The One-Chord Wonder

May 5, 2004
By Maureen Hayes, Da Blues Traveler


I remember the first time I saw Ron Hacker and the Hacksaws perform- it scared me half to death!  It was this intense, adrenalin pumpin? feeling that made me feel I was being naughty and commitin? a sin for just being there!  Ever since that day I?ve been hooked, addicted, forced to get that fix when that over-whelming urge for that slippin? and slidin? of a ?Hack Attack? comes ?round.

To my ears, not many can pull of the trio bit like these Hacksaws.  Each of them pulls their weight and covers lots of ground.  Pure blues in real raw form.  Simple but true.

After many shows, watching him perform, I had been wonderin? about what goes on inside his head so I asked permission to get inside of it and he said ?yes?!

The interview itself was an experience I soon won?t forget.  Sitting, watching him reflect on his life was something to behold.

I went to Berkeley to meet him at a caf?.  After eating we decided it was way too busy and noisy, we went to a spot that was a favorite of his, one that he often goes to.  A view way up top of somewhere over looking somewhere else; it was beautiful.  Red tails hoverin? over in front of us, it was serene.  The tape was rollin? and here it is word for word.


Mo: We?re gonna start from the very beginning alright?

Hack: Yeah, sure.  Beginning of what?

Mo: Your life.

Hack: My life, oh, god.

Mo: Yeah, when were you born?

Hack: January 25th, 1945, 7:30 in the morning at St. Vincent?s Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Mo: What about your parents?

Hack: My dad died when I was four. My dad died under circumstances that my mother really couldn?t really accept and she rejected my brother and me and shipped us out.  She shipped us out to church women, aunts and uncles.  She couldn?t really handle it.  So I didn?t have a dad.  I had a mean old stepdad [laughing].  He was a mean old bastard.  He didn?t hit us or anything, he didn?t like us; he didn?t like my brother and me.  It was like, ?Why in the hell did you marry my mom if you didn?t like us??

He didn?t like us and he treated us that way.

So, I rejected all that and became a bad boy [laughing].  Just was a bad boy.  Didn?t go to school?.

Mo: Your brother?

Hack: My brother was nine years older than me so he had a little more power than I did.  He doesn?t look like me he?s a real big dark, burly, hairy guy.  He looks a lot different than I do.

He joined the Air force when he was fifteen.  They didn?t find out that he was fifteen until they were about to ship him to Korea.  The Red Cross contacted my mother and told her what they were doin?. She stopped it.

We don?t get along too well.

Mo: Is he still around?

Hack: He?s in Ohio.  We don?t have much contact.  My sister and I, she lives in Illinois, we have contact.

Mo: Your sister?

Hack: I have a sister, she?s in her forties; she?s a nice gal.  My mom got remarried and had a daughter with my stepfather.  I tortured her when we were kids [laughing].  It was terrible.  She loves me now, I don?t know why but she loves me now.

Mo: Are you an uncle?

Hack: I?m an uncle over and over and I?m a grandfather.

Mo: How many grandchildren do you have?

Hack: Six.

Mo: Six grandchildren?!  Where are they all at?

Hack: My oldest boy has three and they?re in El Cerrito [California].  My youngest boy has three and two of them are in Castro Valley and one of them is in Texas.

Mo: You did have contact with your mom, right?

Hack: Yeah, I left home when I was fifteen.  She brought me home when I was about nine.  She got married to my stepdad when I was seven.  

All my life up until I was nine, she kept me at other people?s places.  Then she brought me home.  I had been living with people in trailer parks, old garages, sleepin? with pissy kids, all that kinda thing, ya know. And she brought me to my step dad?s house who had a nice house with rugs on the floor, matching dishes, and things like that and I didn?t know how to act.  I was just an animal.  They wanted me to sit up straight, chew with my mouth closed, and all that kind of shit.

So when they brought me home, I wasn?t nice at all. I was a mean-ass little kid.

Mo:  How long did you last there?

Hack:  Until I was fifteen; four years.  I was in the juvenile center within two years.  By the time I was eleven, I was in the juvenile center for breaking into parking meters.  I was a rough little kid. They pissed me off so I was mad at everybody and everything.

Mo:  You say yourself that you were a pretty bad boy, what finally tamed you?

Hack:  I never did anything really bad; I mean I?m not in prison.  I never killed anyone.

It?s uncomfortable to be mean.  You have to be mean to be mean, and I don?t want to be mean.  I don?t want anybody to be mean to me.  I want to be happy.

Mo:  Childhood friends?

Hack:  I had one.  He was my friend because he got me laid [laughing].

He could talk to girls and I couldn?t.  I was real shy.  He?d talk them into doing it and they do it.

Bobby Bohnenkaet.

They made us learn how to spell it when I was in the fourth grade because he had the hardest name in school to spell so we had to learn how to spell his name.

Mo:  You were shy around the girls, huh?

Hack:  I was kinda shy around the girls but I found out they like shy.  So, I maintained that shyness [laughing].

Mo:  Did you have a dream as a kid?

Hack:  I dreamed of being an entertainer.  I wanted to be an entertainer.  I wanted to be a drummer. I wanted to be drummer like Buddy Rich.  Buddy Rich was bad.  And Jean Krooper was bad.

Mo:  Did you ever take music lessons?

Hack:  I only went to the eighth grade.  We didn?t do any music in school.

Mo:  You?ve never had personal lessons?

Hack:  Chris Cobb showed me some chords one time.  Dave Workman tried to give me a lesson but it became obvious that he can?t teach me anything [laughing at self].

What he did is he helped me relax.  When we we?re doin? stuff he noticed that I was way too hard; that I was holding onto things too hard.

Mo:  But that?s your music?.

Hack:  Yeah, that is my kind of music but you can also do that more relaxed.  Let the music be the intensity besides your hands actually being the intensity.  It?s a real fine line you gotta walk with that.

Mo:  Married and children?

Hack:  I have three children.  I have a thirty-five year old; a thirty-two year old; and a fourteen year old.  The fourteen year old lives with me.

I?ve been married three times.  I?m not actually divorced now but I?m pretty much divorced.  It?s better for everybody.

Mo:  Do you have a kid from each wife or something?

Hack:  Pretty much [laughing].

Mo:  What are your other two kids doing? Do you see them often?

Hack:  No. My oldest one I don?t even talk to.  I?m not gonna go into it.

Mo:  Wait a minute...you?re a grandfather six times over.  That means you have no relationship with those grandchildren?!!

Hack:  None of them; all six of them.  It?s too bad.

See?you?re supposed to stop living the blues somewhere along the line.

Mo:  I guess, Ron.  I?m truly sorry.

[Awkward silence.]

So here we go?how did the blues music find you?

Hack:  The way I came to the music, and actually playin? music, was through a series of events.  It?s always been in me.  In my neighborhood, when you went to the juvenile center there was one badge of honor that you had when you left there.  That was if you knew about the blues.

