The Ted Hawkins story is among the most unique in American music. The Biloxi Mississippi native spent years as a street busker, most notably serenading passers-by on Venice Beach, CA while perched on a milk crate. He was “discovered” several times but never found significant success.
His graveled voice and insistent guitar were his calling card; his songs informed by the blues but with a soulful, albeit gritty, feel. The combination was endearing, even as it reflected a live hard lived.
Hawkins’ 1982 debut Watch Your Step has just been re-released on vinyl. The songs, a mix of solo and full band performances, are a welcome reminder of a tremendous musical talent.
Here is vintage Hawkins – a performance of the album’s title track that was aired on a British television show in the mid-1980’s.
As a bonus, I’ve included a playlist of artists covering Hawkins’ “Sorry You’re Sick.” Featured are Shinyribs, Miss Tess & the Talkbacks (featuring Lake Street Dive), The Mastersons and Anderson East. The playlist is kicked off by Langhorne Slim talking about his appreciation of Hawkins (and “Sorry You’re Sick”) before playing “Funny Feelin’”, a song he wrote in tribute to the late artist. These performances are a wonderful reminder of the power in Hawkins’ music.
About the author: Mild-mannered corporate executive by day, excitable Twangville denizen by night.