorise with elements of soul, gospel, country and blues all merging together to create a unique sound that was distinctly Ted Hawkins. Over in the U.K. his music was picked up and championed by Andy Kershaw. At one point in the late 80's you would rarely tune into Kershaw's show without hearing at least one track by Hawkins.

It wasn't until 1994 that he finally came to the attention of the US public, when Geffen Records picked up on his talent and persuaded him to record what was to be his final album, 'The Next One Hundred Years'. Sadly, just as sales of this record were taking off, Ted suffered a stroke on the 28 December 1994 and died a few days later on New Year's Day.

Ted Hawkins dark and often quirky songs are balanced with a suprisingly upbeat sense of humour. With his rough-edged soul/country voice and simple acoustic guitar, Ted brings you into his moody world and all his tracks are sung with a total investment of emotion and with an oddly lyrical twist that frequently has a beautiful sweet edged melody that is completely at odds with a somber theme. There is an intensity about Ted's singing and playing that was completely captivating back in the mid 80's and is still so to this day.

Ted Hawkins - Watch Your Step
Ted Hawkins - Bring It On Home Daddy

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