February 13, 2010 – Delmar Allen “Dale” Hawkins was born on August 22, 1936. He was often called the architect of swamp rock boogie. Fellow rockabilly pioneer Ronnie Hawkins was his cousin.
In 1957, Hawkins was playing at Shreveport, Louisiana clubs, and although his music was influenced by the new rock and roll style of Elvis Presley and the guitar sounds of Scotty Moore, Hawkins blended that with the uniquely heavy blues sound of black Louisiana artists for his recording of his swamp-rock classic, “Susie Q.” Fellow Louisiana guitarist and future Rock and Roll Hall of Famer James Burton provided the signature riff and solo. The song was chosen as one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. Creedence Clearwater Revival’s version of the song on their 1968 debut album helped launch their career and today it is probably the best-known version.
In 1958 Hawkins recorded a single of Willie Dixon’s “My Babe” at the Chess Records studio in Chicago, featuring Telecaster guitarist Roy Buchanan. He went on to a long and successful career, recording more songs for Chess. In 1998, Ace Records issued a compilation album, Dale Hawkins, Rock ‘n’ Roll Tornado, which contained a collection of his early works and previously unreleased material. Other recordings include the cult classic “L.A., Memphis & Tyler, Texas” and a 1999 release, “Wildcat Tamer,” of all-new recordings that garnered Hawkins a 4-star review in Rolling Stone. However, his career was not limited to recording or performing. He hosted a teen dance party, The Dale Hawkins Show, on WCAU-TV in Philadelphia.
He then became a record producer, and found success with The Uniques’ “Not Too Long Ago,” the Five Americans’ “Western Union,” Jon & Robin’s “Do It Again – A Little Bit Slower.” He served as executive vice president of Abnak Records; Vice President, Southwest Division, Bell Records (here he produced Bruce Channel, Ronnie Self, James Bell, the Festivals, the Dolls, and the Gentrys); and A&R director, RCA West Coast Rock Division, working with Michael Nesmith and Harry Nilsson. In the 1990s, he produced “Goin Back to Mississippi” by R. L. Burnside’s slide guitarist, Kenny Brown.
Hawkins’ pioneering contributions have been recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
In 2005, he was diagnosed with colon cancer and began chemotherapy while continuing to perform in the US and abroad. In October 2007, The Louisiana Music Hall of Fame honored him for his contributions to Louisiana music by inducting him into The Louisiana Music Hall Of Fame. At the same time, he released his latest recording, “Back Down to Louisiana,” inspired by a trip to his childhood home. It was recognized by the UK’s music magazine, Mojo, as #10 in the Americana category in their 2007 Best of issue, while “L.A., Memphis & Tyler, Texas” was awarded #8 in the reissue category.
Hawkins died on February 13, 2010, from colon cancer in Little Rock, Arkansas. He was
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