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
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,
"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
"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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