The following historical background is furnished courtesy of Rollercoaster Records, from the liner notes to the CD Gonna Rock 'n' Roll, Gonna Dance All Night, recently updated.
Used by permission ©1995, 2005, 2006 Al Turner
Hardrock Gunter, the man who put the bounce in Birmingham, who danced all night like lovers do to the honky-tonk blues with his perfect woman .. The sixty minute man who went wild to the fiddle bop, and bopped to the rhythm of the grandfather’s clock .... The man who gave 'em rhythm .... The Hard-Rock working in a hill-billy band who thus became the first rockabilly .... The man who named the music Rock ‘n’ Roll. What more can you say except, whoo I mean whee!, we’re gonna dance all night!.
Sidney Louie Gunter was born in Birmingham, Alabama on 27th February 1925, the eldest of the three children born to Ola Mae and Sidney L Gunter Snr. He was raised during the depression, and although his father was always in work, "Things were kinda thin around the house". One Christmas he was given a guitar, but had no idea how to tune or play it. Nevertheless he would strum the strings and sing at the top of his voice. It was purely by chance that he learned to play the instrument; Buck Weaver (a close personal friend of the legendary Texas Drifter) a gas fitter who had come to fix the stove, saw the guitar and asked young Sidney if he played it. "Of course", he replied and promptly gave a demonstration. The quality of the performance can just be imagined! Buck tuned the guitar, and then on a piece of brown paper sacking drew the chord charts for the three major chords in the key of C. From a matchbox, Buck carved a pick, and then showed the youngster how to play the chords. Sidney would practice every chance he got, quickly mastering the three chords. Armed with this basic knowledge he discovered other variations and, over the years, became a very proficient guitarist.
Sidney’s earliest musical influence, and indeed musical recollection, is from 1933/4 when he would sit attentively listening to the "Texas Drifter" on the radio. The Drifter’s real name was Goebel Leon Reeves and he was more a balladeer or troubadour than a hillbilly singer. He called himself a hobo, and would sing, read poems and do recitations. The young eight year old was immensely impressed by The "Texas Drifter", and still to this day cites him as a major influence. Although Goebel Reeves made a lasting impression on Sidney, the greatest influence upon this budding musician was Hank Penny, something of a legendary figure in the history of Country music. A native of Alabama, Penny formed the first pure Western swing band in the area (among the musicians in the Radio Cowboys was a young Boudeleaux Bryant, later to become of of the most prolific song writers). Young Sidney Gunter idolised Hank. "I would walk like him, tried to talk like him, I listened to everything he did, I told the same stories he told, wrapped the silver colored tinfoil from a stick of chewing gum around the tuning keys of my guitar so it would shine like Hank's and did everything I could to be like him". Hank Penny was to become an exceptionally strong influence upon Sidney Gunter and a close friend until Hank's death.
At this time around 1938, at the tender age of thirteen, Sidney organised his first band "The Hoot Owl Ramblers" - so called because at the time they lived in a section of Birmingham called Hoot Owl Holler. The line up of the Hoot Owl Ramblers consisted of guitar, home made bass, rhythm guitar, harmonica and fiddle. They became very popular locally, with Gunter singing Hank Penny numbers, telling stories and generally being master of ceremonies, with the Hoot Owl Ramblers backing him. Delighted with the response that the Hoot Owl Ramblers received, he felt confident enough to attempt playing in the talent shows, which were in abundance in and around Birmingham. Appearing under the pseudonym of "Goofy Sid", he dressed in a "Hee Haw" comic style outfit; baggy pants, etc. On stage he told Hank Penny stories, and would play novelty tunes on the guitar. The audiences were generally well disposed towards him, and the local press gave favourable reviews of his performances. In the early months of 1939, "Goofy Sid" was enjoying a particularly good spell, with a talent show in Irondale, Alabama. He had won first prize at this particular venue for thirteen consecutive weeks. The show's promoter, Mrs Sy Wages, was very impressed by this young performer, so much so, that when Happy ‘Tex’ Wilson phoned her looking for some entertainers to put a show together, and asked if she had any talent which would fit the bill for a country show, she had no hesitation in recommending Sidney Gunter.
