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Profile: Dale Hawkins

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Profile: Dale Hawkins

Dale Hawkins

aceterrier.com

Claims to fame:

  • Invented the swamp-rock genre with his 1957 smash "Susie Q"
  • One of rockabilly's earliest and largest legends
  • Was the first white artist on the famed Chess blues label
  • The first white artist to play Harlem's famed Apollo Theater, two weeks before Buddy Holly took the stage there

Born:

Delmar Allen Hawkins on August 30, 1938, Goldmine, LA; died February 14, 2010 in Little Rock, AR

Styles:

Rockabilly, Swamp Rock, Rock and Roll

Instruments:

Guitar, vocals

Early years:

Born to a teacher and a local country music musician, Dale Hawkins didn't pick up a guitar until his parents had separated and he'd been sent to live with relatives in Bossier City, LA; there, he heard the blues for the first time while working with black farmhands after school. Eventually he sold enough newspapers on the side to buy a guitar, and after jamming with the workers during their break, he knew his life's calling. Lying about his age, he joined the Navy at 16, and after serving his hitch, returned to Bossier City, where he gigged in nightclubs at night and worked at a Shreveport record store during the day.

Success:

Buying after-hours studio time at Shreveport radio station KWKH, Hawkins cut his first single, a novelty answer song to Bobby Charles' "See You Later, Alligator" entitled "See You Soon, Baboon." It did not burn up the charts. However, his next single, "Susie-Q" (spelled many different ways in various reissues over the years), would prove to be the song that would make his name. The swampy, bluesy, cowbell-laden number would come to define a new genre known as swamp-rock, one that would have a heavy influence on Creedence Clearwater Revival (who had their first hit with a cover of "Susie Q"), among others.

Later years:

Hawkins' Chess followups didn't make the impression on the national charts that "Suzie Q" did, however, they influenced whole generations of rockabilly musicians looking for something darker and funkier than the standard Memphis rockabilly fare. Dale went on to be a producer of some note in the mid-Sixties, but an addiction to Benzedrine cut that career short, and by the late '70s he was living in Little Rock, the site of his detox, recording artists at his studio and opening a rehab of his own for other musicians with addictions. Hawkins, who'd been enjoying a career renaissance, died in 2010 of cancer. He was 73.

Top 10 Dale Hawkins hits:

R&B:
"Suzie-Q" (1957)

Dale Hawkins awards and honors:

  • Rockabilly Hall of Fame (2000)
  • Louisiana Hall of Fame (1999)

Other important Dale Hawkins songs:

"La-Do-Dada," "Back To School Blues," "Cross-Ties," "My Babe," "Lonely Nights," “A House, A Car and A Wedding Ring,” "Yea-Yea (Class Cutter)," "Grandma's House," "I Want To Love You," "Lifeguard Man," "Liza Jane," "Hot Dog," "Someday, One Day," "Lovin' Bug," "Four Letter Word (Rock)," "Wild Wild World," "Heaven," "Little Pig," "Mrs. Merguitory's Daughter," "See You Soon, Baboon," "Don't Treat Me This Way," "Tornado," "Juanita," "Baby, Baby," "Take My Heart," "Every Little Girl," "Lulu," "First Love," "Gooblie Booblie"

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