In that Country Music Hall of Fame exhibit on Dick Curless’ life and career, there are any number of relics with Maine ties — he was born in Fort Fairfield and even published his music under Aroostook Music, though much of his career happened elsewhere. For people in the music industry here, though, there are a couple of special pieces, including an advertisement for Curless’ first single with Westbrook’s Event Records, “Cottage in the Pines” (also the lead song on “The Basement Tapes”).
Especially for those in the roots community, Event maintains an almost mythical status, one of the first labels to release country, bluegrass and rockabilly music in the northeast, including that of legendary jazz guitar player Lenny Breau, under the leadership of mandolin player Al Hawkes, who died in 2018. Unfortunately, just as the label was experiencing some success, the warehouse of its distributor in Boston went up in flames in 1962, and Hawkes and his label never recovered.
Now, though, there’s hope it will come to life again. When Hawkes died, he left all of his Event Records holdings — methodically maintained original recordings, gear, publishing rights, and a collection of thousands of 45s — to Beck Rustic, operator of Swelltune Records and the New England Shake-Up, a rockabilly and country festival in Massachusetts. And she has plans.
First up: A t-shirt.
“Right before Al passed away,” Rustic says, “he had talked about getting Event T-shirts made. He wanted navy T-shirts with yellow ink. There was no digital file of the logo, so he had to get the logo redrawn for the silk screen, and he was replicating that and looking at shirt samples, but then he got too sick to continue with that. So the first thing we’re doing is that shirt project. They’re at the printer right now.”
Then comes the music. “He only released 45s,” says Rustic, “so it will just be 45s. No full-lengths on Event. There was one bootleg LP out there that infuriated him, but he said there was nothing he could do.”
Rustic plans to start with some of the iconic Curless and Breau pieces in vinyl runs of around 1,000, then look to do some new artists under the Event imprint.
“There are a lot of people who think country music can only come out of Nashville and Texas,” Rustic says, “but music comes out of everywhere and this was a small label in Maine that put out some great country music, and I just want people to know about it. … It’s part of history, Maine history and just music history, and if Al wanted me to keep that alive, I’m going to do it.”