Thursday, February 18, 2010

Dale Hawkins, "Susie Q" Writer, Dies at 73; David B. Treadway Comments

"Dale Hawkins, 73, a Louisiana rockabilly singer and record producer whose 1957 hit "Susie Q" became a rock-and-roll standard and was a hit for Creedence Clearwater Revival in the late 1960s, died of colon cancer Feb. 13 at a hospital near his home in Little Rock."

(Stan Lewis, of Stan's Record Shop, is mentioned also...and David B. Treadway comments

R.I.P. Dale Hawkins 1936-2010‏

If you know of him at all, it’s probably in connection with his 1957 sort-of-hit “Susie Q.” And you’re probably more familiar with Creedence Clearwater Revival’s 1968 version—the one Clyde Clifford was fond of playing (in its eight-minute psychedelic glory) on Beaker Street.

Dale Hawkins died in Little Rock on Saturday, February 13, after a lengthy bout with colon cancer. He never did get props like the other Hillbilly Cats—Elvis and Cash and Gene Vincent and Jerry Lee—but he left some Rock And Roll jewels behind, along with a connection to KAAY.

Anybody who grew up with that Mighty 1090 has heard “Western Union” by The Five Americans and “Judy In Disguise (With Glasses)” by John Fred And His Playboy Band. Maybe you’re even hip to “Groovin’ Out (On Your Good, Good Lovin’)” by The Uniques. Dale Hawkins produced these records and others by the likes of Bruce Channel and Harry Nilsson.

Though acts like The Five Americans and The Uniques are regarded today as merely “regional,” KAAY played their records faithfully. Maybe the station was just “taking care of the home folks,” but I think it was because they were hits as far as the listeners were concerned. They sure sounded good in that old lo-fi mono, too. They were raw and unpolished with a great energy about them—as if Dale had set the bands up live in the studio and told ‘em to go for it. I suspect that’s what he did.

Back around 1979, Dale spent some time as a sales rep for KLAZ 98.5 (which would have been KAAY-FM had someone not let the construction permit lapse). It knocked me out when the sales manager brought him around to meet the air staff, though I believe I was only one who knew who he was. He was as down-to-earth as you could get and his smile was disarming. It was during an elevator ride one afternoon when he told me that he’d had almost as much fun producing records as he’d had onstage—and had made way more money.

I got to tell him how much those records had meant to me when I was growing up, and we kept up a passing acquaintance over the next twenty years. Dale Hawkins was a regular guy who was famous on the side. He made some valuable contributions to KAAY and I’m glad I got to meet him!

David B. Treadway
Doc Holiday VII

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