Dale Hawkins RIP

50's rock'n'roll pioneer Dale Hawkins, progenitor of the original and still champeen version of his all-time swamp-rock classic smash hit "Susie-Q" on the Checker label in 1957 (subsequently covered by disciple John Fogerty's Credence Clearwater Revival among others) and who first gave noted electric guitarists James Burton and Roy Buchanan their starts as teenagers in his group, in addition to producing radio hits like "Western Union" by the Five Americans for his own Abnak label during the 60's, has died after battling cancer for the past few years. He'd recently reunited with Burton for their first concert together in over half a century at the 2009 Ponderosa Stomp festival in New Orleans. Dale was also cousin to Canadian rockabilly Ronnie Hawkins, who gave the family name to his backing combo The Hawks, better known in later years as simply The Band after backing Bob Dylan in between.

Although sometimes remembered as a one-hit wonder by those not more familiar with his full body of work, the singer/guitarist/songwriter cut many other successful sides that sold well during his great late-50's run at Checker (including "Baby, Baby", "Tornado", "Little Pig", "La-Do-Dada" and "Class Cutter", among solid covers of black rhythm'n'blues hits like "Liza Jane", "My Babe" and "Ain't That Lovn' You Baby") and one highly collectible album entitled "Oh! Susie-Q". As perhaps the best and most significant white rocker within the legendary Chess stable of leading black bluesmen and rockers of the day, Hawkins combined his country and R'n'B influences with his bayou-infused Louisiana background into a uniquely individual style, insistently rhythmic and spiked with fresh teenage energy, that exceeded the usual boundaries of the rockabilly genre in its pop appeal for record-buyers white and black alike (Dale maintained that the Chess brothers put out his first record, cut as a demo for a radio station in his native Louisiana, mistakenly thinking he was black!). For those who dig the real deal as waxed in the golden age, Dale's vintage efforts for the label (which have usually been available in various reissue collections ever since CCR hit, although often as imports in the US) still reveal some of the most vital and timeless guitar rock'n'roll of the era, holding up alongside his trailblazing labelmates like Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley.