Ronnie Hawkins Farewell Tour

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In 1983, after I had graduated from the University of Toronto with a degree in classical music, I had a lot of theoretical knowledge but no clue how to go about getting into the music business. The wonderful songwriter BJ Cook was a background singer for Rockabilly legend Rompin’ Ronnie Hawkins. He was leaving for a tour, but she wanted to stay home with her daughter, Amy Skylark Foster. She got me an audition with Ronnie. I sung “Kansas City Blues” at a gig he was doing at the Royal York – and the job was mine!

As it turned out, the eight months I spent playing rockabilly music on the road was, in a way, my post graduate degree in composition. I learned to appreciate that just because a song only had three chords, didn’t mean that it wasn’t a great song, or that it was easy to play! Ronnie meticulously rehearsed the band so that it was , in his words- “tighter than a gnat’s ass stretched over a drum.” He was also known for discovering and nurturing talent into his band The Hawks – artists like Robbie Robertson, David Foster and Beverly Di Angelo. When we toured Arkansas we had an interesting night partying at the Governor’s Mansion – with then Governor Bill Clinton. In Tennessee – he bragged to anyone who would listen that I was the next Linda Ronstadt. Since Ronnie was a legendary Rock and Roll pioneer, music industry executives in Nashville came to check out him and his band. And that’s how I met and began collaborating with some great writers in Nashville. While on the road with Ronnie, a song I wrote with veteran tunesmith Wayland Holyfield called IF ONLY was recorded by a then emerging star named Reba McEntire.

So I packed up my bags, left the band and I moved to Music City USA for three years, and then on to Los Angeles for seven, where I met and married Marc Jordan.

I was so happy to be a part of Ronnie’s farewell tour, to be able to thank him publicly for giving me my start, and changing my life.

I did three Southern Ontario dates,- The Grand Theatre in London, Massey Hall in Toronto and The Empire Theatre in Belleville- just a few miles down the road from where my first gig in Trenton was with him in January of 1983.

For these dates I sung the Buddy Holly song I used to sing as a Hawk: ” It doesn’t matter anymore”- and Marc and I did a duet version of Elvis Presley’s ”You were always on my Mind”. I told Ronnie that I have never forgotten his kindness to and belief in me- and that I was glad that I had the chance to thank him publicly for lifting me from obscurity to what he infamously called “the big time”.

2 Responses

  1. Nancy

    Dear Amy, I don’t know if you read all these comments, but I hope you do. Your music and lyrics always touch my heart. I want to tell you about the death of my Uncle Stan Larke. He was on the radio on many radio stations especially around Ontario. He gave Gordon Lightfoot a huge foot in the door by having him play live on his show in Orillia. His last on air position was with CHFI, he used to sign on with ” This is Stan Larke the early bird”. He always tried to support local Canadian talent. His later years he was the head of the radio programme at Humber College. I know many of to-days working media folks were in his classes. I just wanted to let someone in the music business know of his passing. Another great Canadian has left us and he will be sorely missed.

  2. Ian Anderson

    Amy, as you know, Ronnie is more responsible for the depth of talent this country has produced than any single individual. He is selfless, and has an enormous gift for recognizing and nurturing talents. Thanks for sharing your story.

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