Saturday, November 26, 2011

Ronnie Hawkins Talkin'
35th Anniversary of The Last Waltz

The Hard Rock Cafe in Toronto hosted an intimate 1 hour interview with Ronnie Hawkins this past Thursday. MC and Interviewer was the iconic radio legend,David "Mars Bar" Marsden , who didn't seem to have his little green bag with him this evening. While it was ostensibly a celebration of The Band's last show (the complete Band)the topics of conversation covered much more.

The story of The Hawk is well known up and down the Yonge St. strip. He may be the most astute evaluator of talent that's ever lead a bar-band...or he's as lucky as all get out. He's introduced us to, well, The Band of course, but also John Till of Janis Joplin's Full Tilt Boogie Band, Ken Kalmusky, bassist in Ian and Sylvia's band The Great Speckled Bird,Robbie Lane and the Disciples, on to Pat Travers, '70's guitar virtuoso. His own career, now spanning over 50 years, has garnered him a place in rock n roll history as an influencer of many, and an innovator of sorts as he exploded onto the scene with a live act that got him the nickname 'Mr Dynamo'.

I'd imagine it would take a few consecutive weeks of non-stop talking to cover half the mileposts in this guys life. While 1 hour won't do it, it goes a long way to hitting some of the highlights.

The evening started with a Thanksgiving Dinner, just like Bill Graham served up at Winterland in 1976. As dessert was being cleared from the tables the familiar chords of the Last Waltz Suite streamed over the PA system while a young couple waltzed around the tables. That was our signal that the upstairs facility was open for business. Ronnie was holding court at a side-stage table, signing autographs, posing for pics, and glad-handing with the fans and the dignitaries. He was in terrific spirits, giving as much attention to the album-toting fans as the name-dropping in-people, maybe more. In keeping with the spirit of the evening I brought along the artwork from the bootleg Lost Waltz DVD to get signed.

The format of the Q&A was a little, well, informal. Dave Marsden broke the ice, laid the groundwork, then deferred to whatever insanity Ronnie wanted to add to the story. Political correctness took the evening off. While it was terrific watching Ronnie laugh and cackle about his mispent youth I was pleasantly surprised by the unexpected twist Dave brought to the party. And it had nothing to do with his standing as Toronto's Best DJ Ever; from the time he took over at CFNY until Brad McNally left, that radio station was the BEST EVER! As a youth managed a Stratford based band, The Revols, who where fronted by Richard Manuel and were so good that Ronnie decided not to compete with them, but to hire them to play in his establishment in Arkansas and tour other southern bars. This releationship was the source of most of the stories told tonight. But we get a lot more than that, we get personal insights into moments with; John Lennon and Yoko, Bob Dylan, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Van Morrison, Eric Clapton, oh, and The Band, of course. But that ain't all either. Let's revisit.

Ronnie on Robbie

Ronnie on Bill Clinton's 65th birthday party

Ronnie on Richard Manuel, this one is bittersweet

Ronnie on Eric Clapton

Ronnie on Van Morrison

A little tip of the hat to Canada

Ronnie on the first time he met Dylan

Ronnie on John and Yoko

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