I talked to James Harman one time, we were on tour in Belgium, and it was the same thing for him down in Florida.  The cats that have been in the juvenile center or been in jail and stuff like that, they have signature ways of being that you could tell that they had been there.

In my neighborhood, the cats that were into the blues, they had been in the juvenile center because that?s where you heard it.  In my white neighborhood you didn?t hear the blues.  But if you?ve been in juvy, you heard the blues.

I had a friend, and his mother went out with black guys, and they would sit around in the kitchen, because they couldn?t go out anywhere, but they?d sit around in the kitchen and they?d drink and listen to blues records.  I listened to blues like that too.  I did that when I was young?ten?eleven?twelve years old.

I ended up being this hippie.  I hired these hippies to work for me because I had my own company.  I was twenty-two and I had my own company; a sub-contracting company. 

My wife at the time smoked marijuana.  I always used to get mad at her for smokin? it.  ?Hey, layin? around here smokin? that shit all day??  I?d come home after working my butt off all day, ya know.

So, I hired these hippies to work for me and finally they got me to start smokin? after we?d get off work.  So I started smokin? and I ended up going to these big time dealer?s houses with these hippies when they picked up their smoke.  And all these dealers were playin? old blues.  Stuff I had heard when I was a kid.  So, I?m going to these dealers? houses and I?m hearing Elmore James and stuff.  I?m getting? all high all the time and I don?t have to do nothing? but just work every once in awhile with these hippies and do whatever we want to do.  And I was just like, ?Man, I gotta play, I just gotta play?.

I left my wife and I was living with this guitar player, I bought a five dollar guitar from his sister. He showed me how to tune in open tuning, and I just taught myself how to do Elmore James.

Mo:  What year was that?

Hack:  ?69 or ?70

Mo:  You left Indiana??

Hack:  Oh, I left Indiana right when I got out of the Army. I got out of the Army when I was nineteen in ?64 and I came right out here.  I went back and forth.  I?d come out here, I?d fail, I?d go back.  I?d come out here, fail, and go back.  Just trailer park shit, ya know.  Movin? from one trailer park to the other [laughing].

Mo:  That?s when you left Indiana?  When you joined the Army?

Hack:  I joined the Army when I was seventeen.  I got into trouble, not like ugly trouble but I got in trouble, and the judge gave me a choice of going into the army or?.

Mo:  So, you didn?t join the Army to get away from the town?

Hack:  Yeah, more or less, but because it was a choice of either get out of town or?[laughing].

Mo:  What year did you join the army?

Hack:  ?62.

Mo:  How long were you in?

Hack:  I was in there for only two years.

Mo:  What was your MOS?

Hack:  I was a tank driver.

I never did it.  I was a drill instructor all the way through my service.  I ended up having a really ugly nervous breakdown, getting an honorable medical discharge, and a pension.

I got out in ?64 and came out to California as soon as I got out.

My brother was a greyhound bus driver out here in California and when I got out of the Army, I had to get out of Indiana, so I came out here to hang out with him.

Mo:  Do you miss your hometown?

Hack:  I hated it.

The only thing I liked about it was meeting Yank Rachell there.

I went on a quest one time.  I did a white guy quest to find the blues.  I went all through the south, I went all over everywhere, and ended up finding no one.

I took my hippie girlfriend, my little kid and went home.  I started working for my cousin at his bar.  A DJ came in one night and said, ?Do you want to meet Yank Rachell??

I said, ?Sure.?

I didn?t know who Yank Rachell was.  He gave me his phone number, I called him up, and it changed my life.

I was searchin? everywhere for the blues.  I went home totally disappointed, ?God I gotta go back to Indianapolis.  God I have to live here?? and then I ended up meetin? Yank and it changed my whole life.

Mo:  Weird.  Just like that, somebody just said, ?Hey, you want to meet Yank Rachell??

Hack:  Well, I was bartending and I jammed with a band and afterwards, the DJ guy that was in there, asked if I liked the blues and if I wanted to meet Yank Rachell.

I said, ?Sure.?

Mo:  Let?s talk about him for a bit.  Can we do a paragraph, or so, on him?

Hack:  Sure.  He was a neat guy.  He was a family guy.  As far as his history, I really don?t want to talk a lot about that because I don?t want to get into any details about all that stuff and?.

Mo:  I just want to know how affected YOU.

Hack:  He affected me by validating my doing it ?literally.?

He?s says, ?You can play and you should continue to play.?

And he told me, ?Don?t let these blues die,? he said that to me.

I said, ?OK, I won?t.  They won?t die from me.?

That?s how he affected my life and as far as music; his kinda blues was different.  It?s that delta blues, it?s got that strange pattern to it.  He taught me that.  He taught me how to play in one chord, just one chord, just keep runnin? that one chord.  It?s hard to do because you get confused and don?t know what to do.  And I?m not gonna tell you what to do [laughing].

He was a huge influence on me and as a person too.  I haven?t always been all that responsible as a human being.  I mean my families?my latest family?s in good shape but the reason that is is because the mother is just a great woman.  She?s makin? sure things happen.

My other families are a mess but my other families were before his influence.  What he influenced me about is to be a man and take responsibility and that?s huge.  He was a big influence on me.

Mo:  How old were you when you met him?

Hack:   I was twenty-seven.  He died in ?97.  You outta look at his biography thing.

[Yanks bio Hack?s Story of Yank.]

Mo: Yeah, I?m sorry I didn?t do my homework on that more.  So you guys hung out for??

Hack:  I stayed in Indianapolis for a couple of years, and I stayed there specifically to play with him.  What happened was I stayed there to play with him, and I did.  I would play with him at least twice a week.  We?d go to this old man?s house, this guy named JT Adams.  The first house he had was just awful; in a real rough neighborhood.  Then he moved to this other neighborhood, it was a bigger house and it was better but it was still in a really rough neighborhood.  When me and Yank would go to his house, Yank would call him before we left and he?d be waitin?.  And when me and Yank got there he?d come out to the car.  He had a gun in his back right back pocket and he?d walk to car with his hand on that gun and he?d walk us into the house with our instruments.  When we left, he?d do the same thing, walk us out to the car because somebody would hit us and take our instruments and run with them [laughing].

It was cool. It was really, really the blues!

J.T. Adams?I think maybe JT gave me that one chord because he loved John Lee Hooker.  Me and him and Yank would sit there and we would just run that one chord.  I was like, ?when they gonna change?  They?re still goin?; they?re still goin? that one chord.  He ain?t gonna change, he?s gonna keep doin? that so I?ll do that too and I?ll change it up over here and I?ll do this?.?

Then we?d get this layer of chords that was just so beautiful; it was incredible.  It wasn?t loud or nothin? but we always played electric. Always.  God?it was beautiful!

Mo:  It?s hard to find people that can do that together.

Hack:  Well, hell?those were old men!  They were in their sixties when I started playin? with them. Yank lived ?til he was eighty-seven.  They were at their tops too.  Yank was at his tops.  I?ve got a thing that Delmark put out after Yank died.  It was a recording that he had made about three or four years before I met him and man I tell you what?he was at his tops!!

