Who hasn’t wanted to be a famous rock star, athlete or influencer? The Hooters drummer David Uosikkinen dreamed and lived that, but he’ll be the first to tell you that it isn’t always it’s cracked up to be, despite the passion he has for touring and playing music decades later.
Now, he is the feature subject of Main Line Television’s latest documentary, Heart of the Beat, in which director Jill Frechie explores his troubled past, the psychological instinct that drives musicians to perform, and what keeps these men and women touring into their elder years.
Born in Levittown to Finnish immigrants, who at the time didn’t speak any English, Uosikkinen was baptized into American rock and roll culture. Before transitioning to drums, Uosikkinen trained on the trumpet, but that wasn’t what was going to get him into a rock band. Like any kid experiencing the fervor The Beatles brought to America in the ‘60s, that was all he wanted.
By 1980, the band that would eventually become The Hooters formed. With Eric Bazilian on vocals and guitar, Rob Hyman on vocals and keyboard and Uosikkinen on drums, the nucleus had come together.
Playing gigs in and around the Philadelphia area throughout the early ‘80s, The Hooters developed a cult following on the Main Line born out of their management company Cornerstone, whose offices were then above 23 East Cabaret, which would eventually become known as Ardmore Music Hall.
Their main stream success, however, derived from the 1985 album Nervous Night, which went platinum around the world and brought The Hooters from local legends to national superstars. For almost a decade, the band experienced massive success, especially in Europe, while ceaseless touring began taking a toll.
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By 1995, The Hooters went on indefinite hiatus and, for many fans, that was all they would hear about the inside story. Naturally, there was far more that went on behind the scenes that never reached the public’s eye, until now.
Approached by Frechie while working on her latest documentary Kensington in Crisis, Uosikkinen agreed to help work on the soundtrack. Given the subject of the film is addiction, it was natural that Uosikkinen’s past would come to light.
After Frechie received a disc from Uosikkinen titled Songs From a Rehab, she knew Uosikkinen had a powerful story, but she didn’t think he would have any interest in telling it.
“I expected him to say absolutely not, but he said ‘Yea, absolutely,’” Frenchie recalls.
Frechie and Uosikkinen spent time driving around Kensington, where the former rock superstar could explain in context what his life was like during his addiction.
“I wasn’t ready for what came along with [touring]. I wasn’t equipped to deal with success, either. When I was young, I got into the sex, drugs and rock and roll thing,” Uosikkinen says. “The band literally had an intervention with me. We were playing gigs and they stopped doing the gigs for me to go away for three months. The people around me were like, ‘We’re gonna save Dave,’ and they did.”
Thanks to the efforts of his bandmates, Uosikkinen was never without a support system. That’s one of the many reasons why he agreed to feature in Frechie’s film.
“I say as long as it’s going to help one person, knowing that you can get into a horrible situation and get out, I’m down for it,” he explains.
Since then, The Hooters have come back for multiple reunions, including tours of Europe and the United States. They even released a new album in May 2023, and Uosikkinen is relishing all of it.
Now 67 years old, he still played a drum solo every night of the The Hooters 2023 tour. For those who have never played drums, it’s a full body workout, and Uosikkinen still looks to create ‘fireworks’ every night.
“We put them on a pedestal,” Frechie says about musicians. “But we don’t actually think about them as people, they’re just performers. We go, we want to have a good time, we pay our money, but I just wanted to take time and say, ‘What makes these guys tick and why are they still performing in their 60s, 70s, 80s?’”
Very few musicians still playing at that age don’t have to tour anymore to live comfortably since they’ve already made it, but Uosikkinen and The Hooters and so many others still do.
It might be easier to understand why singers and guitarists are still out there, addicted to the limelight, even at their advanced age, but at age 67 Uosikkinen is still sitting there on his drum stool behind everybody else, burning his drum solo and backing up the band. Maybe it’s just to be a part of something greater than himself, or maybe it’s to pay back his bandmates who had his back when he needed them most. At the end of the day, and 43 years after The Hooters began, Uosikkinen is still in love with music.
You can catch Frechie’s documentary Heart of the Beat at FirstGlance Philadelphia Film Festival at the PFS Bourse Theater on Thursday October 5 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets and more information can be found here. David Uosikkinen’s In The Pocket will also be performing at the Ardmore Music Hall this Saturday Sept. 30. Tickets can be found here.
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