Ronnie Hawkins / Rock and Roll

Ronnie Hawkins

Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks, 1960.
From left: Stan Szelest, Rebel Payne, Hawkins, Robbie Roberston, and Levon Helm. Band mascot Freddie McNulty in front.
Photo from Levon's book This Wheel's on Fire.

Ronald Cornett Hawkins OC (January 10, 1935 – May 29, 2022) was an American rock and roll singer, long based in Canada, whose career spanned more than half a century. His career began in Arkansas, United States, where he was born and raised. He found success in Ontario, Canada, and lived there for most of his life. Hawkins was an institution of the Ontario music scene for over 40 years. He was highly influential in the establishment and evolution of rock music in Canada.

Also known as "Rompin' Ronnie", "Mr. Dynamo" or "The Hawk", he was one of the key players in the 1960s rock scene in Toronto. He performed all across North America and recorded more than 25 albums. His hit songs include covers of Chuck Berry's "Thirty Days" (retitled "Forty Days") and Young Jessie's "Mary Lou", a song about a gold digger.
Other well-known recordings are a cover of Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love?" (without the question mark), "Hey! Bo Diddley", and "Susie Q", which was written by his cousin, rockabilly artist Dale Hawkins.

Hawkins was a talent scout and mentor of the musicians he recruited for his band, The Hawks. Roy Buchanan was an early Hawks guitarist on the song "Who Do You Love". The most successful of his students were those who left to form The Band. Robbie Lane and the Disciples made their name opening for Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks at the Yonge Street bars in Toronto, and eventually became his backing band.
Others he had recruited later formed Janis Joplin's Full Tilt Boogie Band, Crowbar, Bearfoot, and Skylark.
Hawkins was still playing 150 engagements a year in his 60s.

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