Oliver Hawkins, 55, Walbrook resident who sold stereo records from his home

November 28, 1998|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Oliver Hawkins, who for more than 20 years sold stereo records from his West Baltimore home and became known as "the $1.50 man," died Tuesday of a heart attack while visiting relatives in New York City.

Mr. Hawkins, 55, lived much of his life on Longwood Street in the Walbrook community and had a large variety of albums and old 45s that he sold mostly to neighbors and friends. The 45s sold for 50 cents, the albums for $1.50.

"The creation of compact discs just killed his business," said Ray Briscoe, a neighbor and longtime friend. "This is just another business that went down because of modern times. I don't think he had any people with connections in the CD world."

Friends said Mr. Hawkins sold records from the late 1960s until about 1980, mostly because he had connections with record distributors who sold him records -- and sometimes stereo tapes -- at heavily discounted prices.

In his basement, he had stacks of rhythm and blues, jazz, country and oldie records, friends said. He didn't advertise, but had a steady string of loyal customers.

"He had all of the good old stuff, like Jerry Butler and the Delphonics and Marvin Gaye and Martha Reeves and the Chi-Lites, all of them," said Chrissy McNeil, his former fiancee.

"But he also had some stuff by Perry Como and Frank Sinatra. You could just give him a title, and he could pull either a 45 or find it on an album," she said.

A native of New York City, Mr. Hawkins graduated from Coppin State College in the late 1960s. For many years, he worked as a construction laborer and as a bartender for Baltimore-area clubs.

"The bartending gig was not for him because he was too social and too generous. Working in clubs, he'd jump from behind the bar when the music came and leave the bar unattended," said Jimmy Archer, who worked with Mr. Hawkins at The Lounge night club in West Baltimore during the late 1960s.

"He also had a knack for giving away free drinks -- most club owners didn't appreciate that."

Mr. Hawkins sang briefly with several local musical groups but never seriously considered pursuing a music career, friends said.

Mr. Hawkins was an avid bowler and enjoyed playing cards. He had a large personal collection of jazz albums that he played during frequent "jazz nights" at his home.

"He had those little jazz parties about once a month or so," Ms. McNeil said. "We'd start listening to the smoothest jazz -- even some of the recent stuff like Donald Byrd. Eventually it would turn into a '60s dance party."

A memorial service is planned for December.

Mr. Hawkins is survived by a son, Leonard Hawkins of Baltimore; two daughters, Glenna Chisom of Denver and Rose Neal of Dover, Del.; a sister, Jean Hawkins-Williams of Baltimore; and two grandchildren.

Pub Date: 11/28/98

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