Robin Hawkins was dubbed Kid Hawk before he probably understood the importance of such a title. The son of Rompin’ Ronnie Hawkins, the young Robin was immersed in a world of music from an early age with Levon Helm and members of the Band, Gordon Lightfoot, John Lennon and more hanging out with his dad like company coming over for tea. By his mid–teens, after a brief stint with the drums, Robin Hawkins was taking on the guitar himself and joining his father’s band to tour the world in a different kind of family lifestyle. But while he still helps lead his father’s band, over the last three decades Robin Hawkins has become a stand out singer and guitarist in his own right, and he lead’s his own band that comes to town this weekend to show off how this rockin’ Robin carries on the family tradition.
“I started guitar back when I was sixteen years old and then I joined my dad’s band,” recalls Robin Hawkins on the phone from his Peterborough home. “We had a bunch of great players all the time and it was quite the learning experience to play with these older guys. It definitely was a different kind of musical education. Doing the rockabilly with my dad helped me understand that music a little more and gave me time to spend with my dad and learn more from him. The last recording we did, me and my dad went to Los Angeles to record with David Foster. Kris Kristofferson and Beverly D’Angelo came into sing, Gordie Johnson and Wide Mouth Mason came in to play on it too. It was an incredible opportunity to be able to meet these people and everybody likes to help out the Hawk. My dad is still playing as well; we’re going to be doing some shows in the future.
“I’ve also got eight or nine albums I’ve done, they’re just not in stores,” adds Hawkins. “We do some country, some blues and a little bit of rock in there. I’m working on a new one right now that’s more in the bluesy rock feel to it. I’m kind of going back to my own roots with this one. There’s always an edgy element to my playing.”
A regular on the Ontario festivals circuit playing alongside the likes of Tony Springer, Lighthouse and more, Hawkins has learned the importance of entertaining as much as performing for an exhilarating live performance.
“I think my dad helped me learn so much; dynamics was an important thing, being able to bring things down just so you can bring it back up again, it makes the music live and breathe a little better and of course, with the Hawk, you have to learn something about showmanship,” reasons Hawkins. “He tailored what he did on stage to please people and give them a show — give them something to talk about and I like to try to do that.”
When Arkansas native Ronnie Hawkins came to Hamilton on the advice of Conway Twitty in the ‘50s, it was to tap an untold wealth of music fans longing for some real rock and roll and that’s what he gave them. Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks took Hamilton by storm at long gone clubs like the Grange and the Golden Rail with the Hawk leading the rock and roll frenzied charge occasionally throwing in a back flip on stage. It wasn’t long before Toronto was taken over and the entire country was talking the Hawk. The acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree, and the now 48–year–old Robin Hawkins has honed his skills and truly continues in the family tradition when he takes to a stage.
“That’s where my dad got his start, right there in Hamilton,” says Hawkins. “In Canada, it began in Hamilton for my dad so I know it’s a rock and roll town. I am normally holding a guitar on stage so I don’t have the opportunity to do too many back flips but my dad was also known for doing the Camel Walk. It’s like a Michael Jackson Moon Walk where he’s walking but not going anywhere. It’s the coolest thing, I can’t even describe it. He was doing that back in the ‘50s but my show; we get into it even if there aren’t back flips. There’s some excitement, sometimes I feel a little James Brown coming out, sometimes they’re moves like Jagger.
“It’s some electrifying guitar playing — that’s what I go for — and a show with covers and originals; a wide variety of stuff from the ‘50s to the ‘80s,” adds Hawkins. “My dad taught me, it’s good to try and set out to please as many people as you can and that’s what we do. We want them to dance and have a fun time and let them hear what they want to hear. We do everything from Little Richard to Van Morrison and even a couple of tunes that they’ll know from Ronnie Hawkins. I know Hamilton has been a good town to us in the past and so I hope to show up, rock out, party and meet the people.” V
Robin Hawkins plays this Saturday, July 27 at Stonewalls.