Wildcat Tamer: The Life and Music of Dale Hawkins



from     http://oldies.about.com/od/rockabill1/p/dalehawkins.htm

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


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


from Southern Legends Hall Of Fame, http://southernlegends.org/inductees/2005-inductees/dale-hawkins-biography/

Biography: Dale Hawkins and James Burton started playing the nite clubs in Bossier City when they were 15 and 16 years old, they were very mature for their age. In the beginning they rode bicycles to the clubs later they begin to borrow the cars of unsuspecting family members. Much better getting around on motorized transportation than petal power.

The club owners let them in through the back door of the club not wanting to bring attention to the very young musicians. They were of course to young to legally be in nite clubs where liquor was served, however they played real good music sometimes it was jazzed up country, and as likely as not they played straight out foot stomping, belly to the floor, get down, get dirty blues.

The Air Force personal from Barksdale made a point to frequent every club they played. Dale and James were a very good team, both liked blues, they played country when they needed to, they could play almost any type of music anyone might want to hear, their specialty was foot stomping belly dragging down on the floor get down get dirty I got my mo jo working blues. Sometimes they showed up with a three piece band other times it was Dale and James, they only needed themselves to put on a good show. Dale had a friend who owned a record store in Bossier City named Stan Lewis, from time to time Dale came by and did chores for the price of a record. Blues artist B.B. King also dropped in from time to time to see how his records were selling, Dale got to know B.B., the friendship was life long.

From listening to the records Dale got a feeling and understanding of the blues. He also picked cotton with the field hands back in Goldmine, he heard them sing and chant the blues in the fields making the long hard hot days pass a little quicker. They taught Dale the chords on the guitar, how to sing and harmonize, how to put a beat to the music, and most important how to bring the music to life, get yourself inside a song, get ya mo jo working, bring the song and music to life, sing the way you feel, they said we can feel the blues cause we live it. It’s a a feeling that can’t be taught, it’s singing about the long hard road of life and all the pain that’s in it.

Dale asked a lot of questions about the music they sang and took a big interest in the life they lived, they had no place to go, just more years and years of hard living. Dale had learned one thing, if he never learned any thing else about the blues, only those black field hands and other blacks who had done what they did could ever understand the meaning of the blues. Dale Hawkins would get closer to the real meaning of the blues that any other white person who ever recorded a blues song. It was a proven fact Dale Hawkins did learn to understand the songs those field sang and chanted in the cotton fields in and around Goldmine, because it came out in his recordings. From Susie-Q to the last song Dale Hawkins recorded the feeling of blues was there. Dale Hawkins was the absolute best at bringing out feeling in a song he had his mo jo working.

The hard training ground at those rough nite clubs in Bossier City prepared Dale for his long walk in the music business. The two teens were cheated out of money they earned performing in the nite clubs on that rough strip ( as it was called ) in Bossier City. There was little they could do when a dishonest club manager didn’t pay them what was promised to them. Two teens against a mean dirty club manager only meant one thing ( you got cheated boys better luck next time. ) They could only hope it wouldn’t happen as often as it did, that’s show business.

They saw knife fights, people slashed with beer and wine bottles, bloody fist fights, and people left to die after being shot in the back alley behind the club. Dale would be the first to tell you entertainment is no easy way to make a living. As time rolled by they met some honest people, one such person was Bob Sullivan a recording engineer at KWKH in Shreveport. Bob maintained the recording and electronic equipment at KWKH, he also recorded all the artist on The Louisiana Hayride.

Dale had written a song entitled Susie-Q, he sang it in the clubs in Bossier City, and always got a good response from it. He heard Howlin Wolf sing, Smoke Stack Lightin, and liked the beat, it most likely will never be known for sure but it seems to be a safe bet Dale heard Susie-Q from the field hands picking cotton back in Goldmine and took a strong liking to it. He mixed the beat to ” Smoke Stack Lightin ” and out came Susie-Q. He had picked out the riff on his guitar and when he and James got together he to relayed it to James. It’s not known if James came up with his own riff or if James improved the one Dale showed him. What is known is, James Burton is a genius on the six string guitar he has no equal in that area of music. No one alive today can play a guitar better than James Burton. Burton’s guitar style is the best in the business. As a teenager James Burton could play more guitar in one song than most can play in a lifetime.

Studio time was set at KWKH, Bob Sullivan produced and engineered the session, ” See You Soon Baboon ” was recorded first and released on ” Checker ” records out of Chicago. Stan Lewis who owned a record shop in Bossier City knew Leonard Chess in Chicago, Leonard owned Chess records, the master was sent to Leonard Chess who released the song on his subsidiary label ” Checker ” records. ” Susie-Q ” was cut next, b/w Baby Don’t Treat Me This Way “, when Bob Sullivan let the tape roll Jame Burton laid down a riff on the guitar that was to become the most exciting and most famous riff in all of rock n roll, period. The cow bell added flavor to an already perfect rock n roll song. Down through the years many artist have tried to capture the sound Bob Sullivan captured in the studio at KWKH in Shreveport in 1956, it can’t be done. Forget it, it can’t be done. Thousands of songs were recorded after Susie-Q and became a # 1 hit, none of these recording’s has left an impression in the annals of Rock n Roll as Susie-Q. It was a masterpiece in 1956 it is a masterpiece forever.

Dale Hawkins-Born in Louisiana

Born In Louisiana

Dale Hawkins-See You Soon, Baboon

See You Soon, Baboon

Dale Hawkins-Tornado


Dale Hawkins-Wild Wild World

Wild Wild World

Dale Hawkins-Susie-Q


Dale Hawkins-Wildcat Tamer

Wildcat Tamer


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Co-founder of 50thirdand3rd, stepped away to spend time with family and write. From Pittsburgh, now in Florida, Cool Canadian artist wife, 4 great kids, and two granddaughters!! I'm a lucky guy!

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