Allan Hinds

Music as protagonist in a storied life 

Music is the protagonist in Allan Hinds’ storied life 

It’s tempting to call Allan Hinds “Rocket Man,” like Elton John’s paradoxical character in a song inspired by a Ray Bradbury story. That’s because he and his former wife were proprietors of a store that is interwoven in downtown Greenville lore of a certain era. Rocket Music was open between about 1981 and 1994 and was on the corner across from Sup Dogs where Backdoor Skate Shop is now. In an age before social media, the Rocket Music bulletin board was a low-tech hub, a match-making service for musicians seeking like-minded potential bandmates. The store was a hang-out and a place to buy a last minute piece of equipment before a gig at the Attic. It was the place where musician’s friend Bill Hollingsworth (who really was called “Rocket Bill”) worked, selling and servicing instruments.

But the story of what got Hinds there reads like a Bradburyesque tale of fantasy and horror.

His coming of age saga begins inauspiciously enough, in Dickensian fashion: he was born in the Darlington, South Carolina area, where his earliest musical memory centers around his grandmother. She played piano for the choir at her little country church for 50 years.

“My mother told me that before I ever talked, I started singing,” Hinds says. “I was two or something and I was looking out the window and she was outside and I started singing, “Glory, Hallelujah.”  I had heard my grandmother sing “Glory, Glory Halle-loooo-yah.” Hinds croons the words as he relives the memories.

When he thinks about it, he realizes singing has been a thread throughout his life. From music class in elementary school up to choral groups in high school and college.

When Hinds was 10, his parents moved to Kinston, and that’s where he grew up and went to high school, and then to ECU to play tennis. He also sang in ECU’s men’s chorus. 

“We competed in this national competition,” he recalled. “There were like 60 high school and college choral groups there and East Carolina won first place. We had raised money all year to get to Kansas City to sing in this choral competition.”

Then when he was in college, a girlfriend gave him a harmonica: “I started playing harmonica and got pretty proficient, but realized I couldn’t do much singing while playing harmonica. So I bought a guitar and started teaching myself how to play. A couple of guys I was living with were playing guitars so we started playing together. I bought a book with 200 Bob Dylan songs in it. I learned all these Bob Dylan songs and they were real simple–.G, C, D.  I still have all these song books–James Taylor, Jackson Browne. . . .”

While still in college, due to his interest in music, Hinds and some friends went to the Union Grove Old Time Fiddlers’ Convention. They camped to enjoy the immersive experience of the longest continuously run fiddlers’ festival in the country. And it rained, hard, all night: “I woke up the next morning, the tent was full of water, it was pouring down rain. I looked over and saw my friend laying face down, his head sticking out of the tent. I went over there and looked at him and it looked like his face was under water. There was a little puddle there.”

And this is where one begins to get a hint that he’s not just telling a story about how good the bands were that year or to complain about the weather.

“So I started shaking him,” he continues, “and turned him over and there was blood everywhere. He’d had a massive aneurysm. He was 22 years old. His brain burst.”

Hinds’ friend was to get married in a couple of weeks and had just gotten a good job in New York City at Citibank.

“I had to go find his fiancee–she wasn’t in the tent with him–she’d gone and slept in the car since it was raining so hard. I had to go wake her up and say ‘Van is sick.’ I had to run get an ambulance and by the time it got there, he was dead. He was my best friend.”

And that was one plot twist in Hinds’ story. There would be others to come.

“It  just knocked me for a loop,” he says. “I didn’t go back to school. I kept playing on the tennis team, but I didn’t go back to classes. I was doing really well in school, but I got an F in everything because I didn’t complete it. I don’t know what it did to me, but I didn’t want to go back to school. So I kind of hung around here for a year, did some construction work until I said ‘I don’t want to do this.’”

An accomplished tennis player, Hinds decided to move to Miami, a hot spot for professionals in the sport. 

Hinds in his home studio

“I was going to play some tennis tournaments and work my way up,” he says. “That’s where the best players in the country were. I was going to see how good I was compared to them. I played in about 7 or 8 tournaments and I just got killed. Everybody from Argentina and Europe was down there. So I ended up in Miami for 6 years. I went back to school in Hotel Restaurant Management.”

And then, within 10 hours of graduating, another plot twist: “I was riding my motorcycle and got caught in a riot. I was taking a shortcut after playing tennis one day. There were about 3000 people in the street. I saw a little gap in the crowd and I just floored it. They hit me with about 20 bottles. When I got home I was black and blue. The news showed that intersection where I was. Two guys in the car that was behind me were pulled out of their car and beaten. There were like 57 people killed. A week later I moved back to Greenville. I said ‘I’m going back to where I went to school, that’s where I want to be.’ I came here, met my wife, and we got into the music business.”

These days Hinds’ story has settled into more of a fairy tale, where he’s happily married, plays tennis and golf regularly, and was even the 2021 and 2022 senior club champion at Brook Valley. The study in his home is outfitted like a studio with his guitar and recording equipment, and his wife says he plays there daily, for hours. For the last 5 or 6 years he’s been playing for a men’s Bible study at St. James UMC and has started playing occasionally for events, but mostly for himself and family.

“I just enjoy playing music,” Hinds says. And it has been his constant, through the best of times and the worst of times, and that’s the making of a happy ever-after.

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Originally published by the Daily Reflector on September 2, 2023.