Marching to the beat of his drum

Ed Thomson

Ed Thomson

By Ryan Hall

Autographed drumheads line the entrance. Drum kits and cymbals fill the front window. Posters, banners and music memorabilia cover the inside walls. The showroom is filled with drum sets, cymbals, hundreds of drumsticks and a large array of accessories. Presiding over this percussion collection at the Skins ‘n’ Tins Drum Shop, is owner Terry Hawkins.

Terry and his wife, Liz, have been part of the local music scene for more than 15 years at the corner of Walnut and Main streets in Champaign. Local musicians and touring bands have frequented the store for years. They offer a wide variety of new and used drum equipment as well as repairs, lessons, videos, books and a vast knowledge of the industry. Because Liz manages the store, it is simply a playground for Terry.

A construction worker by day, a shop owner in his spare time and a devoted husband and father around the clock, Terry Hawkins does it all. In fact, he even finds time to drum in a band of his own, the Delta Kings.

Born in Champaign in 1953, when rock and roll was emerging, Hawkins developed a passion for music.

“I started buying records when I was in grade school,” Hawkins recalled.

Inspired by drummers such as Keith Moon and Ringo Starr, the drums seemed obvious.

“A bunch of guys in the neighborhood were playing guitar, so that’s really how I came about with the drums,” he said.

Hawkins got his first drum set in the eighth grade. Forming bands in his neighborhood, he was soon playing talent shows and parties. His group’s biggest concert came at The Open Arms Inn of Champaign in the 1970s, where they opened for REO Speedwagon, then an up-and-coming bar band.

After high school, Hawkins started working construction while playing in bands on the side.

In the summer of 1976, he met Liz, who had recently graduated from high school. Five years later, they married and moved to Atlanta, where Liz worked while Terry played in bands. While playing, Hawkins inspired Steve Gorman, who went on to play for the Black Crows, to pick up the sticks.

The stress of raising two children and working full time proved to be too much for Liz, however, so they moved back to Champaign in 1987 for family support.

While scouring around town for drum supplies, Hawkins noticed there was a void.

“I couldn’t find the drum stuff I wanted, so I thought I’d open my own store,” he said.

In August of 1989, he realized his dream. After finding an ideal locale in downtown Champaign and attending several tradeshows, the doors opened. The name of the store came from Ron Sullivan, with whom Hawkins had played.

“He played acoustic guitar, and I had two drums and a cymbal, and he would always introduce me as ‘Two Skins and a Tin’,” Hawkins said. “I liked it.”

While Hawkins worked to support the family, Liz took over the store, although she had some reservations.

“I thought he was totally nuts,” she said.

But Liz stood by her husband, and it proved to be a wonderful learning experience.

“I’ve always supported him, because I knew since I met him that that’s what he was going to do,” she said. “There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t learn something.”

“The store is killer,” said Jess Greenlee, an employee of four years. “(Terry) is a great guy to work for and is real easy going. I love working here.”

Maintaining the store proved to be a challenge. In 1998, a woman crashed her car through the front door, down the entryway and into the store. The disaster forced the shop to close for more than a month.

“People still ask if the drive-thru is still open,” Hawkins joked.

Hawkins still plays in his band, the Delta Kings. Since 1993, the group has released five albums. They were voted Best Local Band by The Paper in 2003.

There are no future prospects for another store, but Hawkins is looking forward to retirement from construction, when he can spend all of his time at the current location. It is unlikely that he will give anything up.

“I want to keep it all going as long as I can,” he said. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun, too.”