“My first band was called The Aardvarks. I was 11 years old. I played guitar and sang. We started off playing Ventures’ style instrumentals, Beatles and Stones covers, and eventually started writing our own songs.”
Greg grew up in Maryland, and then moved to Boston where he attended Berklee College of Music for two years. Shortly after, he began his association with Ric Ocasek and Benjamin Orr.
“Ric and Ben had a folk trio called Milkwood, and they were recording an album called ‘How’s The Weather’. I played saxophone on one of the songs. It was the first record I ever played on. Wouldn’t you know they spelled my name wrong?”
Hawkes then played keyboards and sax with Ocasek and Orr in a band called Richard & The Rabbits. “We got the name from Jonathan Richmond (The Modern Lovers).”
In 1975, Greg was hired to play with Martin Mull and his Fabulous Furniture, playing sax, clarinet, flute, and novelty instruments. He played on Martin’s album Days of Wine and Neuroses. While in Martin’s band, they taped a TV special for PBS called Sixty Minutes to Kill, where he first met Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan (aka Flo & Eddie), the two original singers from The Turtles. He would play in their band years later.
“I love Mark and Howard. They’re two of the hippest guys I know.”
In 1977, Greg would rejoin Ric and Ben, along with guitarist Elliot Easton and David Robinson (Modern Lovers), to form The Cars. They played in Boston clubs, most notably at The Rat, developed a loyal following and signed a recording deal with Electra Records in October of that year. They recorded their first album in London at George Martin’s Air Studios. It was produced by Roy Thomas Baker (Queen). The album was recorded during Feb. 1978 and released in June. Three hit singles were released, ‘Good Times Roll’, ‘Best Friend’s Girl’, and Just What I Needed’.
The Cars’ second album, CandyO, was recorded in 1979, this time at Cherokee Studios in Los Angeles, where they worked again with Roy Thomas Baker.
Notable songs include “Let’s Go,” “Double Life” and “Dangerous Type.”
The album Panorama was released in 1980. Recording started at the Power station in New York, but was moved and finished back at Cherokee Studios in LA. “Touch and Go” was released as the first single.
The Cars next album Shake It Up was recorded in Boston at The Cars’ own studio, Sychro Sound, in 1982. (The studio had formerly been known as Intermedia Studio, where, coincidentally, Martin Mull had recorded his first album.)
In 1973, Greg recorded an album of mostly electronic instrumental music called Niagara Falls (Slowly I turned…). It was released by Passport Records and recorded at Sychro Sound. Greg also played on Ric Ocasek’s solo album, Beatitude.
After working with Roy for four albums, The Cars recorded their next album with producer Robert “Mutt” Lange (ACDC, Def Leopard), working in London again, this time at Battery Studios. The album was released in 1984, and the first single was “You Might Think.” The video for that song (directed by Jeff Stein and Charlex) would win Video of the Year on the first ever MTV Music awards. “You Might Think” was followed by “Magic” and “Drive” which became a number one song in England, following The Cars’ appearance at Live Aid in 1985.
In 1986, Greg worked extensively on Ric Ocasek’s album This Side of Paradise. He also composed and recorded the soundtrack music for the feature film Anna, starring Sally Kirkland and Paulina Porizkova and released by Vestron Pictures. A soundtrack album was released by Varese Sarabande. The Cars also recorded “Tonight She Comes” and released The Cars’ Greatest Hits.
In 1987, The Cars released Door to Door, their sixth album, and the last one to be released before disbanding at the end of that year.
In 1989, Greg was invited to London to work on a track with Paul McCartney by producer Chris Hughes (Tears for Fears, Ric Ocasek).
Hawkes played keyboards on the song “Motor of Love” from the album Flowers in the Dirt.
“My first concert was going to see The Beatles in 1964. I was 11. They performed a 25 minute set, no encores. When they came out on stage, everybody stood on their chairs and screamed. It was Beatlemania!”
Hawkes has sometimes produced or appeared with some notable Boston groups such as Tribe, Letters to Cleo, Manufacture and The New Collisions.
In 2005, Hawkes and Elliot Easton joined Todd Rundgren, Kasim Sultan, and Prairie Prince to form a hybrid lineup called The New Cars. They toured and released one album, It’s Alive, consisting of three new studio tracks and live performances of classic Cars’ songs.
Hawkes continued his association with Todd Rundgren by performing in Todd’s band for a series of live concerts, recreating some of Todd’s classic albums in their entirety, including A Wizard, a True Star, the Todd album, and Healing. (Released on DVD and CD).
In 2008, Hawkes released The Beatles Uke, a collection of Beatles’ songs played entirely on ukuleles in ‘Ukesymphonic’ fashion, overdubbing multiple ukuleles to create a virtual ukulele orchestra. The album is available from Solid Air Records.
In 2011, The Cars surprised everybody by releasing a new album called Move Like This. (This was by the four remaining Cars’ members. Original bass player and singer Ben Orr died in 2000 of pancreatic cancer.) The band also played a series of sold out concerts, appeared on The Colbert Report and The Jimmy Fallon Show, and played at Lollapalooza.
Besides working on recording projects, Hawkes has been performing as a solo artist with the ukulele (and other instruments) and occasionally plays keyboards with The Turtles (featuring Flo & Eddie).