Who was/is Event Records ? - CDs, Vinyl LPs, DVD and more

Event Records

To a great extent, the Event Records story is the Al Hawkes story. Hawkes first related his tale to Derek Glenister in 'New Kommotion magazine' (#27) in 1983, and this introduction is gratefully excerpted from that article.

Allerton 'Al' Hawkes was born in Providence, Rhode Island on December 25, 1930, and named for Isaac Allerton, the first lieutenant governor of the Plymouth Colony, which he helped establish after arriving on the Mayflower in 1620. Hawkes traces his forebears back to seventeenth century England, but after making it as far as the New World, they didn't stray far from New England. Hawkes' father was offered a teaching post in New Hampshire, near the border with Maine. From there he went to Massachusetts, then to Rhode Island (where Al was born), and subsequently took up another post in Portland, Maine.

"While I was at Junior High School in Westbrook, [Maine] I became more interested in music than I ever was before, [especially] country and western music. It fascinated me to hear guitars, banjos and fiddles - a simplistic way of producing music, and more of perhaps a natural entertainment than heavy orchestras and highly-trained vocalists." Hawkes bought a guitar and played along with the Ernest Tubb and Bill Monroe records he bought in Portland. "When I went to Deering High School, [where my father taught], there was a teacher there who was a great inspiration to me. His name was Emery Dunfee. He was a great person to excite you with his wisdom in electronics. He was a strict teacher, and he wanted people to understand what they were doing and why they were doing it. Those two years in his electronics course was probably one of the greatest reasons for my success, and the reason why I ultimately got into Event Records. While in High School in the audio/visual section, I met Richard 'Dick' Greeley. He was working for a company part-time in Portland, installing music systems in restaurants, and he was very much interested in music. He would be the person who I would form Event Records with..a few years later after my military service. I looked up to Dick Greeley, because he was already there in this audio/visual equipment department, and he knew a lot about recording and a lot about sound that I didn't at the time.

"After I graduated from Deering High School in 1949, I attended Massachusetts Radio & Electronics School in Boston, right behind and in the same block as the Boston Symphony Hall, where Arthur Fiedler & The Boston Pops Orchestra reigned. 
I took a two year course in television repair and design, and in radio broadcast. I just wanted to learn as much as I could about electronics, knowing some day I'd be in radio broadcasting and television...which at the time was developing fast. I studied for, and took my exams to pass the Federal Communications Commissions Broadcasting Operators permits. While I was there in '50 or '51, the Korean War was developing into quite a problem. It appeared that because of my age, I'd probably be drafted.

"I was sent to Biloxi, Mississippi. I went down and took a course in radar. While I was in Biloxi, I traveled to New Orleans a few times, down on Bourbon Street. The colored people and the jazz bands down there interested me greatly, as many of the bands would have banjos as part of the rhythm section. I think that if I had a second choice in my love of music, probably I'd play dixieland jazz. I had a chance to sit-in a couple of times with some jazz bands when I was there for the whole weekend. I was able to play tenor banjo to some extent with some of these bands...one of these groups was called the Paul Barbarin Jazz Band. [Then] they decided to transfer us overseas. We weren't sure where we were going. We thought we were going to Korea, but then they put us on a troop ship and they took us across the Atlantic, through the Straits of Gibraltar and into the Mediterranean..and left us off at Tripoli, Libya..at least our unit..the rest of them went to Korea.

"I was discharged from the Air Force on December 25, 1955, and was soon on the way home to my wife, who I'd married just before I went overseas. While I was overseas my wife gave birth to a daughter, named Darleen, and the publishing company I own is called Darleen Music after her. I came back with the idea of getting into broadcasting, radio, and TV because television was a big hit. I applied for some jobs locally, but they didn't need anybody. The pay was not very good for broadcast engineers or technicians, and there wasn't many jobs for disc jockeys, and I never really had a lot of training overseas. The air force radio stations were not the same as being in the fast-paced broadcast field of America. I took a job as a TV repair man with a radio shop in South Portland, Maine. This was only for a few months, until I found a better job with a jewelry store in Portland, which sold appliances, jewelry, TV's and radios etc., and they were developing a large TV repair department and I came in to help them set it up. In the meantime, I was also traveling with various shows, playing country music, and one of these we traveled with was the Bailey Brothers. A short time after we started doing some traveling, Danny Bailey decided to go to Knoxville and work with the Cas Walker Show on WNOX. Charlie Bailey decided to work at WWVA on the World's Original Jamboree in Wheeling, West Virginia. We discussed making records, and maybe getting into the record business and making some really good-sounding, high quality, bluegrass and country music. 
I had also been discussing going into the record business with Dick Greeley. Dick became very interested in it, talking to Charlie Bailey on one of his first tours, where my band, the Cumberland Ridge Runners, were the warm-up band. We decided that maybe we should form a record company. We decided to pool our resources and we borrowed some money from Mr. Greeley's grandmother. I forget how much money it was, maybe a thousand dollars.. maybe two thousand. We bought some Ampex tape recorders, two of them, I believe they were Ampex 551's, which could be used as portables or console-mounted, and we had them hooked up so they could be used in the field and on location.