Happy Wilson, who was born in Haleyville, Alabama in 1918, had just returned from Hollywood, where he had been appearing with Ray Corrigan's Three Musketeers in the movies. Happy was a singer who used Birmingham as a base when he was not out on the coast filming. He acted upon Mrs Wages’ suggestion and phoned Sidney, asking him if he would like to go to Atlanta, Georgia, and play a two day show, Saturday and Sunday. The format of the show was quite simple, it would start in the afternoon with the showing of a movie that Happy was in, then there was a thirty minute stage show featuring Happy and the boys, then a repeat of the movie, followed again by another thirty minute live show, and so on. Sidney accepted the offer without hesitation and arrangements were made to collect him early Saturday morning and drive the 200 odd miles to Atlanta.
Saturday arrived; the fourteen year old Sidney sat on the porch outside his home restlessly awaiting the arrival of Happy Wilson, anticipating the events that lay before him. Happy arrived just before dawn, with him was Jack Baggett, who was also in the show. Sidney quickly set about loading his equipment and stage clothes into the car when, quite by accident, the trunk lid fell and hit him on the head. He never flinched, just turned to Happy Wilson and said "Give me the banjo". Happy and Jack just stared at him, then started laughing. When the two had regained their composure Happy said "My goodness his head's as hard as a rock". They started calling him "Hardrock", and kidded him all the way to Atlanta. And that is how the moniker "Hardrock" was born. It was a name which he adopted and it quickly became his trademark. At the height of his career many referred to him simply as "Hardrock" and posters advertising his show dates simply proclaimed "Hardrock's Coming".
The show in Atlanta exceeded all his expectations, he was paid three dollars a day, plus all expenses, and returned to Birmingham with the princely sum of six dollars, (part of which he used to buy a pair of second hand Cowboy boots for his new career). "That sure beat throwing papers, or mowing grass or anything I could do in those days", he recalls. Sidney was invited to stay with the show and he leapt at the opportunity, becoming a member of Happy Wilson’s Radio Show. There was ample work. Wilson booked the Princess Theatre chain, a group of theatres stretching down through Alabama into Georgia. They played the dates on weekends, when they were guaranteed full houses. Around September 1939, when Happy Wilson secured a time slot on Radio Station WAPI in Birmingham, custom and practice dictated that he should now name his band. After much thought, and many suggestions from Sidney (Hardrock) and Jack Baggett, Happy christened his outfit "The Golden River Boys". The reason for this choice was that at the time Wilson was singing a solo number, the Stuart Hamblen song "Golden River", and he had decided to arrange the number for the trio and feature it in his radio show. The line up of the Golden River Boys was Sidney Gunter on guitar, Tuttie Smith on bass, Slim Lay on guitar, fiddler Hal Smith (no relation), whilst Happy himself beat out the rhythm on the drums on live dates, and strummed his guitar on his radio show. Their musical style was akin to Western Swing, but like other country performers of the day Happy and the boys could turn their hand to almost anything!
The Golden River Boys stayed together until 1941, when Uncle Sam called, and Happy and one or two other members of the band were drafted. When the group broke up. Hardrock Gunter, now a seasoned performer, decided to go solo. He played with Molly O'Day and Lynn Davis for a season then he formed his own show, and performed in and around Birmingham. He also played guitar behind the Delmore brothers and Fiddling Arthur Smith in 1941/42, when they were featured acts on The Alabama Hayloft Jamboree, which was broadcast over Radio Station WAPI from Birmingham.
Gunter also joined the army in 1943 and had quite a distinguished service record, rising to the rank of first lieutenant. [After the war he remained on the reserve list, where he rose to the rank of major, when still only 27, one of the youngest majors in the army]. He was discharged in 1945, and returned to Birmingham to rebuild his musical career. Happy Wilson was discharged from the army shortly after Sidney, and when he returned to Birmingham, the two re-organised the Golden River Boys. The lineup was: Hardrock on guitar, Charlie Best on accordion, Bob Strickland on bass, Billy Tucker on fiddle and Happy on drums and guitar. They continued very much as before the war, playing almost every night of the week. Before Sidney quit the group in 1948, The Golden River Boys made a handful of recordings for the Birmingham based Vulcan label. These recordings, which feature Happy Wilson and Joe Rumore, were reasonably successful locally in Birmingham, but although at least one of the two known releases on Vulcan was reviewed in the trade journal Billboard in March 1948, limited distribution hampered sales.
