Thursday, February 16, 2006

Wendell Hawkins - More from Arnett Howard's Columbus Black and Jazz history archives

Arnette Howard keeps digging up nuggets from his extensive archives. Thanks for sharing with us!

Mardi Gras
season starts Friday. My first party is at First Community Church, First Ave. and Cambridge Blvd., Saturday, Feb. 18th, 3 pm., featuring a second line for displaced New Orleans families. Let the good times roll.

Picture captions: Wendell at Club Regal on Long Street at Garfield Ave. Dig those curtins. Early 1950s.
The Sammy Hopkins Trio, Bill Ray, drums, Sammy, alto sax, Wendell, piano. Late 1940s.

The Black History Blog archive is at

Wendell would have been born in 1927 or 28 and died in the mid-1980s.
The sound file is three minutes. Sorry if it clogs your browser. Feedback is good.

These days there are reports of British music fans who are writing my jazz research friends, actively interested in Wendell Hawkins, a Columbus pianist who was nearing the end of his long career when I saw him in the early 1980s. He was playing at Engine House Number Five, a very popular steak and seafood house on Columbus' Southside, at Thurman and Fourth Street in trendy German Village. I regret that I never interviewed him because he lived not too long afterwards. I did spend an evening and had a chat with his brother, Wyman, a drummer with The Chuck Henderson Trio at the Gloria Restaurant. And, somewhere, I picked up a record album on the King Label called Mr. Hawkins at the piano: The Wendell Hawkins Trio. So, to fill whatever thirst that our British friends have, here are the notes from the ten song album written by Bill Brabson in 1960.

"Unfortunately, scattered throughout the length and breadth of America are a hand full of musicians who, for one reason or another, be it the case of not being in the right place at the right time or merely the workings of an unpredictable fate, sometimes spend their entire professional lives unknown and unrecognized by anyone save their fellow musicians and a relatively small following of discriminating fans in what area they happen to be working.

Wendell Hawkins has been, up until now, one of those hiding-their-light-under-a-bushel musicians.

Jazz fans around Ohio have been digging Wendell, and his equally talented brother Wyman, for more years than either of them care to remember. But the music business being what it is today, Gabriel himself couldn't get the type of exposure that was almost commonplace in the hey day of bug bands, radio remotes and supper clubs in the 1930s and '40s.

Twenty-five years ago... Wendell Hawkins would have been known coast-to-coast. (He) has as little background worth touting as anyone we've ever run across. He has had no command performances before Queen Elizabeth, he's never played the Newport Jazz festival and he isn't a regular on Jack Parr's nightly (show).

All he does is play good, listenable, clean-cut, imaginative, jazz piano. There's a little Art Tatum here, a smattering of Erroll Garner there, a hunk of Oscar Peterson in spots, but the overall product is pure Wendell Hawkins. A thirty-two year old pianist from Columbus, ohio who we firmly expect to be one of the blazing new stars on the jazz horizon. He is backed up by his brother Wyman on drums and the capable bass work of William Bell.

We hope you like Wendell. We think he plays good. He's a nice guy too."

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