He used to take and flip that mandolin around; it was incredible!  He was so good.

It was so much fun goin? out and playin? with these old guys.  We used to go to this bass player?s house too.  I can?t remember his name but he didn?t like white guys very well.  Me and Yank and J.T. were so close that they wouldn?t disrespect me.  We played and what would happen is see?Yank wasn?t a traditional player and he couldn?t really play B. B. King type stuff and these were B.B. King type players.  That?s all they knew was B.B. King and they played that kind of blues.  Which is good blues, I love it but Yank would play some really strange old shit and I knew how to do that; I knew how to do Yanks stuff.  What I could do is I could really lay it down to where, ?Yank, take this thing and show these guys the secrets of your kind of blues??

And he?d show his own peers, ?This is cool too.  Watch!?

J.T. could run one chord, and he could do Yanks stuff too so me and JT would really lay it down and Yank was just rippin? it!

These guys were amazed, they didn?t realize that Yank could do all that because he kinda stumbled around with his mandolin, tryin? to play like B.B King or Albert Collins, but he really couldn?t do that stuff.  He did his own thing man and he could really, really do it.

That?s what him and I would do when we?d go play with these guys and he loved me [laughing].  I?d drive his car everywhere.  I would be like his chauffer.  I?d carry my guitar, his amp, and this stuff in, and we?d sit down and I would play whatever he played and I was his man; I?d just be his man.  It was beautiful, I didn?t mind at all.

Mo:  Did you gig together much?

Hack:  We did one gig in Indiana, and I played with him when I brought him out here.

Mo: Did you record together?

Hack:  We didn?t record anything.  We did record something but it?s just this awful tape with this awful band that I had.  Just horrible shit.

When we played at The Monterey Jazz Fest it was recorded but I don?t have it, when we played at SF Fest it was recorded but I don?t have it.

Mo: So, you stayed in Indiana basically to hang out with him and you left there when??

Hack:  What happened is, my cousin that had given me the job at the bar, he got a brain tumor and died.  It was awful so I had to leave.  It didn?t matter, I just had to leave.  He was my best friend. We were raised together.

Mo: I?m real sorry, Ron.

Tell me?what is Yank?s full name?

Hack:  James ?Yank? Rachell.  ?Yank? is a nickname.

Mo:  Where did ?Yank? come in?

Hack:  Ya know?he tells a story about it but I don?t know why they call him that.  His grandmother called him that I think.

He has a story he loves to tell about how he got his first mandolin.  His mother sent him to town with this little pig to sell.  This guy traded a mandolin for it [laughing].  He went home and he was supposed to bring back money or something, I don?t know, but he brought back this mandolin.

Mo:  So, you left Indiana and Yank?

Hack:  I brought him out here [California] four times.  Mark Naftlin -who used to have the Marin County Blues Festival and the Saturday Blues at the Monterey Jazz Festival- he helped bring him out twice.  [Tom] Mazzolini had him at the San Francisco Blues Festival once.  The guys in Long Beach had him at their festival.

Mo:  The last time he was out here, what year was that?

Hack:  ?90 or ?91.  He died in ?97.

He did a lot of stuff.  I was reading an article on him the other day.  He hadn?t been playin? at all, and in about ?72, he got this job at a place called ?Big Al?s Pizza Parlor? in Indianapolis.  It was his first gig outta retirement.  The last thing he?d done was some stuff with Michael Bloomfield.

Well, I got him that damn gig at Big Al?s, and I had to leave before we did the gig because my cousin died and I was freakin? out real bad.  And he went on to go to Europe and he was in the Nashville?s World Fair.  He was like an exhibit; like a Tennessee treasure.

Yank was a treasure to me too.  He was so important to me I named my little girl after him, no her name isn?t Yank, it?s Rachell.

Mo:  Your first guitar?

Hack:  I left my first wife after my best friend had broken my arm because I was tryin? to beat her up.  He stopped me.  The only way he could stop me was by breaking my arm.

But anyway, I decided that relationship was gonna get me killed so I broke up with her and I went and moved in with this Mexican guy that was a rock guitar player.  He was pretty good.  He actually auditioned for Journey.

He and his sister lived in this place over in the Haight and they let me move in with them.  She was goin? back to Texas and wanted to sell this guitar.  It was this old acoustic guitar and I gave her five bucks for it.  Every time that guy would go across the room I would say, ?Hey man!  Tune this thing for me.  Tune this thing up!?

I immediately started tryin? to play slide.  I didn?t even try to play regular, I just wanted to play slide.  I?ve been playin? slide for a long, long time.  I was twenty-seven.

Mo:  Early influences?

Hack:  Elmore James, Fred McDowell, Bukka White.

Mo:  So you came to the Bay Area.  You came out to your brother?s, right?

Hack:  I was out here with my brother then I brought my first wife out here?.

Mo:  You were playin? the blues then?

Hack:  I wasn?t playin? the blues.  I was living the blues, I wasn?t playin? music ?til after I got with my second wife.  When I first got with my second wife I started playin?.

Mo:  That was in San Francisco?

Hack:  That was in San Francisco.  That was after I hired those hippies to work for me.  I was gettin? turned on to the blues all over again by those dealers and stuff.

I found this little Mexican girl, this beautiful little girl, and we got together.  I was like ?John Wayne went off to the west and found me an Indian maiden? [laughing].  We had a little baby and stuff.  It was just beautiful. That was in ?71

Mo:  So, you?re playin? music and??

Hack:  I?m gettin? confused.  Where are we?

Mo:  We?re in the Bay Area playin? music [laughing].  You?re just getting? started in the Bay Area scene and?.

Hack:  I wasn?t playin? music at first.  It was ten or eleven years that I was here doin? other things. Then I started playin? acoustic slide.

Mo:  Did you start out playin? solo or did you have a band?

Hack:  I played solo for about eight years.  Sang and played guitar.  Me and Debbie Davies pretty much started out the same way here in San Francisco.

Mo:  Debbie Davies?  You played with her?

Hack:  No.  We used to have the same manager.  She was a girl tryin? to call herself a manager.  I was kiddin? with her one night, talkin? about this woman that was basically a cocaine dealer and she was pretendin? like she was a booking agent.  She needed Debbie and I.  Debbie was being a solo artist at the time and I was kiddin? with her one time and I says, ?You know?you thought you were Bonnie Raitt and I thought I was John Hammond and we were gonna take the world by storm!  [Laughing.]

She?s really gotten good. She?s done a lot with her career.

Mo:  Can you tell us about your first solo gig?  Do you remember that?

Hack:  Yeah, I do.  It was the most awful thing.  It was at a place called ?The Garden of Earthly Delights? in Protreo Hill [San Francisco].  It was at the base of Protreo Hill.  An actor named Peter Coyote got me the gig.  At the time, Peter was?it was kind of a rough part of his life, he had been messin? up a lot, and he was tryin? to get back into arts and stuff.  Him and his wife got this gig and he had me come and jam with them at the gig.  There were a lot of people there.  I was around all these actors and stuff.  They were just great people.  They all came to it.  I don?t think I knew more than ten songs.

