Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Ted Hawkins and KTYM

Ted Hawkins was 'discovered' several times by different promoters, producers, agents, song pluggers, and radio men. The most important was probably in  1971 when a DJ names Johnny Jr. heard him busking on the corner of South Normandie Ave. and Exposition Blvd. in Los Angeles, a block from Exposition Park. Johnny Jr. was so impressed he brought Hawkins to the attention of another 1460 KTYM-AM DJ named Bill Harris. Harris in turn connected him to blues producer Bruce Bromberg. Then things started to happen.

But first bad things happened. Hawkins was born in 1928 in Biloxi, MS. A juvenile delinquent, he was incarcerated in 1949 at the Oakley Youth Development Center in Oakley, MS. He did time at Parchman Farm for stealing a coat. He sang with a group there and took an interest in music. He was released and traveled the country as a laborer. He ended up in the Los Angeles area in the 1960s busking trying to start a music career in the middle of the folk boom. he self-released a 45 in 1966 to little effect. By the time Bromberg met him Hawkins was already 43 years old. 

Today KTYM is a gospel station. But back in 1971 it had already changed hands a few times. It was sold in 1961 a country station which had only signed on in 1958. It held onto that twangy format until about 1965. They tried out a MOR format for a couple years but were spinning R&B by 1969 but with a bit of brokered programming. It was that mixed bag station which had Johnny Jr and Bill Harris on staff. But some claim that all slots were brokered at that time. In which case Bill and Johnny were on their own recognizance when they discovered Hawkins.  

That Bill Harris at KTYM might be the same Bill Harris that was later at KBIG in 1989 on the Hollywood Reporter.  But Johnny Jr. languishes in obscurity.  His program "the Roadrunner show" appears in Billboard in April 1968. The unnamed DJ is described as "A shouting R&B DJ" and the program as "a pure mishmash of jazz and rhythm and blues during a wild and frantic 11:00 AM to noon hour." His name appears on a KTYM Top 30 list from May 15th, 1973. His program "The Roadrunner Show" is not referenced elsewhere. I suspect the program was his throughout. But I have no documentation. More here. The show sounds spectacular. Anyone know who this DJ was?

So back to our bluesman: Bromberg offered Hawkins a recording contract and a dozen songs were recorded. But before anything happened Hawkins was arrested and incarcerated at Vacaville prison on Heroin. Rounder finally released the record in 1982, but he was released and able to make another recording for Rounder in 1986. It was about then that he met Andy Kershaw from the BBC. The Kershaw Sessions were recorded live at the BBC for disc jockey Kershaw's BBC radio show between 1986 and 1989. These weren't tour dates. Hawkins lived in England from 1986 through 1989.

That inertia led to chart numbers in Australia even without airplay and a DGC deal to release his most critically acclaimed album "The Next Hundred Years." It was assumed he'd break big but he died of a diabetes-related stroke on New Years Day January 1st 1995. No fewer than five post-humus albums followed.