Sensing that it was time to move on, Sidney quit the Golden River Boys to pursue a solo career playing two or three nights a week with a pop trio in honky-tonks. He did not turn his back completely on the group, becoming their manager and booking agent. On occasion he would play with the group, although he did so as a featured act, receiving double billing with Happy Wilson.. But Hardrock’s main source of income was still from booking the Golden River Boys. He broadened his scope and started booking other acts into the many venues dotted in and about Birmingham. His reputation as a reliable booking agent spread, and he soon became one of the foremost agents in that part of Alabama, booking such stars as Pat Buttram, and Charlie Monroe and the Kentucky Partners. The Golden River Boys eventually broke up sometime in the early fifties with several members of the group joining Gunter's band, the Pebbles. Happy went on to record for Decca and MGM, and much later for the obscure Dash label. He also enjoyed modest success as a songwriter with Nashville publisher Acuff-Rose. Amongst the hits Wilson penned was Jimmy Dickens' 1950 smash, "A Sleepin' At The Foot Of the Bed".
Around about this time, we arrive at an amusing aspect of Hardrock Gunter's many faceted career, when he became the first country music DJ on television, but not quite in the way that might be envisaged....
Television came to Birmingham in 1949. Radio Station WAPI obtained a TV broadcasting licence and developed their own television station WABT-TV. The programme format in those days was very simple and somewhat limited; a movie, news show, a cookery show, another movie and finally the news again. Most of the day WABT-TV didn't broadcast at all. When they decided to increase their broadcasting output, the station approached Hardrock with an offer of a thirty minute mid day slot, from 12.30 to 1.00pm. Sidney was known to the programme director of the station through his work on radio station WAPI with Happy Wilson. When Sidney enquired what kind of show the station wanted, he was told that was up to him. Given a free hand, he decided to put together a programme for children. He purchased a half dozen glove puppets and dressed them up to look like western entertainers; "I'd play records and talk, they'd use two cameras, one on me, and one on the glove puppet, you didn't have to be fancy of anything like that." He gave all the puppets names - "One I named Ernest Tubb and I'd talk in a Tubb voice, then I'd play an Ernest Tubb record and the camera would focus on the puppet." The show was immensely popular, and the public response overwhelming. In addition to this show, Hardrock and Happy had a 30 minute TV show each weekday evening called "The Happiness Boys" from 5:30 to 6:00 PM just before the evening news. Plus each weekday Hardrock had an early morning radio show which, incidentally featured Sonny James (Loden) on fiddle (Hardrock and Sonny were roommates). Five nights each week, Monday thru Friday, Hardrock played the Rose Room of the Beverly hotel. On Saturday night he lead the band at the Jewish Country Club and on Sunday afternoon played a dance at the Greek Church. When he was asked "what kind of music he played" he would say "People music. Whatever the people want, we play".
It was in this climate of popular acclaim, that Hardrock Gunter made his first solo recordings.
It was hardly surprising that Hardrock was approached with an offer of a recording contract; after all he was a well known, respected, and popular local artist. When the owner of the Bama label, Manny Pearson, approached him with the offer of a recording deal, it took little persuading to get him to agree. Thus it was in the early months of 1950 when he entered the studios at a local radio station in Birmingham to cut his first sides for Bama. "Birmingham Bounce", and "How Can I Believe You Love Me", both self penned, were selected from the material cut at that session for Hardrock's first Bama release . The band employed to back Hardrock on this session was The Golden River Boys, made up of Hardrock on guitar, Billy Tucker on fiddle, Ted Crabtree on steel, Huel Murphy on piano, Jim O'Day on bass and Bob Sanders on drums, renamed the Pebbles for the occasion (Hardrock even chose a "rock" name for the band). "Birmingham Bounce" quickly caught on with the public, and the song gave Hardrock a regional hit. He toured the south east extensively on the strength of "Birmingham Bounce", filling theatres and other venues wherever he played. In fact the demand was so great that in many cases the regular venues proved too small to cater for the huge crowds that his shows attracted. Hardrock recalls how they overcame this problem; "The biggest buildings in those towns would be the airport hanger. So we would rent the airport, move out the planes and stake them down, and have our dances in the hanger".
