Saturday, July 2, 2011

Famous File: Delmar "Dale" Hawkins, JR.

Located at Riverside Cemetery in St. Paul, AR.
Singer, Songwriter, Entertainer

Delmar A. Hawkins, JR.
Aug 22, 1936 - Feb 13, 2010

Obituary from the Washington Post.

Rockabilly singer Dale Hawkins, 'Susie Q' writer, dies at 73

By Terence McArdle
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 18, 2010

Dale Hawkins, 73, a Louisiana rockabilly singer and record producer whose 1957 hit "Susie Q" became a rock-and-roll standard and was a hit for Creedence Clearwater Revival in the late 1960s, died of colon cancer Feb. 13 at a hospital near his home in Little Rock.

During his brief time in the limelight, Mr. Hawkins employed influential guitarists James Burton and Roy Buchanan. Mr. Hawkins's version of "Susie Q" was more raw, Southern blues than pop. He sang loudly and lustfully over Burton's distorted blues riff and an insistent cowbell.

Rolling Stone called "Susie Q" "the first rock 'n' roll record where the guitar counts for more than the song itself. Burton's lurching, fingerpicked gutbucket blues riff gives way to dirty-toned, scorched-earth solos after every verse."

Delmar Hawkins Jr. was born Aug. 22, 1936, on a plantation in Goldmine, La. After his parents separated, he and his siblings were raised by his grandparents.

Mr. Hawkins picked cotton and worked a paper route, then lied about his age to join the Navy at 16. In 1956, when his hitch was up, he started a band in Bossier City, La., with Burton. Stan Lewis, who owned a record shop in Shreveport, brought the band to the attention of Chess Records, a rhythm-and-blues label in Chicago. For Chess, Mr. Hawkins recorded the song "See You Soon, Baboon," modeled on the Bobby Charles hit "See Ya Later, Alligator."

The record failed to sell, and label owner Leonard Chess had reservations about releasing Mr. Hawkins's second record, "Susie Q." But a local disc jockey took a demo of the song to Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler. Wexler expressed interest in it, forcing Chess's hand.

Mr. Hawkins had to assign part of the song's writing credits to Lewis and E. Broadwater, a pseudonym for Nashville DJ Gene Nobles. The move ensured airplay but caused him to miss out on royalty payments.

Chess promoted the record slowly, one region at a time. The band took to the road, sometimes driving 800 miles between shows, with hasty recording sessions along the way. Mr. Hawkins often played in black theaters where he was the only white artist on the bill.

His other hits for Chess included "La-Do-Dada" (1958) and two other teen-oriented songs, "A House, a Car and a Wedding Ring" (1958) and "Class Cutter (Yeah, Yeah)" (1959). Later records for Chess and other labels were less successful.

Returning to Shreveport in the late 1960s, Mr. Hawkins turned to producing, crafting hits for Joe Stampley and the Uniques in addition to the Five Americans, along with the novelty song "Judy in Disguise" (1968) for John Fred. In the 1970s, Mr. Hawkins joined RCA Records in Los Angeles, working with singer-songwriters Michael Nesmith and Harry Nilsson.

After completing a drug rehabilitation program in the 1980s, Mr. Hawkins opened a crisis intervention program in Louisiana.

With belated royalty payments from CD reissues, he opened a recording studio in 1995 and reemerged with a series of self-produced albums, performing at rockabilly festivals in the United States and Europe.

Mr. Hawkins was a first cousin of Ronnie Hawkins, a rock-and-roll performer whose band included future members of The Band.


Obituary from the New York Times.

Dale Hawkins Dies at 73; Rockabilly Author of ‘Susie Q’

Published: February 18, 2010

Dale Hawkins, a songwriter and singer whose rockabilly repertory included the 1957 hit “Susie Q,“ a bandstand classic for generations of rockers, died on Saturday in Little Rock, Ark. He was 73.

The cause was colon cancer, his Web site said.

Mr. Hawkins drew deeply from the heavy blues sounds of South Louisiana to create a classic of what is sometimes called swamp rock. Just as important were the explosive riff supplied by James Burton, one of rock’s first superstar guitarists, and the gong of a cowbell at the song’s beginning. “Susie Q” (the title was also sometimes rendered as “Susie-Q,” “Suzy-Q” and other variations; neither Mr. Hawkins nor his record company was consistent) reached No. 27 on the Billboard chart.

But the song’s influence can be measured in the many bands that have made it a rock anthem, as well as the many that have recorded it, including the Rolling Stones and Creedence Clearwater Revival, whose 1968 version reached the Top 20.The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame chose it as one of the 500 songs that “shaped rock and roll.”

Mr. Hawkins has said that he and Mr. Burton came up with “Susie Q” as they improvised around Mr. Burton’s guitar flourish. “I wrote it, but never actually wrote it — it just kind of worked itself out,” he said in an interview with the music magazine Kicks.

When the song was first published, according to Colin Escott’s book “Tattooed on Their Tongues: A Journey Through the Backrooms of American Music” (Schirmer, 1996), it was credited to Mr. Hawkins; Eleanor Broadwater, the wife of a disc jockey; and Stanley J. Lewis, the owner of a local record shop and later a record producer and distributor.

In a 2000 interview with the weekly newspaper Denver Westword, Mr. Hawkins said the names of Ms. Broadwater and Mr. Lewis had been added unknown to him and for reasons he never understood. But that addition, he said, meant that he got only a third of the songwriting royalties. Indeed, he claimed that until MCA bought the Chess Records catalog in 1985, he received nothing for “Susie Q.”

The song’s title seems to have come from a dance craze of the mid-1930s. A song called “Doin’ the Susi-Q” was included in the Cotton Club Revue of 1936. According to Mr. Escott, some sources say that Mr. Hawkins claimed to have seen Howlin’ Wolf, the blues singer, down on his knees screaming “Suzie something or other.”

Delmar Allen Hawkins was born on Aug. 22, 1936, on his grandfather’s cotton farm in Gold Mine, La., where he grew up. His father and other family members were musicians who toured Arkansas and Oklahoma in the 1930s and ’40s. His cousin Ronnie Hawkins was also a rockabilly recording artist.

At 16, Dale lied about his age to join the Navy and served in the Korean War. He formed a band shortly after that.

Mr. Hawkins recorded “Susie Q” for Checker, a subsidiary of the celebrated Chicago blues and R&B label Chess Records. He was one of the first white artists the company signed. He was also one of the first white artists to appear at the Apollo in New York and the Regal in Chicago.

In the mid-1960s Mr. Hawkins became a record producer, working with the Uniques, Bruce Channel and the Five Americans, whose “Western Union” made the Top 10 in 1967. In 1969 he returned to singing with the album “L.A., Memphis & Tyler, Texas.”

In the 1980s, after recovering from an addiction to prescription drugs, he opened a crisis center for teenagers in Little Rock.

Mr. Hawkins is survived by his companion, Flo Murdock; his sons, Jeffrey and Jay Paul; his brother, Jerry; his sister, Linda Snider; and three grandchildren.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: February 26, 2010

An obituary on Feb. 18 about the singer and songwriter Dale Hawkins referred incorrectly to Kicks, the publication for which he discussed the creation of his song “Susie Q.” It was a magazine, not a newsletter.

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