There was a Hells Angel there, three or four Hells Angels there actually, but there was one, I won?t mention his name but he had been shot so he had a bullet in his head and he was kinda fucked up because he had a stroke or something.  He had this big stick he came in with all the time.  He came with a tambourine and he loved my shit [laughing].  He played that stick and that tambourine all night long and it was just awful.

I was just doin? songs over and over and everybody got drunk and they thought it was just wonderful. But it was just awful [laughing].

Mo:  So when did you happen upon the North Beach [San Francisco] scene?

Hack:  Well?I started goin? up there in the afternoon.  I?ve always kinda liked Saturday and Sunday afternoon, I liked to go out in the afternoon and get drunk.  I don?t know there?s just something about it.  I liked to get drunk and play pool.  Everybody else likes Friday and Saturday night but I like the afternoons better, I don?t know what it is but?.

And I was up there and I saw this club called Gulliver?s.  They had some bands in there that were pretty raggedy [laughing].  Two piece bands, solos, and stuff like that.  I thought, ?Well shit, I can play here.?

So I talked to this woman named Donna Turner who was bookin? the place at the time, and she gave me a gig. I started playin? there every Sunday afternoon.

Mo:  Gulliver?s was right there in North Beach close to the Saloon, right?

Hack:  Right across the street.

Mo:  What year was that?

Hack:  God?that must have been like ?79.

Mo:  Did you have a band when you were playin? at Gulliver?s?

Hack:  No, I was doin? acoustic.  I started gettin? a piece of a band.

Chris Cobb saw me there, and he thought, ?This is cool? and then he wanted to play with me.  He instigated me getting some other players, a real good drummer and a real bass player and we put together this sweet little band.  We played together for a long time; six or seven years.

Mo:  Name of band?

Hack:  It has always been the Hacksaws.

Mo: Where?s home when you play?

Hack:  What do you mean?

Mo:  [Laughing.]  Where?s home?  Where do you feel at home when you play?

Hack:  Oh, the Saloon.  I love the Saloon.

Mo:  Do you get nervous when you play a gig?

Hack:  The only time I get nervous is if there?s nobody there.  I?d rather play in front of 50.000 people than three.  Three people are impossible to play for, especially with a band.

I did a private party the other day for this rich contractor up there in Fairfield and nobody showed up to his party.  God it was awful.

Mo:  But you got paid, right [laughing]?

Hack: Yeah, I did well that weekend but his own gig was awful. Nobody was there.

Mo:  I usually don?t ask much about equipment and guitars and all that but?you?ve got quite a collection.

Hack:  Yeah?.and you know?I don?t know a thing about any of them.

Mo:  A favorite?

Hack:  The one I got tattooed on my wrist.  It?s a 1960 125 Gibson.  That?s got be my favorite.  Everybody else?s favorite is this Regal.  The little wooden thing I?ve got.

Mo:  The duct taped one?

Hack:  No, but that?s the one everybody loves.

Mo:  Different guitars for different tones and such?

Hack:  Each one is tuned differently.  Each one of them has a different feel in your hands; you handle it differently.  I?m not a collector. I have a couple of other guitars but they?re not really playable.  I have guitars that I play and that?s what I have.

Shit, I?ve been using the same tube driver for the last sixteen years!  [Laughing.]  I?m finally gettin? rid of it.

Mo:  Alright?let?s sweep through your CDs real quick.  Your first CD?

Hack:  My first CD [No Pretty Songs---Hacksaw Records, 1994] is just a remake of my first album [1988].  I thought it had some good points, and it had some really bad points.

Some guy told me the other day he says, ?Man, everybody?s got a first album.  You can?t expect much.  It might not go anywhere.  Maybe it will, maybe it won?t?.

Mo:  Who was on that one?

Hack:  Man?..there was thirty-six guys just in the chorus alone on one song.  The producer of the record, he felt like the more people you had on there as guests, the more intensity of a project we?d get.  So he really loaded it up with everybody.  I mean, we had Tom Mazzolini in there.

Mo:  Oh yeah, that was with the San Francisco Men?s Blues Chorus, right?

Hack:  Yeah.  There were also guest?s guitar players and stuff.

Mo:  Did you like the outcome of it?

Hack:  I thought it was a good piece for what it was but I thought it was over-produced and there was a couple of songs that shouldn?t have made the cut.  Basically it was a good piece of work.  It just wasn?t me.

Ron Thompson told me one time, he says, ?You know?I like this man, but I can?t hear ya!?  And you couldn?t.

Mo:  The second one is Barstool Blues [Hacksaw Records, 1990].

Hack:  The reason I called it Barstool Blues is because a reviewer of my first album, he says, ?This guy plays stuff that should be listened to from a barstool? [laughing].  So I kept that theme.

Mo:  No Pretty Songs is another great title because it?s fitting to your style.

Hack:  No, there?s just not a lot of pretty shit goin? on when I play [laughing].

Mo:  Same players on this as the first?

Hack:  It still has the basic rhythm section.  Eric Mosberger, Steve Hazelwood and Nancy Wright.  [Drums, bass, and sax, respectively.]  That was a good band.  That?s just why I had to fire them.  I had to fire them both.  Nancy and Steve, every night, were takin? home half the money.  I can?t have that [laughing].  We cannot have that.  It was OK, though.  That?s the way it is.

Mo:  That was a Saloon Recording?

Hack:  That?s a Saloon recording, recorded live at the Saloon.  That was one of Myron?s first.

Mo:  I like his recordings.  I really like everything?s he?s put out of our local blues favorites.  [Myron Mu, owner of the Saloon and blues supporter]

Hack:  He did absolutely an excellent job on Backdoor Man. [Hacker?s 4th]  We?ve got a new one coming out with Saloon Recordings.

Mo:  Your third release; I Got Tattooed. [Hacksaw Records]

Hack:  That was an acoustic thing that I wasn?t happy with at all.  I still have boxes and boxes of them.  It?s all acoustic and it doesn?t really have a lot of energy.  Everybody was just a little too cautious in their playing. They didn?t really go for it; including myself.

There was two other acoustic guitars and a harmonica.  I really wasn?t happy with it.

Mo:  Think you?ll ever record another acoustic thing someday?

Hack:  I would if somebody would give me money to do it [laughing].  I don?t know?I?m really not an acoustic player.  I guess I could be but I?m not.  Even when I played with Yank, it was always electric.  I have an acoustic guitar and I play it but I?m not an acoustic player.

Mo:  Do you like doing solo, acoustic gigs?

Hack:  I like doin? them but I don?t know that I would want a steady diet of them.

Mo:  Number four, Backdoor Man.

Hack:  Backdoor Man?Backdoor Man. [Saloon Recordings2000]  God that was a great CD.  I was so happy with it.  We recorded that thing in one-sittings, one-takes, every bit of that is one-sitting, one-takes.  Even with my overdubs, if there were overdubs over guitar---two or three of them have overdubs but the rest are just straight three piece---even the overdubs were one takes.

