Barrington Hills singer the voice behind Snap, Snuggle and Sinatra
Even if you haven't seen a Ron Hawking show, you've heard the Barrington Hills singer.
"I started on TV when I was 4 years old and I've been doing it ever since," says the apparently ageless Hawking. "Jack Benny was 39. I'm 38."
During the heyday of musical TV commercials, Hawking's voice was heard in practically every home in America.
"I was a jingle singer," he says. "I've done thousands. I started singing jingles in 1973."
He recently recorded a new version of his classic "Snap, Crackle, Pop-Rice Krispies" ditty for the Kellogg's cereal. From Schlitz Malt Liquor to Hamburger Helper, from Reese's Pieces to Snuggle Fabric Softener, Hawking sang them all.
"It was a wonderful way to make a living and use all of my artistic skills in the studio," Hawking says. "We did a ton of work in Chicago."
He met his wife, Amy, after she hired him to do a Wolfman Jack voice in a commercial. The couple have a 16-year-old son named Cole, daughter Dana, 14, two dogs and a nice suburban life.
But Hawking's career with commercial work was anonymous to the listener. In his earlier stage shows, Hawking was known for his vocal impressions and his tributes to legendary performers. He can produce impressions of people such as Ray Charles, Julio Iglesias, Tony Bennett, even Jack Nicholas. His Frank Sinatra tribute show was Hawking's way to remember that iconic singer, his Rat Pack friends and their music. It was not an impersonation.
"If you think you are coming to see a Frank Sinatra show, that's not the gig at all," Hawking would tell his audience. "I'm taller, thinner and much more alive."
Hawking's Sinatra tribute show ran for seven years in Chicago. People might have come for Sinatra, but the show was pure Hawking.
"It's all part of my personality. The essence of Ron is still there," says Hawking, who can't be confined to ballads or jazz.
"I listen to a lot of different styles of music," he says. "The music of the 20th century - rock, Elton John, Bon Jovi - that's all great stuff."
His new show is called "One From the Heart."
"If you come from the heart, it touches the heart of the audience," Hawking says. "The experience is hopefully as enjoyable and entertaining as everything I've done in the past."
Hawking's next show is at 8 p.m. Feb. 20 at Davenport's Piano Bar Cabaret, 1383 N. Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago, when he appears with noted jazz pianist Jeremy Kahn. Tickets are $35 each and available at (773) 278-1830 or www.davenportspianobar.com.
After that, Hawking will take his show to the Skokie Theatre, 7924 N. Lincoln Ave. in Skokie for a 2 p.m. performance on Feb. 28. Tickets are $35 in advance (call 847 677-7761 for details), or $44 at the door.
For these new shows, Hawking's rich, silky baritone voice runs through a challenging playlist of the songs he loves. He might do a ballad made famous by Tony Bennett or Mel Torme, and follow that with a number more associated with Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli or piano man Billy Joel.
And, of course, he might even throw in a Sinatra number.
"If I don't," Hawking says, "I hear about it."