If he's not performing at a mate's hooley, a wedding or hot rod hop, entertaining at a rest home, giving lessons to those with disabilities.
The 50s cool cat rocker who remains in red hot demand
It's not easy securing a slot in Al Dawson's diary.
If he's not performing at a mate's hooley, a wedding or hot rod hop, entertaining at a rest home, giving lessons to those with disabilities or playing at some event or another he's heading to "a gig down country".
He's a regular fixture at Whangamata's Repco Beach Hop, branded as New Zealand's biggest celebration of the 50s and 60s.
Armed with a guitar and a voice that remains attuned to the 50s and 60s, this rocker's still in red hot demand, whether flying solo or with his present Rotorua-based band, The Wildkatz.
The emphasis is on the word present, he's belonged to bands since high school.
In the heady days of Soundshell talent quests his first ensemble, Group X, were runners up at the Rothman's Napier quest of January 1965 with a rocking version of the Glenn Miller In the Mood classic. Ah, the nostalgia for those of us privileged to share the heady years when Rock 'n Roll was born
He's toured the country with a swathe of big name musos, rubbed shoulders with Buddy Holly's Crickets "arranging gear on stage for them" and Elvis' early backing group the Jordanaires.
"I really regret not doing a song with them, absorbing their harmony, I should have done that."
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In 1991 Al won the national Golden Clef award, has been nominated for entertainer and artist of the year, played at Gore's Golden Guitar awards and been guest performer at Coolangatta's Rock 'n Roll festival.
He twin shares his musical passion with hot rods and classic cars
To him they're a double act.
"Fifties movies always had hot rods in them."
He was founding secretary of the Hawke's Bay Rod and Custom club and writes regularly for Hot Rod magazine.
He's quite some cool cat, this Al Dawson. The Al's short for Alfred, is grandfather's name he never uses, music's ingrained in his soul.
"I was about eight when I began gazing into a music shop, all those wonderful instruments fascinated me, I'd think 'there's something about these' but then I didn't know what it was."
He did know that he lusted after a guitar.
"We were poor, there was no way my parents could afford one so I found an old body and made my own, I built the neck, the strings were bits of wire."
Poor they may have been but the Dawson seniors' luxury spend were boxes of 78rpm records bought from auction marts.
"We had this wind-up gramophone, the records were very country orientated, Tex Morton, Hank Williams, Patti Page, then all of a sudden music completely changed, in 1956 Bill Haley's Rock Around The Clock was leading the Lever Hit Parade, next it was Elvis with Heartbreak Hotel."
The teenage Al was in his element, his first LP (long playing) record was Presley's Loving You. He still has it, cradling it to his chest with the tenderness of new born.
"When I first heard those rock 'n' roll numbers I thought 'oh yeah, that's what I want to do in life'."
He taught himself to play guitar. "There was no YouTube, by then I had my own record player and would wind down the speed to pick up the notes."
At high school he had a fellow enthusiast; his name was John Chadwick who was to become a leading Rotorua lawyer and husband of mayor Steve Chadwick.
"John was a couple of years ahead of me, in the lunch break we'd sit in the library or he'd come round home and we learned to play together, we were soon doing songs by the Shadows and the Ventures."
Al's music career blossomed, he played guitar and sang with The Hand, whom he described as "one of Hawke's Bay's hottest bands."
At 21 he moved to Rotorua.
"There was a great music scene here, I wanted to be a professional, I bought my parents a house in Western Heights for $7000, it's hard to credit now.
"I was playing in cabarets, clubs and hotels, Derry Sullivan, the manager of the Geyserland [hotel] gave me a job, I stayed for years."
Residencies at the THC International (now the Holiday Inn) and Caravel (today's Distinction) followed.
He played for the Miss Tourist Diamond shows and regularly backed visiting overseas artists.
In the early 1980s Al moved to Auckland joining Tom Sharplin's band, the Cadillacs, touring and playing at Queen St's King Creoles, "New Zealand's only 50s Rock 'n Roll cabaret".
That's where Al and a young Russell Crowe buddied up.
"He was our DJ, there was the front of this big 50s Mercury coming out of the wall above the stage his turntables were there, he'd scurry up a ladder to spin them during our breaks, sometimes he sang with us. I did hear he came to Rotorua and was a bingo caller but that didn't last long."
After close to a decade away Al was back in Rotorua, drawn by the venues it offered and plans for his own band Al and the Aces, touring nationally and playing at charter clubs, in shows and corporate events.
Highlight of his life's next phase was the Rotorua Museum's wildly popular Elvis In Geyserland, Al featured in magazines and on television promoting it. He wrote and recorded it's companion number, The King in Geyserland, a number Classic Gold radio thrashed.
"I was good friends with [the late] Ruth Plowman who lived here and had the biggest collection of Elvis memorabilia in New Zealand so we were able to get hold of a lot of it for the exhibition, my stuff was in it too, I played for the Elvis impersonators.
"We got Johnny Devlin over from Oz, it was great working with him."
In 2000 Al changed tack forming the Wildkatz, Lorraine Flight's on bass, the drummer's Gavin T Bird.
"His name's Thomas but the T Bird fits our rockabilly image, we do a lot of rock 'n' roll hops, hot rod and classic car festivals."
Over recent years he's taught music at Te Aratu Trust which specialises in teaching life and employment skills to those not as able as others.
Al's classes aren't restricted to the guitar, he plays the piano and banjo, again he's self taught.
"I guess I have a natural feel for music."
Here comes the inevitable drugs and booze probe Our People tends to direct at musos.
"I've never been a smoker or drinker, never got involved in drugs, people have been falling down all around me but after a gig I prefer to come home, have a nice cup of tea and go to bed."
AL (ALFRED) DAWSON
Born: Napier "in the late 40s".
Education: Central School, Hastings Boys' High School.
Family: "I've been too busy to get married, I'm an orphan but have heaps of great friends."
Interests: Music. "Mine's a love-hate relationship with it, it's what I've done all my life, there are times I get a bit sick of it but when I play it's great and it pays the damn bills." Hot Rods, classic cars, "interesting docos on tv", classic movies "I like to keep up with politics, politicians are destroying the New Zealand we love".
On his life: "It's been a wonderful ride."
On Rotorua: "It's been good for me but the CBD's totally stuffed."
All time favourite singer: "Elvis in his early days."
Personal philosophy: "It's good to be alive."