I said, ?This is it. I?m done with it? and we did it.  I was really, really happy with it.  That CD had Shad Harris on drums and A.J. [Artist Joyce] on bass.

Mo:  Your fifth?

Hack:  It?s Burnin?. [Ron Hacksaws and the Hacksaws, 2003]

It?s OK.  I thought the performances were pretty good.  I didn?t like the recording quality. That was something I did on my own.  I ended up losing money.  I?m not a very good business man so I?ve just been hemorrhaging money on it.

Mo:  Ronnie Smith on drums and AJ on bass; just the three of you, right?

Hack:  Yeah.  You know that those are one-takes, one-time, all of it.  I don?t think it would help us to sit and do something over and over.  There may be some producer who might think they could work with us but I?m not sure it would work.  Because when we get in our groove, that?s what?s happening, our groove.  And if we can get that goin? in the studio then we should grab that because that?s what?s happening with us, is that groove.

Mo:  So a sixth CD you said, was in the works?

Hack:  Yep. I got a verbal agreement with Myron just the other day, I?ve already got a couple of songs written.  I?m gonna have at least one, maybe two songs, of Shad Harris? on there.

Mo:  Sounds great. I can?t wait.  Project you?re most proud of?

Hack:  I hope it?s the next one.

Mo:  Do you like recording live?

Hack:  No.  I can never get my vocals right.

Mo: How do you take care of your promoting and distribution of your recordings?

Hack:  I do most of that on my own over the internet.  I have had a relationship since my first album, with City Hall Distributing in Marin County [California].  Actually, the guy that looked at my stuff and agreed to carry it was Jeff Muldaur.  Jeff Muldaur works for them.  They carry all my stuff.

Mo:  Are times ever so hard that you need to consider a day job?

Hack:  I?ve always had day job.  Now I don?t but it?s because of other day jobs, and other hustles, and other things that I?ve done that have made it possible to where I don?t have to do that now.  It?s never crossed my mind that I would be able to make a living at it so I don?t have the frustration.  I mean?I do but it?s more on an artistic level than worrying about whether I?ve made enough money doing this because I never thought I would.  I never expected to and I never wanted to, really.  It would be fun, don?t get me wrong, I?d be a fool to say I didn?t want to get big money and get to go and do all this big-time stuff but that was never my goal.

I?m not trying to be humble or anything but just to get up and play at the Saloon is?I mean?.if you?d let me up to play TWO nights a month, I?d be like in heaven, just in heaven, man!  Because that?s all I care about is just gettin? out there and lettin? people hear my playin?.  That?s what will probably run me out of the United States.

Mo:  I?ve noticed at your shows that your style really reaches out to the youngin?s. I catch them, especially these young guys, just standin? and starin?, watching you.  Do you notice that?

Hack:  You know where they?ve experienced it?  If you watched the Grammies this year, there was a group on there called Whitestripes.

Mo:  I?ve heard of them.  A drummer and a guitarist thing?.

Hack:  Well?that kid standing there, holdin? the guitar, in open-tuning, he stood there live, and just ripped it. And they were good, they were really good, and that?s what they see in me.

Mo:  I?ve noticed the interest in you by the youngsters before that band surfaced.

Hack:  Well?Whitestripes probably wouldn?t be doin? their thing until they saw some guy just like me.

Mo:  Yeah but?what do you think it is that attracts them?

Hack:  I don?t know.  I?m just givin? it up and goin? for it.

Mo:  But do you notice it?  It?s something that they really like?.

Hack:  I understand what you?re sayin? and yes I do see it.  Sometimes I wonder about them, not now, but for a long time I was like, ?What are they thinking?  This fuckin? old man up there doin? this shit. What is this crap??  But, they actually like it.

Mo:  What emotions are putting into your playing?  It?s pretty intense.

Hack:  I don?t really know.  I just feel that groove and when it starts to really doin? it good, it just comes out.  I?m part of it.  I just feel like I?m part of it.  It just feels so good.

But you know?not to belittle your question but?.

Years and years ago, I was sittin? watching Johnny Carson and Janis Joplin just did her thing.  I mean?she just really belted one out and she went over and sat down in the chair and she was like?I mean she was gone.  She had put everything she had into that song. Johnny Carson asked her the same kinda question like you just asked me and she looked over at him like, [Ron giving me a facial expression of ?Are you fucking kidding me?!?]  Asking things like, ?What do you find? What is your motivation? What do you put into this??  [Stop laughing, Hack.]

Mo:  I don?t think it?s a stupid question and I?m gonna jump right into this other question I have a few pages ahead.  When you go off into a solo, you?re gone.  It seems to me like you?re ?channeling? off somewhere. It?s trippy to watch you because you?ll be gone and when you?re done and you come down, and come to, it looks like you?re going ?Where the hell am I??  I just wonder?where are you going?

Hack:  Into the music; literally into the music.  Maybe that?s what?s addicting about it.  That is an energy.  It may have to do with adrenaline or something.  That is what I do personally.  I just immerse myself in the groove.

Mo:  Are you drained when you come out of it?

Hack:  A lot of times AJ gets into me about the distance between songs but God?I?m just so into it that I need a break just for a second.  A couple of times we?ve done it.  We did it really good at this last festival we just did.  We only had one show and I was able to just get up there and do one right after the other.  I did three song blocks and I was able to hold the energy for that long.  I would take a second to break and then I?d pull the energy back up for the next.

Mo:  Does it bother you when people aren?t listening?

Hack:  Most of the venues I play, you need to have the damn place dancin?.  In a concert situation, you don?t have to think about that. The thing about our band is our band is not really?I mean, they love to call us a ?Barroom Blues Band,? the reviewers and all that stuff they love to do that, but we?re not a bar room band.  We?re a show band; we really are a show band.  And it?s tough to pull it off in a bar.  For a long time it was frustrating when they would stand and watch me.

I thought, ?They have the whole damn dance floor, standing watching me.  I?m playing music that you can dance to!  You?re making me look bad cuz the owner?s there and you?re all just standing there!!  Come on?.DANCE DAMMIT!!!?  [Laughing.]

And I finally realized that they?re not use to seeing people do what I do and they just stand there and watch me.

Mo:  With mouths hung open?.

Hack:  It?s difficult for me sometimes and I?ve gotten used to it as the years go by.

Mo:  Watch it, Ron.  They be stealin? secrets.

Hack:  Naw?I laugh at that.  If I see a kid that?s really tryin?, just watchin? my left hand, I walk right over to him and just do this?[Air guitar at lightning speed!]  He?s just doin? the same thing I did; I did the same thing.

Mo:  So you can appreciate it, I bet.

Hack:  Yeah, I love it.

Mo:  ?Dyed-In-The-Delta-Cotton-Bluesman.?  Where did that come from?

