The Hawkes take flight in Dunzip's wake 

Old School Mercenaries

The Hawkes
Thurs. April 23
10 p.m.
Free
The Chill and Grill
10 Center St., Folly Beach
(843) 588-2362

When Hawke Morffi passed away in August 2004, Charleston lost a stalwart and a musical legend. Morffi played over two dozen instruments, from the Grecian lyre to the bowed saltry. With his band, Dunzip, he'd strum, blow, and pick his way through flute, mandolin, violin, cello, and guitar in a single show.

Also at Dunzip's core were guitarist Jesse Prichard, drummer Jim Donnelly, and bassist Jake Holwegner. The band was a collective, drawing from a rotating cast of working musicians. On Wednesday nights in the early 2000s, they held court at the old Chill and Grill on Folly Beach until the wee hours.

"The happiest band in the darkest bar," recalls veteran and current Chill and Grill barslinger Judd Clary.

Previously tucked into a corner of Snapper Jack's, the Chill and Grill reopened in a similar space last fall, and Dunzip was the first band Clary called to offer a gig. The friends had continued to perform together in various groups, including Caravan, the Kris Woodrum Trio, and the JP All-Stars, but hadn't officially reorganized since Morffi's passing.

"We never really broke up. We're always kind of playing together," says Prichard, over a bowl of beans at Zia Taqueria, where he's maintained a regular solo Tuesday night gig for several months. "Our names just kind of come and go."

Donnelly agrees. "We didn't want to call it Dunzip anymore because Hawke wasn't around," the drummer chimes in. "The next obvious choice was in tribute."

True to form, their weekly Thursday night gigs have remained a revolving door of friends and guest appearances, with the drum and fiddle/guitar combo of Donnelly and Pritchard at the core. Holwegner sits in on bass and Kris Woodrum on guitar when they're available.

"All the musicians are such mercenaries; they kind of come in flying under the flight of the dog, because they have to. They survive by playing music," says Prichard.

And just like back in the day, the sets are off the cuff, without setlists. The group literally knows hundreds of songs.

"They just come out of the crypts of my memory," says Prichard. "We could play two days straight without repeating anything."

Donnelly calls it OJT — on the job training. Someone suggests a song and the band, full of individual talent, spontaneously makes it happen.

"[The Chill and Grill] was the kind of a place to splatter the walls with ideas," says Prichard, recalling Dunzip's gigs there. "It's a nice little breeding ground ... 'You play the drums? You play the fiddle? Get up and play.' And if you were good at it, we just played and played."

Although the bulk of the Hawkes' material is covers, few in the audience would ever know. Prichard's musical tastes vary from Latin to Texas swing, including artists like Roy Newman & His Boys, Uncle Walt's Band, and Stuff Smith, an early 1900s black violinist.

"It's probably my downfall — I just get more and more into older music," says Prichard. "Ray Charles, Otis Redding, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Jackie Wilson ... I think I'm going backward. I guess you're supposed to go forward."

In addition to their Chill and Grill gigs, the Hawkes have booked shows in Edisto Beach and have recorded some preliminary live work at Donnelly's Johns Island studio.

"As of now, we're just tuning things up," Prichard says. "There's just so much material floating around; it's just figuring out how to shape it."

Although the nights of skipping between downtown's late-night 'Devil's Triangle' of bars — A.C.'s, Red Hot Tomatoes, and King Street Station — with Hawke Morffi are now only fond memories, the Hawkes' weekly appearances on Folly keep Dunzip's spirit breathing well into the summer night.

Says Donnelly, "He would have been happy to see everyone carry on."


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