"Birmingham Bounce" also generated a great deal of interest in the recording industry. Paul Cohen, A&R director for Decca, expressed special interest. Cohen recognised the potential of the song, and approached Manny Pearson with an offer for the master, with the intention of reissuing the recording on Decca. However, this offer was rejected. Undeterred by this refusal, Cohen suggested a lucrative leasing deal whereby Decca would pay for half a million copies of "Birmingham Bounce" whether they sold or not. This offer was also declined and Paul Cohen returned to Decca empty handed. Still convinced that it was a good song Cohen decided to record a cover version. Red Foley was brought in to record the number at a hastily arranged recording session. Decca had their cover version by Red Foley in the record stores just days later. A combination of Foley's popularity, and the big budget of the Decca promotion machine, propelled their version of "Birmingham Bounce" into the national charts. It soon hit the number one spot and stayed there for fourteen weeks. Foley's success with the song prompted a plethora of other cover versions - a total of twenty one cover versions of "Birmingham Bounce" were issued in the wake of the Decca hit. Artists as diverse as Lionel Hampton, Tommy Dorsey, Amos Milburn, Pee Wee King, and Tex Williams recorded the number in a variety of musical styles. Thus Hardrock’s disappointment at not having the hit version of his song was lessened somewhat by the earnings and fame created for him as a writer from the cover versions. The chart placing of Foley's version, and the varied success of the other ‘covers’, had a marked effect on the sale of Hardrock's original Bama release. Manny Pearson, anticipating he had a sizeable hit on his hands, had ordered and paid up front for a substantial number of pressings of "Birmingham Bounce". These records had then been distributed to record stores on a sale or return basis. When the Foley version hit the charts the number of returns steadily increased. Bama had a major problem, most of their capital was tied up in "Birmingham Bounce", and the deal had gone sour. Manny Pearson lost a considerable amount of money on the deal, although contrary to the suggestion that Bama folded after this, he did continue in business. However, Pearson had learnt a lesson from his experience with "Birmingham Bounce". When another Bama release, Chuck Murphy's "Blue Ribbon Boogie" started to take off, he leased the masters to Decca’s subsidiary, Coral. There were two more releases on Bama by Hardrock Gunter, one issued in the summer of 1950, ["Gonna Dance All Night"/"Why Don't You Show Me That You Love Me" - Bama 201], and the other, ["Dad Gave My Hog Away"/"Lonesome Blues" - Bama 202] six months or so later in the spring of 1951. “Gonna Dance All Night” was significant in that it introduced the phrase ‘Rock’n’Roll’ to many people four years before they would hear the words associated with country and pop music. Recently Jim Dawson and Steve Propes in their book What Was The First Rock’n’Roll Record?, have nominated Hardrock’s “Birmingham Bounce” as one of the first rock’n’roll records, ahead of Elvis, Jackie Brenston, Bill Haley, Joe Turner and many others more often associated with the arrival of rock’n’roll. All this meant little at the time, however, as Bama ceased to operate and Hardrock’s unissued Bama masters were leased to Jim Bulleit, and released on his Nashville based Bullet label ["My Bucket's Been Fixed"/"The Little Things That You Do" - Bullet 725: and "Maybe Baby You'll Be True"/"Rifle, Belt And Bayonet" - Bullet 727].
It was on the strength of "Birmingham Bounce", and Paul Cohen's interest in both the song and the singer, that brought about Hardrock Gunter's recording contract with Decca. Hardrock cut his first sides for Decca at a session in Nashville in January 1951. With his popularity at its peak, his success seemed assured. However, events were once again to overtake him. Within day's of his first Decca session Uncle Sam once again stepped in. Hardrock was recalled to active service because of the escalating war in Korea. He was to remain on active duty in the army for almost two years. This was a blow to both Hardrock and Decca, for although he was able to record for the label when on leave, he wasn't available for live appearances or to promote his releases. As a result the sale of his Decca releases was relatively disappointing.
Just prior to his discharge from active service in December 1952, Hardrock visited an old friend Nat Tannen, of Tannen Music, in New York city. Nat suggested to Hardrock the possibility of a job at Radio Station WWVA in Wheeling West Virginia. WWVA was the home of the prestigious "World's Original Jamboree", a show which was one of the top six live Country shows broadcast at that time. The Jamboree competed for audiences ratings with the likes of "The Old Dominion Barndance" [WRVA Richmond, Virginia], "The Midwestern Hayride" [WLW Cincinnati, Ohio], "The National Barndance" [WLS Chicago, Illinois], "The Louisiana Hayride" [KWKH Shreveport, Louisiana:], "The Big D Jamboree" [KRLD, Dallas. Texas:], and "The Grand Ole Opry" from Nashville. Hardrock expressed an interest, but was reluctant to commit himself, because he was also thinking about a job with one of the Jamboree's rivals . Nevertheless he agreed to meet the programme director at WWVA to discuss the matter further. The following day, still harbouring some doubts about WWVA and The Jamboree, he set out to the Pennsylvania turnpike. It was on the turnpike that he resolved his dilemma; "I got out the map and looked where these places were; Nashville, Shreveport, Chicago, etc., it just happened that Wheeling and WWVA were the closest to New York, only some 200 miles away". And so that day he drove down to Wheeling, and there met Paul Myers. An audition was arranged for the next day. Hardrock passed that audition and he was offered a job, not as a performer, but as an emcee and producer of the Jamboree, and as a DJ on WWVA.
