Tuesday, March 30, 2010 | 4:17 p.m.
Some people wait a lifetime for their big break.
Al Hendrix, the 75-year-old musician nicknamed "America's Lost Rocker," has waited 53 years for his. While kicking off the rockabilly weekend festival, Viva Las Vegas 13, with Wild Records Pre Viva Party on Wednesday at Wasted Space may not exactly be the peak of Hendrix's lengthy career (he's still holding out for Jay Leno), performing at the Hard Rock is a landmark for Hendrix.
He's taking the opportunity not only to spread his "rare and rockin'" tunes to Las Vegas, but potentially to re-launch his career.
The Weekly caught up with America's Lost Rocker himself to find out a little history on the musician who managed to stay off the mainstream radar for the last 53 years and what rockabilly fans can look forward to hearing at the festival's preview showcase.
Are you excited to be performing at Wasted Space inside the Hard Rock?
I'm excited. I'm ecstatic. I waited about 53 years for this. I'm 75. It's a great venue. I'm actually restarting my career at that particular festival. ... I think it's gonna be a real busy year this year.
How did you end up playing the Pre Viva Party?
Reb [Kennedy], who has a [label and promotions company] called Wild Records, followed my career for years — my recordings back in '57 and up to '62. He got a hold of me on the Internet and wanted to talk about doing some shows, so he lined me up for the Preview Las Vegas show to start it off.
Explain the nickname, "America's Lost Rocker." Where did it come from initially?
A good friend of mine in Auburn where I live in Northern California is the entertainment editor for the Auburn Journal newspaper in our town. He started giving me publicity when he found out that I live in Auburn and he said, 'Al, I'm gonna pin you the lost rocker — who's now been found.' Because I've been around for about 53 years, since 1956 when my family moved me from South Texas to Bakersfield, Calif., and I met Buck Owens and Billy Woods over at the famous Blackboard Café, that's where I kicked off my rock 'n' roll career.
You kick-started your rock 'n' roll career in Bakersfield? That seems like a strange place to breed rockers.
It's a historical landmark for West Coast country music. Actually, I contributed to the original Bakersfield sound, along with a bunch [of musicians] that were there at that time, like Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. The Bakersfield Sound was the original musicians who lived in that vicinity and played at the Blackboard Café.
What can rockabilly fans expect from a Lost Rocker show?
They can expect the best because I waited for this. It's a special event for me personally because I'm 75 years old, but I still have the voice, I still record. My new CD just came out called Rockabilly Love. I'm going to get up there, and I'm going to perform like I've always done. I can still do it and I can still sing the songs. I think I got the material that people are going to really enjoy.
It's been such a long-awaited event, are you going to go a little crazy in celebration? It is Wasted Space after all.
Go crazy in Vegas? When you're young you're always anxious and in a hurry, but when you get my age you're more slow and precise. And I try to be more discreet in answering questions like you're throwing at me! [Laughs].
After marking the Hard Rock off your list, what's the next goal for America's Lost Rocker?
If I could just get a shot on the Jay Leno show — let me do one song. Maybe "Monkey Bite." I'm gonna do that at the [Hard Rock]. I wrote it back in the 50s', recorded it in '62. It's been a song that has kept coming back. It's about the quickie hickie on your neckie! Nobody ever wrote a song about the quickie hickie on your neckie. You're gonna hear me sing it, see the old man in action. I think if Jay Leno ever got wind of that thing he'd say, 'Lets bring the old rocker here and let him do the "Monkey Bite!"' It's about a guy that goes out with his girl and when he's not looking, I'll tell you by heck, she put a big monkey bite on his neck. It really catches on. Before the guy's dead and gone let's at least give him the pleasure of getting one real big glory before he checks out.
— Originally published on Las Vegas Weekly