By Vince Chiarelli
Our Rockford metro area has produced so many excellent musicians and composers who have achieved national recognition. One of the most successful is Ernie Hendrickson, the subject of this week’s article.
Ernie is scheduled to perform an acoustic concert at 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 25, at JustGoods, 201 Seventh St., and on a shared billing with Miles Nielsen at 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 29, at Memorial Hall, 211 N. Main St. With two upcoming events, this is a perfect time to showcase Ernie in my column, so I interviewed him just last week.
Reflecting on his Midwestern roots, Ernie told me: “I get called a ‘Midwestern songwriter’ as I travel around the country. … It never really occurs to you that there are values and particular qualities entrenched and associated with different geographic regions. But, when I’ve heard this used to describe what I do, it does make sense. …”
Ernie lived in Shullsburg, Wis., for the first year of his life. He spent his formative years in the Rockford metro area, first near Belvidere, then in Rockford. After college, he moved to Chicago.
“I thought about New York for a while first, but then thought I’d better try Chicago as a stepping stone — and I never left Chicago,” he said. “It’s a great city. …”
Ernie’s friends and fans appreciate his unique style, but as with all musicians, other artists have influenced his work.
Ernie muses: “I remember my parents having Neil Young, Willie Nelson, Led Zeppelin, Cat Stevens, Bob Dylan and the Beatles tapes and CDs lying around the house. They were old hippies, I guess — thankfully! … My earliest and biggest influence musically was probably Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead. I loved how they could incorporate bluegrass, blues, rock and roll, country, folk, old-timey, and ethnic influences into their sound.”
Ernie takes the singer-songwriter concept a step further than most — he is also an excellent soloist on guitar. He credits his friend and former teacher, local guitar wizard Greg Witson, who “… really took me a long way in showing me the basics of various guitar techniques and musical understanding.”
I asked Ernie to reflect on his most interesting gigs; his response revealed his love for music and performing, and I think it helps us understand why Ernie has been met with such wonderful success.
“[E]very gig I play, I try to keep interesting,” Ernie said. “I just opened for the Bodeans at the World Café in Philadelphia. That was fun. I’ve played great venues like City Winery in Chicago, 3rd and Lindsley in Nashville with people like Paul Thorn, Ruthie Foster, The Wood Brothers, The Blind Boys of Alabama. I like to tour around and see the country … explore(ing) … places with such rich histories. …”
Of his Ryman Auditorium gig, Ernie told me: “… to stand on that stage that Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, Loretta Lynn, Pasty, Carl, Buck, Merle, etc. etc. etc. etc. stood on — gave me chills. Also, to be opening for Don Williams in front of a sold-out crowd was surreal.”
Congratulations to Ernie for all his hard work, talent and success. One for the Dreamers, Ernie’s newest CD, is poised for release next month. Nashville’s Chad Cromwell, whose credits include work with Neil Young and Mark Knopfler, is the new CD’s producer. It can be pre-ordered from Ernie’s website, www.erniehendrickson.com.
Please contact Vince Chiarelli if you have any original Rockford music or radio suggestions. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the Oct. 23-29, 2013, issue