When Decca notified Hardrock they were not renewing his recording contract, MGM stepped in and signed him. He cut at least one session for MGM in Nashville. However, his spell with the label was short lived and he left the label when MGM declined to renew their option on his contract.
Around July 1953 Hardrock quit WWVA to return to Birmingham, where he resumed his career in television, and found himself a job as a DJ on a small local radio station [WJLD]. Although the station's reception area barely covered Birmingham, the ever resourceful Hardrock arranged for his show to be networked on a chain of radio stations stretching throughout Alabama. The programme director at WJLD was one Jim Connally, the brother-in-law of Sam Phillips, owner of the Sun label in Memphis. Phillips had expressed an interest in recording Hardrock Gunter, and it was Jim Connally who set up the deal. Sam Phillips wanted Hardrock to come to Memphis to record, but due to his heavy workload he declined. Instead he cut two songs, including a remake of "Gonna Dance All Night", at a Birmingham radio station. The material was dispatched to Phillips and in May 1954 released as SUN 201(it's amazing that two small record companies, totally unassociated would release this song four years apart with BOTH records numbered as 201), just eight releases ahead of Elvis Presley’s first Sun single, “That’s All Right” (SUN 209). So Hardrock had the first "Rock" record on SUN Records! Phillips had been looking for an artist who would bridge the gap between rhythm & blues and pop music and he may have thought he’d found just that in Hardrock Gunter, but it would be with Elvis that he really struck paydirt. In retrospect Hardrock deeply regrets not going to Memphis to record for Sam Phillips - things may have turned out very differently had he made the journey to record in the Sun studio at 706 Union in Memphis.
In the summer of 1954 Hardrock moved back to Wheeling to rejoin the cast of the Jamboree on WWVA. He was to stay with WWVA and the Jamboree on this occasion for ten years, during which time he established himself as one of the leading radio personalities in the country, became a featured artist on the Jamboree, and took over the role as the talent director of the show. Once he had settled in again at WWVA, Hardrock resumed his recording career. This time it was King records who signed Hardrock to a recording deal. His King material was recorded in Cincinnati where, accompanied by the likes of Jerry Byrd, Louis Innis, Zeke Turner, Lightning Chance, and Vic Willis, he recorded some first class Hillbilly Bop, including the excellent "I'll Give 'Em Rhythm".
And give 'em rhythm he did! Following his spell with King, Hardrock cut two numbers, "Jukebox Help Me Find My Baby", and "Fiddle Bop" at the WWVA studios for the Wheeling based Cross Country label. These recordings featured Hardrock, fiddler Buddy Durham, and Bob Tustin, from Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper's band, on bass. "Jukebox Help Me Find My Baby", was initially recorded without any backing, just Hardrock and his guitar. The tape was then run through an echo chamber and Hardrock, Buddy, and Bob dubbed on the rhythm. A number of gimmicks were employed to enhance the overall sound. For instance Hardrock wrapped paper around his guitar strings to give the guitar a flapping sound, Buddy Durham supplied a beat by slapping on a box with a letter opener, but by far the most novel innovation, which can best be heard in the second chorus, is the bass solo. Here Hardrock imitates a bass with his voice and lips, and this was overdubbed onto the existing bass solo laid down by Bob Tustin.
"Jukebox Help Me Find My Baby" didn't exactly set the world on fire when it was released. It enjoyed a little local airplay, and no doubt sold quite well in the Wheeling area. However, things changed dramatically when Cleveland DJ Bill Randle latched onto the disc. Randle was an influential DJ; he was partially responsible for 'breaking' Elvis outside of the south, the trade paper Downbeat referred to him as "The singly most important and powerful record spinner in the country". Randle's plugging of "Jukebox Help Me Find My Baby" resulted in the record hitting the local charts in Cleveland, where it shot to the number one position. Other DJ's around the country picked up on "Jukebox” and soon it looked as if Hardrock had a national hit on his hands. It was at this juncture that Sam Phillips reappeared on the scene. Phillips had been following the fortunes of the record and wanted to lease the master and reissue the recording on Sun. Hardrock agreed and the masters were sent down to Memphis. This was a decision, like his previous one involving Sam Phillips, which he would regret. When Phillips received the master, he decided that the recording was too long and edited out around twenty seconds. Hardrock's improvised bass solo and several other minor gimmicks were cut out. "Until Sam Phillips issued "Jukebox Help Me Find My Baby" the record was going strong - Sam Phillips edited the hit out of the record. Without the novelty parts the record fell flat", was how Hardrock summed up the situation.
