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November 19, 2009

Meet Bruce Springstone

Craig Hankin & Tom ChalkleyIt started with a simple but spot-on Bruce Springsteen impersonation.

In the spring of 1982, Craig Hankin and a few other members of the local group The Reason were at a party when singer Tom Chalkley started singing TV show theme songs in Bruce Springsteen's voice. It was an instant hit, Hankin recalls.

"Everybody hit the deck laughing," he said. "We thought, 'Oh, this is a funny idea.'"

Hankin hatched an idea to have Chalkley use his Springsteen impression to sing "Meet The Flintstones." They called this knock-off project Bruce Springstone and recruited lead guitarist Tommy Keene and veteran jazz saxophonist Ron Holloway to record with them at Hit and Run studios in Rockville.

They took the recording to Clean Cuts, a local record label then known for its jazz recordings, and played it for label owner Jack Heyrman. (Click on this link to hear the track.)

"[Heyrman] let me know a one-off novelty single was not exactly up his alley, but he was willing to listen," Hankin said. "By the time we got to the end of the tape, he was chuckling. He said, 'I think we may have a novelty record here.'" ...

Clean Cuts wanted to release the Bruce Springstone song, but needed a B-side. Hankin went to a music shop on Liberty Street, where he discovered the original lyrics and sheet music to "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," written at the turn of the century. Hankin found the song oddly appealing, he remembers, and they recorded a version of it for the B-side.

"The verses were about this girl Nelly Kelly," he said. "She sounded like a Springsteen character."

The single "Meet the Flintstones" by Bruce Springstone was released in September of 1982 -- the same week the real Bruce Springsteen released his album "Nebraska." Both records were hits.

quarry shootBruce Springstone's parody single sold 100,000 copies, and was spun on hundreds of radio stations in the U.S. and abroad.

"Meet the Flintstones" was reviewed by the Village Voice, the LA Times and the Washington Post. Bruce Springstone made a music video for "Meet the Flintstones," but Hannah Barbera threatened to sue if MTV played it.

"It was the most expensive home video ever made," Hankin said.

Hankin still gets royalties on the single, he said. 

"It wasn't any kind of financial bonanza," he said. "What's nice is we still do get these little ASCAP checks four times a year, which are just about enough to go out to a nice dinner on."

Both "Meet the Flinstones" and "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" by Bruce Springstone are still in print, on various compilation albums released by Rhino. Hankin is now 54, and runs the studio art program at Johns Hopkins University.

Though it's been nearly 30 years since the single was first released, Hankin still looks back on it fondly – and it's still being recognized by the music community.

"I still like it," he said. "It still gives me a laugh, and it's got legs. This is a record that has stood up. Just last year, the "Ballgame" side of the record was included in a CD that accompanied a book called 'Baseball's Greatest Hits: The Story of Take Me Out to the Ballgame.'"

Tomorrow, when Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band perform in Baltimore for the first time since 1973, Hankin will be there.

(Photos courtesy of Craig Hankin)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 11:08 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Local music


Goe here to see a detail of the original picture for this

Thanks, Sam. One small correction: I pitched the Springstone idea to Jack Heyrman with a simple voice-and-guitar demo. He liked it, signed us, and then we recorded the tracks with full band at Hit & Run.

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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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