Kris Hawkins' death last April in a motorcycle accident stunned not only his family and friends but a big part of Knoxville's music community. Many of them were at the Catalyst nightclub in the Old City on April 27 to remember Hawkins, the 26-year-old singer and guitarist for hard-rock trio Absolute Power.
Photos of Hawkins—on his motorcycle, with the band, at home, and as a child—were displayed above the stage during the event, with footage from a recently complete documentary on the band interspersed as friends and family, fans, and fellow musicians remembered his life.
"He was my real-life superhero," says Holly Sise, Hawkins' girlfriend, who was riding with Hawkins when his motorcycle collided with a truck on Asheville Highway on April 26.
Hawkins' parents bought him a Gibson SG guitar for Christmas when he was 13, and he immediately started learning the chords to Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode." "He taught himself how to play, and pretty soon he could play anything by ear," says his mother, Pam Hawkins. For the last couple of years, Hawkins' trademark had been a Gibson Flying V guitar.
"He had a surprisingly in-depth knowledge of music, from a theory standpoint," says Absolute Power bassist Jason Alley. "But he was also so raw, and never used that stuff until it was necessary."
Hawkins and Alley played together in the band Box of Souls with Jason Ellis before forming Absolute Power. During his audition for Box of Souls, Hawkins earned the nickname "Wicked." "We're having a jam session and this kid walks in, he's 19, got long, feathered hair and a Gibson SG, and just starts shredding. Scott [Sutherland], the other guitarist, called him ‘Kid Wicked,' and later that just got shortened to ‘Wicked.'"
After Box of Souls broke up, Hawkins and Alley recruited drummer Mikey Rogers to form Absolute Power. They were unable to find a lead singer, so Hawkins stepped into that role out of necessity.
"They were awesome," Hawkins' mother says. "They practiced in my basement for years. They'd shake the pictures off the walls, but they were absolutely awesome to me."
The band played its last show at the Catalyst on April 16 and were booked to play there again on May 27. Alley says he and Rogers haven't considered the future of the band yet.
"We're going to keep playing, no matter what," Alley says. "I don't know if it'll be as Absolute Power or another incarnation of us. We'll always honor him with our music. But that's down the road. Right now we're mourning the loss of a friend and brother."
Pam Hawkins says she knows Hawkins would have wanted the band to continue. "But I've been told it would take three people to take his place," she says. "There'll never be another Wicked. He was a son to be very proud of."