Ronnie Hawkins dead: Southern rockabilly singer and mentor turned 87

Ronnie Hawkins, the Southern rockabilly singer who helped create and found the band and other Canadian rock artists, died Sunday after a long illness. He was 87.

Hawkins’ death was confirmed to CBC by his wife Wanda: “He passed peacefully and he looked as good as ever.”

The musician, adored by his peers and followers as “The Hawk,” built his reputation with his chart-topping single “Mary Lou,” which peaked at #26 on the US charts. The Hawk was famed for his stage presence, which was characterized by his robust vocals and humorous exchanges, including his signature “camel walk” dance.

A native of Arkansas, he began touring in Ontario in 1958. When he appeared in a CBC Telescope documentary, he was popular with Canadian artists and viewers.

“You know, I don’t know anything about Canadian politics, the price of wheat, or Niagara Falls,” he said in the documentary. “But one thing I do know for sure: I’ll dig it up here.”

As a young man, Hawkins enlisted in the National Guard and Army, but music was always his main interest when he began playing in local bars in 1953. In 1959, Hawkins signed with Roulette Records and directed Forty Days, Mary Lou, and an appearance on American Bandstand.

One of the early pioneers and legends of this instinctive combination of country soul and blues known as rockabilly, Hawkins’ catalog encompasses a unique blend of rustic sounds, having worked with many bands over the years. However, it was The Band’s specific five that would help establish the Hawk’s reputation in music history.

Hawkins has shot and worked with several greats, from Duane Allman to Bob Dylan – whom he portrayed in Dylan’s widely acclaimed film Renaldo and Clara. As is well known, John Lennon and Yoko Ono were guests of his farm during an extended stay in Toronto in 1969.

His mentorship of Garth Hudson, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel, Levon Helm and Robbie Robertson eventually led the band to support Bob Dylan on his 1966 world tour. The five all met while playing with Hawkins, who is known to have hired them one by one to perform alongside him as “The Hawks” in rural North America until they broke up.

The band made their mark as a critically acclaimed group with albums and hits like The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, Up on Cripple Creek and The Weight.

“We should thank Ronnie Hawkins for being so instrumental in getting us together and teaching us the ‘code of the road,’ so to speak,” Robertson said when the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994 has been recorded.

An Honorary Canadian, Hawkins won a Juno Award for Male Country Singer of the Year in 1982 and received lifetime achievement awards from both the Junos in 1996 and the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) in 2007. In In 2014, he accepted an honorary appointment as an Officer of the Order of Canada.

https://variety.com/2022/music/news/ronnie-hawkins-dead-the-band-rockabilly-1235280834/ Ronnie Hawkins dead: Southern rockabilly singer and mentor turned 87

Charles Jones

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