Al Hendrix, ‘America’s lost rocker,’ releases new CD
He’s inching close to the 80-year mark, and his diabetes has rendered his fingers unable to play a guitar, but by golly Al Hendrix is still passionate about music and love – so much so that the jacket of his new CD touts him as “The Don Juan of rockabilly.”
Hendrix, 77, will take the stage Saturday for a CD release concert at Beach Hut Deli, where Hank Biggs & The Hard Tops will back him as he debuts “Lover Boy,” his third CD since 2006.
Hendrix, a native of Miami who grew up in Southern California and Texas, said he discovered his love for playing guitar and singing at age 16. He entered a talent show where he took second place playing a Hank Williams song, losing to an electric guitar player who wowed the crowd with a boogie-woogie piece. The second-place prize was $50, which he gave to his mother.
“Fifty dollars was a lot of money back then,” he remembered. “She was so proud of me.”
After three years in the Army, Hendrix returned to a changed music scene, and fans who were mesmerized by Elvis Presley. Hendrix, whose youthful voice has stayed with him all these years, had a Presley-esque sound, but with his own flair.
“There were a lot of people who were just impersonators, and copying Elvis’ style,” said Jimmi Accardi, owner of the Hit House in Penn Valley, where Hendrix records his music. “Most of them were just that – copies. So their songs all sounded like rip-offs of the same songs. But Al’s songs are his own, and they sound unique, and he’s a good songwriter.”
Hendrix started the climb to fame with Buck Owens and as lead singer for Jolly Jody and The Go Daddies, gaining success with hits like “Rhonda Lee” and “Go Daddy Rock.” He re-recorded “Rhonda Lee” for “Lover Boy.”
Hendrix appeared on TV shows and saw his songs “I Need You” and “Young and Wild” top the charts in Texas and San Diego. He eventually signed with Pike Records in Bakersfield, where he recorded “Monkey Bite,” a song that saw fame overseas.
But Hendrix’s manager was hospitalized and his publisher died, and his music took somewhat of a backseat to his career in aerospace and marriage to Laraine, who he lives with in Auburn and for whom Hendrix wrote a song on the new album.
But he’s never stopped rocking, and returned to the studio in 2006 to record “Rare and Rockin’,” followed by “Rockabilly Lovin’” in 2009. He continues to perform, often in Bakersfield with Rockin’ Robert Tidwell and the Token Okies. In 2008, Hendrix was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
“He’s pretty awesome,” said Mike Pappas, owner of Mom’s Kitchen in Auburn, a favorite hangout for the musician. “A very, very sweet young voice. It’s pretty amazing.”
“My wife says, ‘Honey, when you walk out on the stage and you sing, they don’t care how old you are,’” Hendrix chuckled. “‘You sound like you’re 25 or 30.’”
He described “Lover Boy” as “the best of Al Hendrix,” and said listeners can expect lots of new material along with remastered songs like “Rhonda Lee” and “My Perfect Love.” Accardi, who plays lead guitar on the album, laughed that “it’s all about girls! That’s why it’s ‘Lover Boy.’ Every song he writes, he’s in love and he’s 20 years old.”
So what keeps “America’s Lost Rocker” going? For Hendrix, it’s the love for his wife, Laraine.
“I’m trying to get somebody out there to hear it who has the money, the power and the potential to open a door for me, so I can leave my wife wealthy when it’s time for me to leave here,” he said, his eyes welling up. “She’s been working every day since I met her.”
“In my heart,” he added, “I know people like to see young men and young women perform on stage. They don’t like to see old people up there – but I’m good.”
CD release party
What: Al Hendrix performs with Hank Biggs & The Hard Tops
When: 6-9 p.m. Saturday, July 28
Where: Beach Hut Deli, 4035 Grass Valley Highway, Auburn
Cost: $6 cover
Info: (530) 889-8486
Hear for yourself
“Lover Boy” and Al Hendrix’s other CDs are for sale at www.cdbaby.com/alhendrix4.