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Maurice Hines Sr. dies at 88; father of tap dancers Gregory and Maurice Jr.

The elder Hines played drums in the nightclub act Hines, Hines and Dad with his sons. They gained national prominence when Johnny Carson discovered the act and put them on his show many times.

July 31, 2010|By Valerie J. Nelson, Los Angeles Times

Maurice Hines Sr., a drummer who toured for a decade in the nightclub act Hines, Hines and Dad that helped propel his tap-dancing sons to fame, has died. He was 88.

Hines died Tuesday after a brief illness at a hospice-care facility in his longtime home of Las Vegas, his family said.

His sons, Maurice and Gregory, had performed professionally as the Hines Kids since they were young boys in the 1950s, tap-dancing onstage at the Apollo Theater in Harlem and touring.

By 1963, his sons decided to emphasize singing in addition to dancing and asked their father to join the group. The elder Hines had been a salesman for White Rock soda when he taught himself to play the drums.

Father and sons toured until 1973, performing in nightclubs in New York, Las Vegas and Europe. They also appeared on TV variety and talk shows.

"The highlight for us was when Johnny Carson saw us at the Playboy Club in Chicago and he said, 'I'm going to put you on my show,'" said Maurice Hines Jr., laughing at the recollection because the trio had seven failed "Tonight Show" auditions behind them.

"He was true to his word, and he put us on many times," Maurice Jr. told The Times on Friday. "He made us stars and made us hot in the business."

After Hines, Hines and Dad broke up, the senior Hines attended maitre d' school and ran the gourmet room at the Thunderbird Hotel in Las Vegas.

His younger son, Gregory, became an innovative and influential tap-dancer and actor. He died of cancer at 57 in 2003.

"My father has always been my hero," Gregory said in a 1997 interview while promoting "The Gregory Hines Show," a short-lived sitcom that he said was inspired by his relationship with his father.

"I grew up in the '50s, a tough time for African Americans. I had friends whose fathers would openly say, 'Just bite your tongue, don't cause any problems.' My father was not like that," he said. "Even in the toughest times racially, if somebody disrespected his family, they were in trouble."

Maurice Jr. is a Tony-nominated actor who has choreographed and directed his own original musicals on Broadway.

From his father, the junior Maurice said, he "really learned to be your own man, to have your own principles and to not let people take away your principles, especially in this business."

Maurice Robert Hines was born Feb. 9, 1922, in North Carolina and never knew his father. His mother, Ora Hines, danced at the Cotton Club in Harlem in the 1920s.

When his sons were featured in Francis Ford Coppola's "The Cotton Club," Maurice served as consultant to the 1984 film and brought his mother to the set.

During World War II, the senior Hines joined the merchant marine and met his future wife, Alma, through her brother, who served with him.

After marrying in 1942, Hines settled in Harlem and was a "tough guy" who worked as a bouncer, said his nephew, Richard Nurse.

About 30 years ago, Hines moved to Las Vegas and often golfed. His nephew said he was "a great cook, precise about everything" and a "great dresser" who "always had a hundred pairs of shoes."

Hines' first wife died in 2000.

Besides his son Maurice Jr., he is survived by his second wife, Gloria J. Hines; four grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.

valerie.nelson@latimes.com

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