He wasn't the local jokester. He wasn't even the class clown. But instead, Dick Hardwick was one of the really COOL guys- a hip kid and an "A" student of the arts-who began playing drums for pay with college bands by the time he was 11 years old. It seems his father frequently served as a hometown public speaker... and he also had the only danceband in town... so every Fri-Sat night Pop Hardwick turned into a local "star!" "I was only three years old when I'd sit at the edge of my daddy's bandstand," Dick Hardwick recalls, "and I would just be fascinated with the sparkle on their drums. That's what really initiated my interest in playing drums at such an early age."
The oldest of five children, he grew up in the tiny town of Greencastle, Indiana... close to the campus of DePauw University... and as a youngster he always imagined wanting to be just like his college buddies, who didn't seem to have a care in the world. But that didn't exactly happen. He spent time working at a grocery store and delivering the local newspaper.
After turning 18 "legal" years old, young Hardwick soon embarked upon a long-awaited journey to New Orleans to have his first look at Mardi Gras! He had taken three of his hometown friends along on the trip and they all discovered a sound called Dixieland-- something that was brand-new to their ears. It was on this trip that they heard the legendary Pete Fountain for the very first time.
This sound was absolutely intoxicating to Hardwick. It was entertaining! It was so different from what he had been playing! And it gave him a deep desire for wanting to "beat his drums"... so to speak... performing this exciting, new, sassy, sound. So they returned to Indiana and promptly landed a job at the local Legion's Club.
This marked the true birth of Hardwick's career as a comedian, although he was totally unaware of any milestone at the time-- because to him it was just "horsing around" in-between songs! A quick study in many musical instruments gave Hardwick an obvious edge, but he also had something else, maybe even more important. He ENJOYED it. He LOVED it. And to this day, Dick Hardwick can cut straight through to the heart of any crowd... anywhere... because it still makes him happy to see folks having a good time.
Following their Legion "gig" the team known as HARDWICK & HOPKINS returned to New Orleans. It was on this trip they were introduced to another type of music known as ragtime which they immediately added to their repertoire of sounds. Then they played pubs. And they played pizza parlors. The next thing Hardwick knew, he was rolling down the river on the Delta Queen compiling his own "bag of shtick". Following that he spent a short time studying at the Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati, Ohio, but after 9 months he returned to the Delta Queen.
He moved over to the Robert E. Lee in St. Louis and formed a ragtime trio. He performed shows everywhere from Lake Tahoe to Las Vegas, from the Carolinas to California; and he landed a job playing drums with Jerry Van Dyke. But it wasn't until Disneyland hired him that his future as a comedian started to take shape. It was a 10-year "boot camp" of sorts for the fledgling funnyman. He learned how to work an audience... to bond with them... and he worked show after show. In fact, Hardwick worked 8 of the 10 years as a comedic star at Disney's Golden Horseshoe Revue-- eventually finding himself in the Guinness Book of World Records under the "longest run" for a live theatrical presentation. When the Revue finally ended it had been seen by more than 16-million people.
Backstage after Dick's debut on the Grand Ole Opry L-R Pete Fisher, Grand Ole Opry, Dick, Opry Legend, Little Jimmy Dickens, Steve Tolman, Mgr. and Barry Jeffrey, Wm Morris Agency
In turn, the Revue also helped pave the way to his tremendous popularity in today's Corporate America. "Disney always attracted a lot of corporate people," Hardwick explains. "After they watched my act, and saw firsthand that I didn't use any 'blue' humor, I would get instant offers to entertain at their company's functions." They still book him. They still come back for more. And the reason is still the same. "Because I can do my entire routine without using one 4-letter word," Hardwick insists. It's a huge part of why this zany comedian is in constant demand for conventions and meetings.
Hardwick, who makes his home in Hollywood, has taken his humor to such impressive venues as The Las Vegas Hilton, Silver Legacy and Caesars Palace to name a few. And over the years, he has worked hundreds of dates for many national names such as AT&T Wireless, State Farm and McDonalds and more. He has entertained TV audiences on several well-known shows and he has walked away as a Comedy Champion on Ed McMahon's "Star Search".
Dick Hardwick has played as a musician on John Prine's Grammy winning album "The Missing Years". He appeared as an actor in Jackie Gleason's final film "Nothing In Common", co-starring Tom Hanks. He's done radio and television commercials. And he's been featured with major acts like Johnny Mathis, Gladys Knight, Ray Charles and so many more.
Back in the beginning, it was Hardwick's dad who first taught him to play those "sparkling" drums, but since that time he has expanded his musical expertise to also include string bass, guitar, harmonica, jaw harp, bones, washboards, and calliope. However, the instrument he has truly mastered is the LAUGHING MACHINE.