Meanwhile, back in Wheeling, Hardrock and Buddy Durham decided to set up their own record label - Emperor Records. "The idea behind Emperor was that we could have the freedom to do what we wanted, hopefully one of the songs would make enough noise, create some activity and then we could lease it to some major company for distribution", was the rationale behind the decision to form the label. The Emperor label had no distribution set up whatsoever. The records were sold over the radio and at live appearances. Almost every artist who appeared on the Jamboree, who didn't have a recording contract, was persuaded to record for the label. Hardrock's own effort on Emperor was "Whoo I Mean Whee" [Emperor 112], another classic rocker. Once again Hardrock utilised an echo chamber to recreate the atmospheric sound he had captured on "Jukebox Help Me Find My Baby". He continued to record in this style, and tempo, and would often use echo to enhance the overall sound. This gimmick culminated in "Boppin' To The Grandfather’s Clock", a medium paced rocker that Hardrock recorded using the pseudonym of Sidney Jo Lewis and leased to the Island Record company of Cleveland, Ohio. His use of an echo chamber on this particular recording borders on the absurd, but is nevertheless very effective in creating an original sound, an objective that Hardrock always had in mind. He leased several other songs to Island, including a remake of "Birmingham Bounce", and a new number, the medium paced rocker "Rock-A-Bop Baby". These two songs, along with selections from Buddy Durham, Bill Browning, and the Cook Brothers, were issued on an eight track Island EP, The WWVA Jamboree Special.
Hardrock continued to record in Wheeling, and his next effort was an album - Songs They Censored In The Hills. Some of the material chosen for inclusion on the album would have been described as a little daring - tame by today's standards, but frowned upon by the establishment thirty five to forty years ago. Five numbers from that album, "Bloodshot Eyes", "I'll Go Chasin' Women", "Mountain Dew", "Take Away Your Rosy Lips", and "The Right Key But The Wrong Keyhole" are included here for your listening pleasure.
An instrumental single for the Houston based 'D' label, “Jumping Mule” and “Travelling” preceded a series of releases on Hardrock's own Gee Gee label. These records, a mixture of single, extended play, and album releases, were designed solely as "souvenirs", and were only available from WWVA and live appearances. Hardrock increasingly used these releases to demonstrate his proficiency as a guitarist. He recalled a few years back, "I felt I had never been showcased as a guitar picker, I think I'm an entertainer, I'm not a very good singer. I tell good stories and play a good guitar, so that's what I lean towards; guitar picker and comic".
After the Gee Gee releases Hardrock was still in demand with record labels and made sporadic ventures into the studio to record for companies like Starday and Cullman. From 1964 to 1971 he did not record, except for his own pleasure. He had been dabbling in insurance, but decided to quit the music business and concentrate full-time on building up his insurance portfolio. This he did with considerable success and today he lives in Golden, a town at the foot of the Rocky Mountains just outside Denver, Colorado, where he is better known as Rock Gunter, chairman of Selected Executive Plans, Inc. (The Chairman of the board of Coors Brewery lives just nine houses away. Another neighbor is world wide best selling author Clive Cussler only three doors away). Although he retired once in 1990, Hardrock found he missed the business world and soon returned to insurance. He currently operates his own company from the appropriately named South Paradise Road on Lookout Mountain in Golden, Colorado where he lives with his wife Sheila. Rock combines his lectures on insurance and related matters with discussions with his audience, a few hilarious stories and a song or two. He has thus never ceased to entertain, something that comes naturally to him. Being booked as a headliner with Wanda Jackson for the International Rockabilly & Rock’n’Roll Meeting ‘95 in Munich might have seemed like a comeback for Hardrock, being his first big rock’n’roll show in Europe, but to talk about Hardrock's comeback is inaccurate .... Heck he ain't been nowhere, he's always been around a-pickin' an' a-singin'. So if you see a sign saying ‘Hardrock's coming’, don’t hesitate - be there.....
In April of 2003 he and Sheila moved to Rio Rancho, NM where the climate is a little milder.