Hack:  I don?t know.  I didn?t like that too much at all.  I paid him good money for that.  I asked a writer once, I said, ?How do I get a guy of your caliber to do a review??  He basically just said, ?Money will do it? [laughing].  I thought, ?Yeah, that?s right.  Money should do it.?  So I paid him for a four hundred word thing.

Mo:  So I?m listening to your first two recordings, and it almost sounds too chaotic.  Too much goin? on, too many fillers, when you cover so much ground already.  Could this be a reason you went to a trio?

Hack:  Honestly, I always loved my four piece band with the harp player.  We almost channeled Elmore James and Little Walter.  I mean it literally did sound like that sometimes.  It was so cool.  I just loved it.  I love harmonica but our relationship was so bad, it ended up just being horrible.

Then I got to thinkin??.I was an older man before I started doing this, I meant to do this.  I never meant to make any money but I meant to do this my whole life and it would be something that I always wanted to do.  I always wanted to do it by myself.  I used to go out by myself and entertain people.  I had lost that and I was tied up with all this, like you said, ?people playin? and everything,? and I started losing myself.  I had this really horrible relationship with this guy; I was kinda stuck with him.  That?s all people identified with was this four piece band.  It took me years to be accepted as a three piece. He had influenced us so much.

But?that?s what I?ve always wanted.  I just don?t know if I could ever find that kind of relationship.

Mo:  So you just settle for the trio thing?.

Hack:  I like it for its convenience and it?s artistic freedom.  A.J.?s not gonna tell me how to play and I?m not gonna tell him how to play bass.

Mo:  When did you realize that you could do the trio thing on your own?

Hack:  I forced myself into that.  I did some really rough gigs that I was not qualified to do and I wasn?t soundin? good and the guys stuck with me anyway [laughing].  It got better and better?.It was almost like starting over.  Literally.  It was rough.

Mo:  I know you?ve heard this before, Ron.  ?Hey man, a harp could make you sound better!? or a harp player will come up and say, ?I can make your band sound better?.

Hack:  Aaaah man?you?ve heard this before [laughing].  I tell them two things.  The first thing I tell them is, ?You cannot make me sound better.  The only thing that?ll make me sound better is practice?.  OK, so that?s one thing.

Another thing is, ?Now, how am I gonna benefit from this?  If you get up here and you sound like shit, then I gotta follow that and you?re gonna piss my audience off.  If you get up here and you sound just absolutely wonderful, then I have to follow that too.  So where am I gonna benefit from this?  Plus, I?m working, and you?re interrupting my job here.  Do I go to your job and interrupt you?!? [Laughter.]

I don?t jam with people very well.  Especially harp players.

Mo:  Any other musical genres that have inspired you or influenced you?

Hack:  I?ve always been into the blues, even when I was really young.  There?s something about that groove that I just love.

Mo:  What do you say to people who say, ?Hey man, you sound just like Z.Z.Top and George Thorogood!?  What do you say to that?  That?s not the sound you?re going after, is it?

Hack:  No, not really.  Sometimes I don?t think they?re really listening or maybe they?re just trying to be friendly.

Some guy came up to me the other night at Lou?s [Lou?s Pier 47, San Francisco] and he had been a really good guy, listening all evening, and was really enthusiastic, and he walked up to me and said, ?Man, George Thorogood must have listened to a lot of your records!?  You know, I almost grabbed him by the throat and choked him!  He was a good guy and he was just trying to give me a compliment.  That?s the way I take it.

So, I went to see George Thorogood and I was embarrassed for him.  That?s all I gotta say.

Mo:  Let?s hear about a couple different versions of the Hacksaws.

Hack:  [Laughing.]  There?s been a lot of different versions.  I think the best one- besides the one I have now- would probably be Gary James and ?Fly? Brooks.  They were really good.  Gary James is a good, tough, solid drummer and Fly is just?well?just like he is; he?s a gangster on the bass [laughing].

Mo:  How did you hook-up with Shad [Harris]?

Hack:  Gary got tired of playing with me.  I would?ve never blamed him.  He wanted to move outta the area and he kinda got tired of the whole scene, and Shad was playin? with [Johnny] Nitro and I asked Shad to fill in a couple of gigs and he really, really liked it.  We hit it off really good.

Then I told him, I said, ?You remember a guy named A.J.??

He said, ?AJ? Man, that?s my Brother! We hang together all the time?

I said, ?Why don?t you get him and we?ll check it out??

Me and ?Fly? hadn?t been gettin? along so I was pretty much without a band. Shad got AJ together and within like two months, we made Backdoor Man.  It was like this dream team, man.  We were so happy. Then Shad got sick.  That was the last thing he did. [Shad retired.]

Mo:  Your first tattoo?

Hack:  It says ?Ron.?  I had a boy do it when I was fourteen.  We did it just like the prison thing, you wrap a string around a needle, you just have a little tip of the needle stickin? out and you stick that down in the ink and then you pound on it.  I took a piece of ice and I?d hold the ice on there and then he?d pound on it and then I?d put the ice back on there and then he?d pound on it some more?I was fourteen.

Mo:  Fourteen and you got your first tattoo of your name?

Hack:  See?I was so stupid when I was fourteen that I had to put my name up there so I?d remember who the hell I was!  [Laughing.]

Mo:  Back to Barstool Blues and the song ?Hacksaw Man.?  Listening to it, I was wonderin??did you have a hacksaw for a stage prop?

Hack:  I actually had a hacksaw and somebody stole it.  See the style on here?  [Showing me the infamous hacksaw tattoo on his hand.]  That?s an old style hacksaw; an antique. Well, I had one exactly like that.  If I had been really playing good that last song, I?d grab that old hacksaw, bang it and shake it at the audience, ?Yeah!? and then I?d throw it down.  Then when I did the ?Hacksaw? song, I?d take the edge of it and I saw it on the mic stand.  That?s what that sound was.

It was a really cool old antique one and I?ve never ever really been able to find one like it.

Mo:  Can you play any other instruments?

Hack:  I can play a little harmonica.  I can play about six songs.

Mo:  In your songwriting, you usually write about??

Hack:  Yeah, it?s usually about one of my wives or one of my real life experiences.  That?s the only thing I know how to write about.

Mo:  Is it easy for you to sit down and write songs?

Hack:  What I?ll do is I?ll find a hook, a hook will just come to me, and I?ll look at that.

Mo:  First song you wrote?

Hack:  Oh geeze?let me think?I think probably ?Two Women? [Barstool Blues], about my first two wives.  I wrote it in a different form than how it was actually recorded.

Mo:  Do you have a favorite song of yours?

Hack:  Yeah, probably ?Eighteen? [?My Bad Boy? from Backdoor Man].

?Mo:  Are you in the process of writing more ?life stories??

Hack:  I?m really concentrating on a couple songs.  I?m tryin? to do this one song right now about how my first wife wouldn?t ever go out with anybody that I could beat up.  She would go out with these big guys that I couldn?t beat up, which, as you can see the scars on my face, a lot happens when you try to jump somebody too big [laughing].

