The blues were deeply entrenched in Colin Hayes’ soul from the day he arrived on the scene back in late November of 1950. Those first few chords of Need The Bottle So Bad rang true to the toddler more than even he knew at the time his momma played it for him. As a young boy in inner city Chicago, the smoky clubs sang to him as he leaned against the doorways on cold, windy nights, catching a stray note here and there as patrons came and went. After he learned to walk, a whole new world presented itself as he discovered there was more to blues than spilled cocktails and cool, hip shoes.
A few basses, guitars and funky shades later, he was well on his way to a life he had only dreamed of. The rise was precipitous. Gig followed gig at a dizzying pace. Ray Charles, BB King, Robert Johnson and a slew of other opening acts helped pave the way for those lofty heights that would seemingly never end.
Those were heady days for Hayes. From corner coffee houses all the way to one glorious night at Carnegie Hall, where he played for a packed audience that included President Nixon [side note — this was just before the Watergate scandal. Colin’s encore of Baby, That Tape Won’t Erase was never more fortuitous]. Needless to say, he brought down the house. And the administration.
Accolades, gifts, solicitations, advice, calls from his mother telling him to eat his vegetables, all swarmed him like fleas on an unwashed alley cat. Proposals of marriage from the British Royal Family were even rumored.
Then, as quickly as he could jam out a twelve-bar blues riff, everything came crashing down. The explanations and excuses soon followed. “He’s recharging his creative batteries,” claimed his publicist. Critics blamed a peculiarly experimental album he had just released, She So Mean, Got Me Scrubbin’ The Latrine as the cause of his demise. Others pointed to more personal reasons, such as “he has bad hair,” or “his nose is too pointed for my liking.” “He’s just too white” was yet another.
But just as success can inspire, so too can the depths of despair. The embodiment of the blues indeed stems from tough times such as those Colin Hayes was enduring. Living in a ’78 Buick LeSabre and scrawling out lyrics on old cocktail napkins from Chip’s Pub and Florist Haus, he slowly saw his way back to life — life on his terms — not those dictated to him by some stuffy suit behind the desk of a record company. Things started rolling — slowly, as one would expect — then things really did start rolling, as the parking brake on his Buick failed. But the gigs started coming. First, corner laundrymats came calling. Then, the big shows started to materialize. He knocked them dead at Barb’s Bingo Bonanza…literally, unfortunately, as four heart attacks and one stroke occurred during the concert. But, good or bad, he was once again on his way.
Which brings us to the present. A present filled with the promise of a brighter day. One forged by heights and hardships. The culmination of this amazing story you are now holding in your hands. Cherish this, dear listener, as we may never again experience elegant, emotional artistry such as this.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
The Colin Hayes Story (or...A Bit Of Prose, Having NOTHING To Do With Running)
A few years ago, I recorded a solo instrumental CD to send to my clients. To accompany the CD & the artwork, I wrote up a [ahem] bio. I had forgotten about it until I unearthed it while cleaning my office. I hereby present it for your entertainment: