Christmas oldies to rock the American Legion

Jacob Fuller
Hank Boenning has played with the likes of The Comets, who rose to fame with "Rock Around the Clock" in the 1950s. This Sunday, he'll be playing a Christmas concert at the American Legion.

The American Legion will be rocking this Sunday with Christmas songs by singer and guitarist Hank Boenning in the styles of legends like Elvis, Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly.

Boenning is back on the music scene after a long hiatus. After Bill Haley’s death in 1981, Boenning started a band with former members of Bill Haley & The Comets, who had nine Top 20 singles from 1954 to 1956, including the No. 1 hit "Rock Around the Clock."

His music career came to screeching halt, though, when he became the single father of twin girls in the mid-1980s.

“The music thing just didn’t seem to work out for parent-teacher meetings, sports and all that,” Boenning told The Log.

With his daughters now grown, Boenning picked up his guitar again earlier this year for the first time in 12 years. It didn’t take long for him to get his chops back.

"I'm better now than I was back then," Boenning said.

 Soon, he began playing music to entertain the crowds at the Main Street Market. That’s where he first caught the attention of members of the Destin post of the American Legion.  

“The Legion hired me to do some parties, and then a private birthday party for the oldest member of the Legion,” Boenning said.

The Main Street Market has provided Boenning with a regular gig. He also makes a return to his younger days by providing music therapy for patients at The Destin Health Center.  

“When I graduated from college, I worked with autistic kids. I was a music therapist,” Boenning said.

At the Health Center, he works with patients suffering from dementia by getting them to sing classic songs with him.

This Sunday, he'll try to get people singing along, too, when he plays Christmas classics at the Legion.

"He's a one man band," Legion post adjutant Travis Hinton told The Log. "He can play a variety of everything. He's very good."

The Christmas concert will begin at 1 p.m. in the banquet room of the Destin American Legion on Main Street. The concert is free to the public.