But, I?m trying to write a song on that premises of why would this woman would always go out with somebody I couldn?t beat up.  So that?s got the ?hook,? you see.

I finished a song about George Bush but I never used his name in the whole song.

Mo:  But we can figure out who it is, huh?

Hack:  You know exactly who I?m talkin? about.  It?s real timely, I?m tryin? to get this thing recorded now, because I?m gonna send this thing everywhere I can possibly send it to.

Mo:  ?My Bad Boy,? we just talked about that but??

Hack:  What made me write that song was he [Ron?s son] got this job makin? French fries when he was eighteen at this little stand down by Telegraph Avenue [Berkeley, California].  Well the first night he got his job he stays out all night.  One of my rules was just to come home at night, that?s all.  I don?t care when you come home, just come home so he just stayed out all night.

I got the ?I got a job makin? French fries. I?ll come home when I want to.  I?m gonna stay out all night long?? and it all came together.

Mo:  That?s one of my favorites of yours.

?Backdoor Man??  That is almost a signature song of yours even though?.

Hack:  I know?it?s a Willie Dixon song.  It?s a tough song and I feel real natural with it.  I know I don?t sound like Howlin? Wolf, or anything but I feel like I?ve got honest energy, it?s honest when I?m doing it and that?s what?s important.  If you?re just honest with you?re doing, and not tryin? to fake anything, this is the way you sound and you put all your stuff into it and try and do your thing.

Mo:  What?s with the ?I eat more chicken than any man?s ever seen (a line from ?Backdoor Man?)?  Everytime you sing that line, you get this bigass grin on your face.

Hack:  I?ve been singin? that song for years and a few months ago this woman pointed out the double-entendre about that.

I always thought the wife is tellin? the cop, ?Don?t take my boyfriend down because if you do, you?re gonna eat pork-n-beans.?

And I?m the boyfriend and I say, ?But I eat more chicken than any man?s ever seen.?

Well, to me, it seems that chicken is a lot more fun than pork-n-beans!  It seems logical to me.  I didn?t realize that it was a double-entendre, you know?I?ve eaten lot of chicken and girls too!

What I?m laughing at is my stupidity.  I have been singing that song for so many years and I didn?t realize it.

Mo:  ?Hear Me Sing Like Elmore James??

Hack:  Yeah, you know?I wish I would?ve said, ?Hear me PLAY like Elmore James.?  Because I don?t sing like Elmore James, and I never could sing like Elmore James.  I made a mistake and went on and recorded it.  I needed an editor when I did that [laughing].

It should?ve been ?Hear Me Play?? because I can play like Elmore James.  I mean, I can?t play like he did but I can do my thing.

Mo:  ?Yank Told Me.?  Another favorite of mine, I just love this song?.

Hack:  I just took Yank?s three favorite songs (Divin? Duck, She Caught the Caty, Goin? to Brownsville).

I took the hook verses out of each song and put them into a slow plotting type blues.  Those were the three favorite songs that he really liked and he would sing those songs all the time.

Mo:  ?Peach Tree Blues.?  That?s one of his too, right?

Hack:  That?s another favorite of his own.  He liked women with great big boobies.  He would always sing that song [laughing].

Mo:  ?Prison Mind.?  That?s a deep one, man.

Hack:  You know?I wrote that song in about three or four hours.  What I was doin? was?I?ve had a lot of problems with depression in my life and this thought run across my head one day and I was sittin? there goin?, ?God, my mind is almost like a damn prison.  Why can?t I just let myself out and give myself parole??

It was just that thought that my mind is actually like my own prison.  So I just wrote those words.

Mo:  ?Mailman Blues.?  Another favorite of mine.  I?m curious about that one too.

Hack:  Well?let me give you some history here.  That?s autobiographical.

When I was born, my father was in a state institution and my mother started getting a check for me, from the state.  She got that until I was eighteen.  When I joined the Army, I started getting military pay.  I was injured when I got out of the Army and I continued to get my Army pay right up ?til now.  So, everyday that I?ve been born, I?ve been getting the government check some way or another.

So, I wrote the thing:  ?Here I am sittin waitin? on the ol? mailman.  My daddy was an uncle, they call him Uncle Sam.?

So Uncle Sam?s been my daddy my whole life.  That?s why I wrote that.

Mo:  Whoa?.

Hack:  So now, Uncle Sam?s gonna come get me for sure [laughing].

Mo:  ?Fool For Your Stockings.?  You don?t play it hardly anymore, why?

Hack:  It?s hard to play.  It?s not my kind of playing either.  It?s really out of my style.  I like to play it, it?s fun and I am getting better at it but I don?t think I?m very proficient at that kind of playing.

Mo:  Do you like instrumentals and are you writing more?

Hack:  Yeah I do.  They?re fun.  I think those two instrumentals on Backdoor Man are the best songs on there.

I don?t know if I?m writing them or not.  They?re just jams; they just come off.

Mo:  ?House Rent Blues.?  That one seems to be really natural for you too.

Hack:  Well. I?ve been there.  John wrote a good song when he wrote that one.

Mo:  I?ve heard it covered by many but you do it real well.  It feels real.

Hack:  It?s that one-chord thing.  It?s that thing that J.T. Adams, John [Lee Hooker], and Yank taught me; playin? in one chord and makin? it interesting.  The way you make one chord interesting is to follow the one-four-five pattern, even though you?re playin? in one chord.  When you sing, you follow the one-four-five pattern and when you lead, you follow the one-four-five pattern.  You use the same time structure that way it doesn?t get confusing.

John Lee Hooker could do it and lose his place but it wouldn?t matter because he was John.  But when somebody else does it, it needs to have some order to it, it needs to have some structure and it needs to stay on that groove.  That?s basically what you can do.

Mo:  Ever hang out at Eli?s [Eli?s ?Famous? Mile High Club in Oakland]?

Hack:  A little bit.  Not to rag on anybody or anything but my experience of goin? into black clubs and tryin? to find black blues guys, and hang with black blues guys, you gotta elbow your way through every other white guy that?s tryin? to get next to them [laughing].

Me and Yank had a real honest friendship.  I wasn?t exploiting him and he wasn?t exploiting me; we were just friends.  That?s kind of the way I felt.  Do I need to go out and try to find somebody else?  Do I need to go out and start rubbin? elbows with these guys that?I don?t know, it?s just so?.I?m a grown man, I don?t gotta do this stuff. I approached it all differently.

Mo:  Where do you think the blues is supported most?

Hack:  My personal experience is overseas.  They really treated me right.  They?re conscious of whether you?re professional or not.  A lot of people that book the festivals over in Europe don?t want to deal with white guys.  A lot of them ask if you?ve got a day job.  That?s just how they tell whether you?re a professional musician or not.

But most of my stuff over in Europe is through personal relationships.  I?ve gone to Europe twice out of the Saloon.  People walk up to me say, ?You wanna go to Europe??

I went to Belgium and I went to Denmark.  The first time they did it I thought they were joking and within a couple of months, I?d been damned if they didn?t call me.

