Ron Hacker, 70, has lived in the City since 1968 and regularly played at The Saloon in North Beach since 1979. He has played in the venue well over 3,000 times and July 11 will be the last time before he moves to New Orleans.
“It’s probably going to be pretty intense,” Hacker told Tahoe Onstage Tuesday before he hit the road for Tahoe and a show at Squaw Valley’s Bluesdays. The June 30 appearance was his last with his band for the last 15 years, the Hacksaws: Ronnie Smith, drums, and Artis Joyce, bass, for an indefinite time. The final Saloon show will have a different band behind Hacker.
Why move to New Orleans?
“I am going to play music,” Hacker said. “There are a bunch of people waiting for me.”
Hacker also has people in Europe, where he has traveled to three times already this year. “I have three bands over there,” he said.
Hacker said he will return to San Francisco to perform every three or four months; however, his exit as a full-time resident marks an end to an era.
After the Beat poets like Allen Ginsberg and Michael McClure had left San Francisco’s North Beach district, there was Hacker, whose messages about society were delivered through a distorted guitar.
A slide guitarist inspired by Hound Dog Taylor and R.L. Burnside, Hacker has a unique sound from a guitar he breaks to pieces and duct tapes back together.
“I really like that real old stuff and modernize it and crunch it up a little bit,” he said. “I like a really dirty sound. I am a rough player, anyway. I’m not a finesse type player. I really bang on my guitar.”
Early in his career, Hacker was befriended by, and toured numerous times with, Yank Rachell, a mandolin player from Brownsville, Tenn., best known as the longtime accompanist of Sleepy John Estes.
“There are not many of us white guys left who searched out those old dudes and played with them,” he said. “There’s a few of us left but not many. They’re all gone and now we’re all getting old, too.”
Hacker appeared at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe’s weekly blues night with the Buddy Emmer Blues Band on multiple occasions in the last year.
“He channels the old-school guys,” Emmer said. “He’s not worried about trying to be a modern-day technical wizard. He’s really authentic.”
Hacker’s authenticity was once questioned by a Bay Area writer who said white men cannot play real blues because they don’t know about hardship. Hacker explicitly repudiated the writer in his autobiography, “White Trash Bluesman,” an entertaining and shocking page turner. Hacker’s graphicly detailed hardships started with his very first memory. Check out the book to learn about his singular tale of a lifetime of paying his dues. Music, in fact, is only mentioned in the last couple pages, almost as an afterthought.
“I managed to survive enough to tell about it,” Hacker said. “But some of my family had a tougher time.”
Squaw Valley’s Bluesdays is a free weekly show in the Village from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesdays all summer.