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Who Dale Hawkins
When February 13, 2010
Where Little Rock, AR
What Rockabilly icon Dale Hawkins dead of cancer; Wrote 'Oh! Suzie Q'
 

Every time you listen to a hit by the Carpenters, the magic bass solo in the Fifth Dimension's "Let the Sunshine In" or Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" album, think of rockabilly artist Dale Hawkins.

It was Hawkins, whose biggest hit was "Oh! Suzy-Q," who convinced Louisiana bassist Joe Osborn to leave a dead-end sales job and go into music full time. That put Osborn and his signature bass sound into those albums, and hundreds of others over the last 50 years.

"In 1956, I was working at Sears in the hardware department and Dale came in," Osborn said of his friend, a Louisiana-born singer who died Saturday in Little Rock, Ark., at age 73 after battling colon cancer the last few years. "'Suzy-Q' was already out and a hit, and he wanted me to play with his brother Jerry and his band at the Skyway Club. That's how me and Dale started. If he hadn't come in that day, I'd still be at Sears, selling hardware."

Delmar Allen "Dale" Hawkins, originally from Goldmine, in Richland Parish, recorded his first hit in the KWKH Radio studios in downtown Shreveport in 1956 with then-15-year-old guitarist James Burton, who later went on to perform and record with Elvis Presley, Ricky Nelson, John Denver and Jerry Lee Lewis, among others.

"Dale and I played at the Ponderosa Stomp and the House of Blues at Jazzfest in New Orleans last year," Burton recalled Monday en route to performances in Europe. "He was in great shape then. He was singing great and jumping all over the stage. He was in rare form."

He recalled the guitar lick that became the hook for "Oh! Suzy-Q."

"I wrote that little guitar lick when I was 14," Burton recalled. "It got to be so popular in the club that Dale decided to write some lyrics to it and that became 'Suzy-Q.' It became a good record for him and (me) both.

Tyler, Texas, engineer Robin Hood Brians talked with Hawkins two weeks ago, and said the singer "was at peace with his creator and ready to make the journey."

Brians mused about his first encounter with Hawkins in the mid-1960s, after Hawkins wrote a check to cover the Uniques' recording of "Not Too Long Ago," and it bounced.

"Sure enough, about a week later he came over with a check that cleared," recalled Brians, who produced the first ZZ Top records. "Then he took me to lunch and shared with me the news he had sold the master to Stan Lewis and they were going to be on Paula records.

"There will never be another Dale Hawkins."

According to an obituary, he was the third entertainer to appear on Dick Clark's American Bandstand and was the first white artist to perform at the "Apollo Theatre" in Harlem and the "Regal" in Chicago.

After appearing on the CBS television show "Big Beat" in the late 1950s, he was asked to guest host the show. The guest slot became a permanent job and "Big Beat" became the "Dale Hawkins Show."

Hawkins later worked as a producer, crafting hits such as "Not Too Long Ago" for Joe Stampley and the Uniques, "Western Union" by the Five Americans and "Do It Again A Little Bit Slower" by Jon and Robin.

Hawkins, a Navy veteran of the Korean War, is in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.

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Contact John Andrew Prime
Shreveport Times


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