Mo:  What do you think the state-of-the-blues is?

Hack:  I know business wise, it?s a real shaky business and I don?t know that much about the business because I?ve never been picked up by anybody so I can?t really address it honestly.

I can say what I think, I could come off with all this, ?Well, if the son-of-a-bitches would ever hear me play by god they?d?..?

I don?t know anything about what there doin?, I don?t know anything about business obviously.  I?ve lost money on that last record I made so?.

Mo:  Did you watch ?The Blues? [PBS] series?

Hack:  I was in Europe; I was in France.

I?ve seen some of it since.  I wasn?t happy with most of it, to be honest with ya.  Especially the section with the grandson of the Chess people.  They could play that off all they want but the fact is, when Rolling Stones walked into Chess Records, Muddy Waters was up a ladder painting.  They can say anything they want, do anything they want, but that?s terrible.  That?s terrible that the Rolling Stones had to insist on having Howlin? Wolf in their TV programs and stuff like that.

Chess Record people, I don?t think they treated the blues guys right.  They say, ?Well, we give them money, they buy Cadillacs.  We give them money and they spend it all on whatever.?

Well, they could?ve given them a deal instead of handing them money; they could?ve given them a deal.

I give my band a deal.  They are partners with me; we?re partners.  Anytime I make money, they make money.

Mo:  Perfect segue into this next one?.You really count on those guys, don?t you?

Hack:  Yeah, I count on those quality of guys and those specific guys I have really fallen in love with; they?re really great guys.  They?re honest, they?re loving, they?re tough guys.  I really like them both.  Musically we?re just like, locked.

A.J. [Artis Joyce] has a lot of other musical interest and so does Ronnie [Smith]; which I have none.  I?m just a ?blues queer? they call me [laughing].  I?m just nuts over the blues!

They both have other interests but that?s cool.  They really understand what I?m tryin? to do and what I?m tryin? to portray.  They love it.

Mo:  Well, I tell ya?it just ain?t right if either of them is missin? for a gig.  I don?t care who you put in there for the night.  Just ain?t the same. Just too tight of a trio I guess.

Hack:  They really gotta play to be able to cover.

Mo:  Ever think of strayin? away from the blues?

Hack:  No.

Mo:  Do you like touring?

Hack:  Oh, I love it.

Mo:  Got a favorite?

Hack:  I love going to Europe.  They just treat you so nicely and if you?re honest, and you play honestly, they feel it, they understand it, they know what you?re doin??you get it here in the States too but I?m not locked into the business end of it and I?m not getting to play as much as I want so I don?t get that feeling.

We just played in San Jose at that Metro Fountain Festival, and those people treated us as though we were Gods, or something.  They just loved us!  It was great, it was fun, if I could do that all the time, it?d be great!

But I don?t see that happening and I see myself going Europe.

Mo:  You mean, to LIVE?

Hack:  I think I?ll actually move there.  My daughter?s got a few more years of high school and when she?s finished, I?ll probably move there.

Mo:  That would surely be a loss to our?I don?t even want to think about that.

[Weird moment of silence.]

Hack:  I?m already setting the stage, to be honest with ya.

Mo:  That sucks, man.  This is sad news.

[More silence.]

Alright?let?s move on?Here?s a saying I?ve heard about from days gone by and it goes something like, ?Hack---as good on stage as well as in the sack?.? or something like that.  Tell us about that.

Hack:  [Laughing.]  Aaah man?.When I left my second wife, I moved in with a woman roommate and she was the greatest lady; she was so much fun.  She wrote on the women?s bathroom wall at Gulliver?s, ?On the stage or in the sack, there?s no one better than The Hack.?

Red Archibald gave me the nickname, ?Hack.?  Every time I?d walk into his gig, ?Hey, there?s The Hack!? and people started calling me that.

And I tell you what?knowing them waitresses in North Beach, that was hard to live up to!

Mo:  Has there been any lose in you life that has just really took you for a loop?

Hack:  My cousin died when I was about thirty-two, and him and I were really, really close.  I wasn?t really treated well in my life and he was treated extremely well.  He recognized that and he always shared everything he got all his life and right up to his death.  Just before he died one of his mother?s husbands helped him buy a bar.  He brought me into that scene and taught me how to tend bar and helped me make money doing that.  Everything he got, he tried to share with me somehow. He was a beautiful man.

He got a brain tumor and died and it just devastated me.  It was terrible.  I couldn?t even stay.  I loved Yank and I wanted to be with him but I just couldn?t stay around there anymore.  Everyplace I?d go, I?d see him.  It was just horrible.

Mo:  Whoa, Ron. I?m sorry I asked that?.

Hack:  Yeah well?that?s where you get those blues feelings.

Mo:  If you could sit and talk with anybody, dead or alive, who would it 

Hack:  I probably could sit and talk with Yank more?.

[Moment of sad silence]


Mo:  Got a dream gig?

Hack:  I?d love to play the San Francisco Blues Festival with my band.  I know I?ve played there two times already, and I?m lucky to have gotten to do that, but I?d love to take these Hacksaws up there and just show people what I?m tryin? to do because I can do what I wanna do with these guys.

Mo:  Has it been fulfilling for you, what you?ve accomplished, musically speaking?

Hack:  Very much so.  It saved my life. It literally saved my life.  You kinda know where I come from and how I came up, I had no self esteem whatsoever until I started playin? music.  It gave me self-esteem.  I try to be humble about my music but I have extreme pride over the fact that I?ve taught myself how to this and that I can do it really well.  I have a lot of pride in it.

Mo:  What was the last thing you listened to?

Hack:  The last thing I listened was this stuff called ?Sacred Steel.?  It?s gospel steel guitar, playin? slide, and it is really interesting.  It?s got those kind of grooves that I love; those solid one-chord grooves.  God, it?s beautiful.

Mo:  New projects?  Workin? on a new CD, you say?

Hack:  Yeah, workin? on a new CD with Myron.

Mo:  What do you see yourself doing in the near future, Ron?

Hack:  Just keep banging away, playin? my music and playin? the clubs that will let me play.  Get my kid through high school then I?m gonna go to Europe.  I wanna try to build a career in Europe.  I have a pretty good base already over there.  I?ve got about four countries that I have real good solid connections in.  If I don?t do any stupid shit, maybe I won?t mess those connections up [laughing]!

But, that?s what I?m tryin? to do; I?m tryin? to get myself over to Europe.  I just sold this house that I had with my second wife and I got a little bit of money and I?m gonna keep my little music business goin?.

Mo:  That?s it, Hack.

I?m really saddened of the thought of you leaving.  It will surely be a loss to our community.

I want to thank you for your spending this time with me and opening up like you did for all to see.

This interview has really been enlightening and deep.

It has let us inside a man who has truly paid his dues and lived some deep blues.  We all appreciate the gift of music you share with us.

Thank you, Ron Hacker.

...da Blues Traveler

Copyright 2004 by Maureen Hayes.  All rights reserved.