Al Hawkes was born on Christmas Day in Providence, Rhode Island of Maine parents
who moved back to the old farm homestead in Westbrook, Maine when Al was
ten years old.
While living in Pawtucket, Rhode Island his mother influenced him with
her self-taught piano playing and his father furthered Al's interest
in music buy putting a radio in his bedroom. Al was fascinated with
the local country and western music entertainers he heard on Saturday mornings.
After moving back to Maine in 1941, his father hooked up Al's radio with a
long, tall outside antenna where Al could pickup and listen to southern
hillbilly and mountain music from stations like WWVA, WCKY, WJJD, and, WBT.
After hours of listening to the radio on long cold winter nights, Al developed
a great love for that style of southern country music which leads him to
become a country and bluegrass music entertainer that he is still to this day.
When he was just thirteen, his mother bought him a guitar and chord book which
Al soon mastered. Soon after, his father gave him his Gibson A4 mandolin
that he had used in a string band, in his college days. After conquering
the mandolin, Al went on to play the tenor and plectrum banjos, 12 string guitar
and the upright "Dog House" bass.
While a high school sophomore in 1947, Al formed his first band called "Al Hawkes
Hillbillies". They played in the usual local school functions and grange halls.
At this time, a neighbor radio hobbyist helped Al build an AM radio transmitter
which Al called WW2A. He played country 78 RPM records and broadcasted live
radio shows to an area that covered four towns, one being Portland.
One of the live acts featured on that station was Al's Cumberland Ridge Runners
Trio, which included Don Williams and Alton Myers. Yes, it was an illegal radio
station and he did receive a warning that the FCC was after
them; so, the station was closed down a year and a half later in 1949.
With Al's interest in music and radio broadcasting still going strong, he went
to Boston to the Massachusetts Radio and Broadcast School for two years and
he obtained his First Class Broadcast License and graduated as an honor student.
During the Korean War, Al was an activated Maine Air National Guard and
stationed on an air force base in Tripoli, Libya - North Africa. He worked as
a disc jockey and engineer on the AFRS radio station that was located there.
He appeared live on the AFRS radio station with Don Fields' western band and
then formed his own hillbilly group called Al Hawkes and the Cumberland Mountain
Folks, doing five live radio shows a week.
After returning to civilian life, Al started a retail Television and Stereo
business that he ran for 35 years with his wife Barbara.
In 1956, along with Barbara and Richard Greeley, he formed Event Records
and built a recording studio with offices in an abandoned blacksmith shop
building in Westbrook, Maine. Many country and bluegrass artists were
recorded there - some going on to national fame, such as the Lilley Brothers,
Don Stover, Dick Curless, and, Lenny Breau, to name just a few.
To see the early recordings of that label, go to: www.alhawkes.com/eventcatalog.html
Thru the years Al has had a number of performing and recording groups. One was
a unique act called Allerton & Alton, The Cumberland Ridge Runners. They performed
as a brother act. Al (Allerton) was white and Alton Myers was black. They were
on local radio stations - one station was five mornings a week and
two evening shows.
Over the years Al formed or was part of various other groups/acts such as:
- Al Hawkes and his Nitehawks,
- Al Hawkes and String Fusion,
- Al Hawkes - The Songman (a solo act with 6st. & 12st. guitars)
- The Al Hawkes Show
- Al Hawkes and his Bluegrass Nitehawks
Al Hawkes has received over 30 local, regional and National awards - among them:
- Inducted into the Maine Country Music Hall of Fame 1980
- Pioneer Award 2001 by The Maine Bluegrass Music Association
- National Instrumentalist of the Year 1990 - Country Music Associations of America
- 16th Annual Pioneer Award 1996 - Down East Country Music Association
- Recording of the Year 2005 "Keep On Smiling" - Maine Country Music Association
- Lenny Breau Memorial Award 1991
- Dick Curless Memorial Award 1995
- First Generation Bluegrass Pioneer by the International Bluegrass Music Museum
- Music Industry Heritage Award - Boston Bluegrass Union 2009
Credits & Sources
- Hillbilly-Music.com wishes to thank Al Hawkes for contacting
us and providing information and photos related to his career.
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