Grass Valley musician in need of support in treatment of cancer |

Grass Valley musician in need of support in treatment of cancer

Tony Hardwick, at his home in Grass Valley with his dog, Paco. Due to a cancer diagnosis, friends have set up an accout to help with medical expenses.
Cory Fisher/ |


For those wishing to make a donation, a GoFundMe account has been set up at

By most accounts, Tony Hardwick has lived an enviable life. While still a high school student in West Los Angeles, he fell in love with jazz and the trumpet. He loved the versatility of the instrument — each mute seemed to create a very different sound, a different mood. By the time Hardwick graduated from University High, he was already playing gigs and sitting in at jazz clubs.

But one night a friend called him, drunk, from a San Francisco laundromat.

“You’ve got to come up here,” he said. “Life is good. There are jazz joints everywhere, it’s a very creative lifestyle.”

Before long, Hardwick had packed up his things and moved to North Beach. The year was 1959, and Hardwick had landed in the heart of Beat culture. From then on, much his life seemed to be taken from the pages of a Kerouac novel. When he wasn’t playing gigs, he tended bar at the funky No Name Bar in Sausalito, and later the famous Bohemian watering hole known as Specs’ in North Beach. It was there that he would routinely shoot the breeze with the likes of Herb Caen and Charles McCabe, legendary columnists at the San Francisco Chronicle.

Over the years, Hardwick traveled throughout South America, became a painter and sculptor of stained and fused glass, lived on a houseboat in Sausalito, married a Korean dress designer, snuck into Cuba, opened a gallery in Santa Fe and went back to school to earn degrees in English literature and creative writing. He’d spend months at a time in the Mexican colonial town of Miguel de Allende, as well as Mulegé, an oasis Baja town. He wrote poetry and short stories, inspired by the “gonzo journalism” of Hunter S. Thompson.

By 1984, Hardwick had begun looking around for small, rural towns with thriving art communities and hit upon Nevada City. Since then, he has become a regular fixture of Nevada County’s music scene, in addition to bartending, teaching classes and briefly opening a gallery featuring his much-admired glass work.

“No single thing in my life ever generated enough to make a living,” he said. “But when I put it all together, it worked.”

Hardwick is a private person by nature, and that’s why he didn’t tell many people several years ago when he was first diagnosed with mantle cell lymphoma, a rare cancer that is typically difficult to treat. Remarkably, for years a combination of chemo and other therapies appeared to be working and Hardwick felt completely normal.

“Things were looking up — most people die within two years and I’ve had it for almost seven,” said Hardwick. “The treatment appeared to be going well, but last December, it just stopped working. The chemo lost its effectiveness. I thought I was done.”

Recently, Hardwick was accepted into a new and promising clinical trial at City of Hope in Southern California, a leading research and treatment center for cancer and other life-threatening diseases. Just a week ago, he returned home after spending nearly six weeks in treatment, which included extensive monitoring and testing. He’s lost 20 pounds and finds it difficult to muster the energy for once routine tasks.

While the sponsoring drug company is paying for treatment, Hardwick is required to pay out of pocket for lengthy, round-the-clock nursing care while in Southern California, which must happen every four weeks.

“After treatment I was transitioned to a care facility called Hope Village, where I had to pay for 24-hour caregivers,” he said. “But I couldn’t afford to stay there the whole time, so — against their recommendation — I moved to a hotel and stayed there by myself. So far I’ve had to pay about $5,000 out of pocket and I don’t have Medicare part D.”

Friends have set up a GoFundMe account to help Hardwick cover looming costs, which will include monthlong stays in Southern California later this month and again in November. It’s estimated he will need at least $15,000 to cover lodging, travel and a caregiver.

“Tony is a multi-talented, fascinating person,” said friend Jeff Kane. “I suspect a lot of people have heard his music and will want to help out.”

Hardwick, who turned 79 on Saturday, now lives alone in Grass Valley with his beloved 15-year-old dog, Paco. He seems embarrassed by the attention his illness has brought into his life.

“I’m kind of a loner in a crowd — I haven’t really talked about my health, so this is still new to me,” he said. “I’ve never been one to ask for money — I’ve been so touched by the generosity of friends. I’m not afraid of death, but I’m not ready to go. If I were to die right now, it sure would be a damn inconvenience.”

To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at

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