In Memoriam: Dale Hawkins, 1936-2010

In case you missed the news, Louisiana rockabilly star Dale Hawkins died a week ago Saturday at 73.  Often (and unjustifiably) labelled a “one hit wonder,” Hawkins surely had one massively memorable hit: “Susie Q” from 1957, mostly because the Stones and Creedence covered it with great effect in the 70s (click here for Dale’s TV performance from 1958).  But Hawkins’ repertoire of “swamp rock” tunes (a mix of rock ‘n’ roll, country twang and deep Louisiana blues) were a huge influence on early rockers, and he’s always been counted with Elvis, Buddy, Bill Haley and others among the pioneers of rock ‘n’ roll music.

Dale continued to record through the 60s, despite being cheated out of royalties for “Suzie Q.”  He hosted a TV program and toured regularly in the 70s.  And his work as a record producer is forever pressed in several classic 70s AM pop-rock gems he shepherded, including “Western Union” by the Five Americans, “Judy In Disguise” by John Fred & The Playboy Band, and “Do It Again – A Little Bit Slower” by Jon & Robin.  After a lengthy 80s bout with prescription drugs and seclusion in Little Rock, AR where he founded and ran a rehab facility, Hawkins returned to recording in the late 90s with an album of new material – Wildcat Tamer – that received great reviews and sold modestly.  Another comeback album was recorded after he contracted colon cancer in 2006.

(Incidentally, Dale’s cousin is Ronnie Hawkins, a stellar rockabilly artist in his own right and frontman for the 60s rock ‘n’ roll group The Hawks.  The backing musicians in a mid-60s lineup of the band became known to the world as The Band in 1968.)

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