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A hard luck story with some great music as a result. Ted Hawkins spent his life in and out of reform schools, jails, and "medical facilities." He went from sitting on an overturned paint bucket and playing for tips on Venice Beach to concert halls and back again. He died abruptly from a stroke on New Year's Day 1995.

This is what Sam Cooke would have sounded like if he had not had much of a chance to become a star. You can hear Cooke's voice in the songs that Ted Hawkins covers, playing his Yamaha jail issued guitar.

Watch Your Step is a great place to start here, if you're interested.

I saw Ted Hawkins live at Illinois State University on October 14, 1994. I had just started to seriously get into Blues music a few months before, and after this concert I was completely hooked. I had purchased CDs of many big name artists, but this was my first taste of REAL blues. He was the genuine hard luck story, and his blues were from the heart. He was just becoming widely known when he died a few months later. I feel very lucky to have had the chance to see him live. The autographed poster I have from that night is one of very few autographs I own. It's probably not worth anything on eBay, but it's priceless to me.

The concert I saw was part of a tour for his album the next hundred years, his first album since the early 80's, and his first on a major record label. The performance was free for students and $2.00 for the general public. No, he wasn't playing at Redbird Arena, not even the Bone Student Center Auditorium. He only rated the BSC's Prairie Room, a little multi-purpose room tucked away at the back of the Bone Student Center behind the McDonald's. There were maybe a hundred people there. It was the greatest performance I've ever seen. When he performed, it was just his voice, his guitar, and a tapping foot to keep time. His guitar playing was very simple, but his voice was incredible. I don't even know how to describe it really, but it just seemed to be pure, raspy emotion. I'm not a skilled enough writer to really describe his singing, I can only suggest you get out there and buy a CD.

Ted Hawkins released three albums in his life: Watch Your Step and Happy Hour on Rounder Records, and the next hundred years on Geffen Records. There are also compilations and live performances now available from Evidence Music and Rhino Records. Some of these tracks have supporting bands on them, but the best ones are just him. Some of my favorites are "There Stands the Glass", "Bad Dog", and "Sorry You're Sick". He even did a cover of Simon and Garfunkel's "59th Street Bridge Song".

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