Let's get this straight: Unknown Hinson is real. He is not "a walking, talking contradiction" as he has been called ("Does that person know me? Do they know how I live?"). He is not a "vampire" or "undead" ("I've been called a lot worser things than a vampire," he says). Hinson is very much alive — or at least he seems so in a phone call from his home somewhere in North Carolina. If he has any relation to musician Stuart Daniel Baker, who is also an ace guitarist and also has jet black hair, there is no acknowledgement of it. Hinson is the self-proclaimed king of real country music, a natural magnet for women, the voice of Early Cuyler on the animated TV show "The Squidbillies," an ex-con wrongly convicted of murder and, well ... Maybe it's best to let Hinson tell his own story:
"I was born an only child. I didn't have no brothers or sisters," says Hinson. "And my mama and daddy, they didn't really know one another. My mama, she loved life. She loved party liquor and she met this feller and they danced and drunk and partied and had the sexuals."
He says his mother wanted to name him after his father, but she didn't know his name, thus, "Unknown" ended up being his name.
"It's there on my birth certificate in case anyone wishes to see it."
Hinson's mother played guitar and sang and taught Hinson one chord (G, he says) when he was a 5-year-old and told him he could figure the rest out. His mother disappeared ("real mysterious like") when Hinson was 10 and he ended up being the ward of a carnival owner.
"He kindly took me in because he seen I had a bountiful head of black hair and thick eyebrows and a dental affliction," says Hinson.
The owner found just the right tent for his young ward as a carnival geek.
Alongside that, though, Hinson began performing his original songs, accompanying himself on guitar. The crowds loved it. He was offered a recording contract, but jealous rivals murdered the carnival owner and framed Hinson for it ("along with about 150 other charges").
He spent 30 years in the Illinois State Penitentiary until a witness came forward in 1993 to clear Hinson of the murders. Hinson then resumed his music career by way of a community-access show on cable TV. The shows became favorites of touring musicians who traded videos to watch on their tour buses, and soon Hinson was again courting record labels (he signed with Capitol) and recording his original songs, which included titles like "I Can't Believe You're Pregnant Again" and "I Make Faces (When I Make Love)." His new album is titled "Reloaded."
He says his shows appeal to both men and women because he has such a powerful effect on women that husbands and boyfriends reap the benefits after the show.
"It's really a win-win situation," he says. "I try to give people something for their money. If they pay to see me I will play and sing my guts out and I'll stay and take pictures with 'em and I'm always happy to sign their wife's or girlfriend's breasts and that don't cost nothin'!"
If there's anything that's not quite on the level about Hinson's history, maybe the real truth comes out when he's talking about his art:
"To me, they's a real thin line between tragedy and comedy and a pretty thin line betwixt reality and unreality. It's a writer's job to sort of sit on that fence between those opposing viewpoints."
And maybe Hinson's description about what he enjoys in life is something that other musicians who bear a resemblance to Hinson could also appreciate:
"Every day I live, I try to create something, no matter how big or how small it is. I try to hit a lick every day of my life, whether it be a new song I write or a recording or sketch I make with a pencil. I like to carve on wood and like to mess with bicycles and I like to collect old toy robots ... I got a lot that enriches my life as well as the womens and party liquor. My life is complete. I don't have any regrets or malice toward authorities that locked me away for 30 years, because I'm out and I'm behaving myself and I ain't a goin' back!"
With: Cathouse Prophets
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Shed, 1820 W. Lamar Alexander Parkway, Maryville
Tickets: $20, available at www.smh-d.com/shed.php
Also: There will be a Halloween costume contest for this event with prizes
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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