Thursday, May 28, 2009

Screamin' Jay Hawkins in Airport lounge - Pearl Harbour '68

In fall of 1967, I was shipped out to Pearl Harbour on the island of Oahu, Hawaii to languish as a yeoman at ComPact Serv, a "wonderful" desk job that consisted mainly of getting the mail for the officers in my work station and an occasional 10 cent coke for the LT. Hawaii was great for the first two weeks, hanging out at Waikiki, going to the North Shore, watching them surf the big waves. But after 2 weeks, it all turned terribly boring and treadfully horrifying, to say the least. My friends back home were all envious as they were surfers that thought this was the dream job, being in Hawaii, no Viet Nam, surf every day etc.

Wrong, it was anything but that. As a matter of fact, it was Hell on earth as a young white dude from the mainland. They called us Howllies, I am sure it is spelled different than that, but that is how it sounded. It meant unwanted, white person, kind of like the word "nigger" is used as a racial slur, to be exact. It was the first time, I really felt racial prejudice as a white guy. Even though growing up in Brookfield/ La grange Il, one of the few western suburbs of Chicago that had integrated schools in the 50's, but nothing in life had prepared me for Hawaii 1967/68. The vibes were so intense everywhere you went, if you were white, that we, white sailors had few places to go. The black sailors fit in just about everywhere it seemed but not the white boys. So you had to pick and choose your spots as they say.

One friday night, I decided to go to the Airport Lounge near base with some "white guys" to have a few beers and listen to the jams of a top 40 California band. The Hondells, I believe they were called. So one of the sailors who was about my age, similar background and his friend, a "lifer" second class petty officer about 40,twice our age, pile into a cab. We were just 20 years old at the time but that was legal drinking age in Hawaii. I wondered why my friend Bill had asked the "Chief" to come along, but I never bothered to ask. We got to the bar, ordered drinks and sat back to listen to the band. "Chief" started to hustle this native chick right away. It was pretty uncomfortable at first, as there was not that many people in the bar. but then the band got up on stage, they were a "Beach Boy type band" a one hit wonder band, remember "Go little Honda? that was theirs, (of you dont remember it, that would be admitting your friggin' age). They ended up in Hawaii, playing this joint called the "Airport Lounge", next to, you guessed it The Airport. The keyboardist was a guy named Chuck Girard, who became better known as the singer/song writer of an early Christian Rock Group called "Love Song" about 5 years later.

So they are doing their set when Chuck says,"ladies and gentlemen", he was quick to point out that the crowd was mostly sailors and then there was the one Hawaiian lady at our table. He says, "We got a special treat for you all tonight, we want to welcome and bringon stage, the one and only,..... Screamin' Jay Hawkins" lets have a big round of applause for Screamin'Jay "I PUT A SPELL ON YOU" Hawkins.............." I was stunned, I went slightly crazy, clapping real loud.....well, then I stopped as everyone in the bar turned around to see who was screaming for Screamin' Jay Hawkins. I thought holy sh*t Batman, no one knows who this is?????????? So they break into a raunchy version of "I Put a Spell on You" with Screamin' Jay at the Helm and I am transported, as in gone, I cant believe it. I am thinking to myself, no one is going to believe this back home, Chicago.

So after the number was finished, Mr Hawkins is walking by our table and I jumped up and said "Screamin Jay. can I buy you a drink Sir"? He said, "dont mind if I do son". I sat him down next to me at the end of the booth (away from the others) and ordered him some kind of cocktail with a strange name. Well, the lounge was really dark and Screamin' Jay was really dark and I can only remember the whites of his eyes and his big grinnin' white teeth. I was a little drunk and started a rather nervous conversation about Chicago Blues men which I had little real knowledge of at that time, outside of Rock and Rollers, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry and Little Richard. My real understanding of Blues music, came not from Chicago Blues men themselves but from their White British counterparts, the rock groups like The Stones, The Animals, The Yardbirds,who had all done covers of famous blues songs/artists. I used to read the labels of their records to see who wrote these killer tunes. So I was familiar with names like John Lee Hooker, Ellis Mc Daniels (Bo Diddley), Wille Dixon and Screamin Jay Hawkins but not their original versions.

Ok, so right about now the "Chief",this redneck salty old racist sailor, is really getting uptight with me because I brought this greasy Black guy to his table for a drink! I found later that The Chief was going to bash both of us right there. Well, I paid the Chief no mind as I knew this was huge, once in a lifetime opportunity to meet the one and only Screamin" Jay Hawkins. I bought the drinks and by God, I was going to get my money's worth. Finally, I think, Jay realized the situation was getting tenser by the moment and he excused himself, slipping away in to the night. I just sat there pondering how I would tell everyone back home, I just met and had a drink with the one and only Screamin Jay Hawkins, that they did not even know yet? I don't think my surfer friends, at that time, save Artist, Skip Williamson, even knew who Screamin' Jay Hawkins was. No one did believe it at JPUSA, till ten years later........

I was working for the infamous Cornerstone magazine (Jpusa newspaper) in Chicago, doing art and advertising and interviews for their music section when I met Chuck Girard of LoveSong at his hotel room before a gig in the suburbs. He was telling us his testimony how he played in a one hit wonder "Beach Boy" type band. I said wait a minute, did you say you had a hit record on top 40 then ended up in a bar near the Airport in Hawaii in the Fall of 1967? He said yeah..... I said dude, did you ever bring Screamin Jay Hawkins up on stage to do "I Put a Spell On You"? He said yeah I remember doing that, I said I was there that night, I bought Screamin Jay a drink and almost got my lights punched out for it!!!!! I said, "You were playing the Keyboards, right?" He said yeah. Jon Trot just rolled his eyes.

As Chuck Girard ( leader singer for Christian Rock Band, Love Song) can testify, both stories did happen. When Drew Friedman's "Screamin Jay Hawkins" Art print showed up on my Facebook Highlights the other day, I thought it was time to tell the tale. Drew gave me permission to post it here and below is a link to his website where you can see and purchase more of his fab work, and if you get stationed in Hawaii sometime, just be patient, you will get out alive, if you be cool.......
Fine Art Prints Available at
Posted by Comic Book College Weeklies at 4:11 PM 0 comments
Labels: From the President's Desk
Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Fine Art Prints Available at


King AdBeck said...

Ha ha ha! That is too cool! Screamin' Jay was one of a kind - you know he has, like, 90 kids or so . . . that have been accounted for, at least. Maybe more. That is a lot of people callin' one man "daddy." All those years on the road. Probably made some younguns there in Hawaii in '68 too.

Comic Book College Weeklies said...


I just found that out, but it does not surprise me, imagine the royalties being split 90 different for I Put A Spell on You? Actually probably anyone could put in a claim as being a child of Screamin' Jay if born after 1965, LOL

Allison said...

Great story! And you lived to tell about it. You Coxes always seemed to be in the right place at the right time...