Ernie Hawkins- Old Style Jazz Revisited

By Jim Weaver:

“Now here is one that shows my bias. Ernie and I have been friends since we ran a coffeehouse together some 40 years ago – ouch. He was the house musician and I was the doughnut coffee guy. He learned from the best Rev. Gary Davis. Have a trip back to the time of Jelly Roll Morton and big acoustic guitars.”

Who is Ernie Hawkins?

“For many years Ernie Hawkins has been playing concerts, clubs, blues and folk festivals, workshops, colleges, museums, parties, fist fights and millennium celebrations in the United States, Canada, Japan and Europe and at every stop in the road from A Prairie Home Companion to Antone’s to the Madrid Jazz Festival. He has played with blues greats such as Son House, Mance Lipscomb, Fred McDowell, Jim Brewer, Rev. Gary Davis and many others.

Ernest Leroy Hawkins was born in Pittsburgh PA in 1947. In the ’50’s he had a paper route, a beagle and a Roy Rodgers harmonica (which he still has somewhere).

He first learned country guitar, mandolin, banjo and bones from a guy named Pete who worked on his Uncle’s farm. Pete had come up playing with the Lilly Brothers and had rambled around the country – taking a 30-year detour down whisky lane that landed him in a cabin on the farm as property caretaker…and becoming a primary musical mentor to Ernie.

Ernie was already playing blues as a teenager when he heard a fellow passing through town play Gary Davis’ “Let Us Get Together”. He was hooked then and forever on country blues and ragtime guitar…and players like Davis, Blind Willie McTell, Blind Blake, Willie Johnson, Skip James, John Hurt, Leadbelly…

Right after high school, Ernie moved to New York City with only one purpose – to track down and study with Rev. Gary Davis. In ’69 he moved back home, enrolled in the University of Pittsburgh and earned a degree in philosophy. During this time, Ernie played with Niles Jones, a blues player living in the city and “rediscovered” in the ’90’s as Guitar Gabriel.

In 1973 Ernie moved to Dallas for graduate school and earned a Ph.D. in phenomenological psychology. Again he managed to find the blues scene and hooked up with players all over the southwest – learning some Lemon Jefferson, Funny Papa Smith, Henry Thomas and Lightnin’ Hopkins. So, with Ph.D. in hand, Ernie wandered back into music.” read more here


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