The first Event record, numbered 4256, was by Charlie Bailey. The catalog number signaled the date that Event was established, April 2, 1956. Sadly, as this set went to press, we heard that Charlie Bailey had died. "Without him," said Al Hawkes, "There would have been no Event Records. We chose the name ‘Event,’ because we wanted everything we recorded to be a big event.” They began with country music, and with custom recordings. The studio was a farm building on one of the main routes out of Portland. It was a former blacksmith’s shop, built around 1860 with hand-hewn logs. In the 1930s, it had been a grocery store, but had long been vacant when Event Records moved in.

The first two Event records were the only two pressed on 78RPM. The second release by Hal 'Lone' Pine sold well on 78RPM because Lone Pine toured extensively in Canada, where 78s were still popular. His son, Sonny Breau aka Lone Pine, Jr., became one of Event's regular session musicians (and, as Lenny Breau, became a cult jazz guitarist until his still unsolved death at age 43 in August 1984). Roy Aldridge, heard at the tail-end of this CD, remembers working a show in Nashua, New Hampshire with Merle Travis and Lone Pine. Lenny, then fourteen years old, borrowed Travis' guitar and treated the godfather of fingerstyle guitar to a solo concert. "When you're through with that guitar, just nail it to the wall. I'm givin' it up as of now," said Travis. Breau evinced that kind of respect, not only from Travis but from Chet Atkins, who signed him to RCA in 1968.

"Around 1957," remembered Hawkes, "we started a relationship with Cecil Steen, who was located at 790 Commonwealth Avenue in Boston. He was operating a distributorship called Records Incorporated. He distributed records in New England, and was a rack jobber. He contacted us concerning distribution because of the success of Dick Curless and Curtis Johnson in the area. Cecil did a very good job for us. The demand for our records was greater than we could come up with the money to finance the pressings, so we made an arrangement with Cecil where he would do the producing of the records. He was able to negotiate a number of national distributors for us." The relationship with Steen started on October 15, 1957, and broadened shortly thereafter to the point that Steen supplied masters which were pressed on Event in order to fulfill Event's commitment to supply two singles a month to Steen and his partners. And so Steen and some financing partners who traded as the ACTA Corporation took over the day-to-day operation of Event, and Hawkes would drive down to Boston once a week to hand over the masters that he'd produced and listen to the masters that Steen had acquired. Thus R&B began appearing on Event. "The four of us [Al Hawkes, Dick Greeley, Cecil Steen, and ACTA Corporation] were trying to make Event become something more than a small, regionally based record company," said Hawkes.

The partnership with Steen lasted for several years without much success. Then, on January 23, 1961, there was fire at Steen's warehouse, which destroyed all the masters that he had acquired together with 10,000 Event singles. "We decided that this was the time to quietly fade out of the scene," said Hawkes. "Cecil retained some masters, including the Dick Curless masters, which he eventually leased to Capitol. Our arrangement with Cecil Steen and ACTA Corp. closed officially on February 25, 1961."

Hawkes decided to concentrate on his television business, and Greeley moved into the production of 16mm films. Hawkes retained whatever masters Event still controlled and hung onto the music publishing, while Greeley took the recording equipment for his new venture. On April 1, 1962, the partnership between Hawkes and Greeley dissolved, and Event was essentially finished that day. Dave Freeman at County Sales later bought the bluegrass masters. This is the first legitimate CD reissue drawn from across the rock 'n' roll catalog.

© Bear Family Records®

Copyright © Bear Family Records®. Copying, also of extracts, or any other form of reproduction, including the adaptation into electronic data bases and copying onto any data mediums, in English or in any other language is permissible only and exclusively with the written consent of Bear Family Records® GmbH.

More information about Event Records on Wikipedia.org

Close filters
No results were found for the filter!