The Hawks (band)
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The Hawks Band

Ronnie Hawkins
Ronnie Hawkins.jpg
Hawkins at the Hamilton Festival of Friends, August 2014
Background information
Ronald Hawkins
Born (1935-01-10) January 10, 1935 (age 84)
Huntsville, Arkansas, U.S.
OriginFayetteville, Arkansas, U.S.
Peterborough, Ontario, Canada
GenresRockabilly, rock, R&B, country, bluegrass
Singer, songwriter
LabelsRoulette, Columbia, Cotillion, Monument, Atlantic, Polydor, Pye, United Artists, Epic
The Band, Full Tilt Boogie Band, Crowbar, Bearfoot, Skylark, Robbie Lane and the Disciples, the Rock 'N' Roll Orchestra, the Revols

Ronald Hawkins, OC, (born January 10, 1935) is an American rock and roll musician whose career has spanned more than half a century. His career began in Arkansas, where he was born and raised. He found success in Ontario, Canada, and has lived there for most of his life. He is considered highly influential in the establishment and evolution of rock music in Canada.[1]

Also known as "Rompin' Ronnie", "Mr. Dynamo", or simply "The Hawk", he was one of the key players in the 1960s rock scene in Toronto. Throughout his career, Hawkins has performed all across North America and recorded more than twenty-five albums. His hit songs included covers of Chuck Berry's "Thirty Days" (entitled "Forty Days" by Hawkins) and Young Jessie's "Mary Lou", a song about a "gold-digging woman".[2] Other well-known recordings are "Who Do You Love?", "Hey Bo Diddley", and "Susie Q", which was written by his cousin, rockabilly artist Dale Hawkins.

Hawkins is also notable for his role as a talent scout and mentor of 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 example were the musicians who left him to form The Band. Other musicians Hawkins had recruited went on to form Robbie Lane and the Disciples,[3]Janis Joplin's Full Tilt Boogie Band,[4]Crowbar, Bearfoot, and Skylark.


Hawkins was born in 1935 in Huntsville, Arkansas, two days after the birth of Elvis Presley. When he was nine years old, his family moved to nearby Fayetteville, Arkansas. After graduating from high school, he studied physical education at the University of Arkansas, where he formed his first band, the Hawks. He toured with them throughout Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri. Hawkins also owned and operated the Rockwood Club in Fayetteville, where some of rock and roll's earliest pioneers came to play including Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison and Conway Twitty.

On advice from Conway Twitty,[4] Hawkins began touring Canada in 1958. His first gig there was at the Golden Rail Tavern in Hamilton, Ontario, where he became an overnight success. Hawkins decided to move to Canada, and in 1964 became a permanent resident, eventually making Peterborough, Ontario, his home.[4]

After the move, the Hawks, with the exception of Hawkins and drummer Levon Helm, dropped out of the band. Their vacancies were filled by Canadians Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson, all hailing from Southwestern Ontario. Helm and the rest of those Hawks would leave Hawkins in 1964 to form an act of their own, which eventually came to be named The Band.

In December 1969, Hawkins hosted John Lennon and Yoko Ono for a stay at his home in Mississauga, Ontario, during the couple's campaign to promote world peace. Lennon signed his erotic "Bag One" lithographs during his stay there. Lennon also did a radio promo for a Hawkins single, "Down in the Alley".

In the early 1970s, Hawkins noticed guitarist Pat Travers performing in Ontario nightclubs and was so impressed with the young musician that he invited him to join his band. Travers later had a very successful recording career and became one of the most influential guitarists of the 1970s hard rock genre.

Bob Dylan was a long-time admirer. In an amphetamine-fueled encounter with Keith Richards in a Mayfair nightclub in May 1966, Dylan started a fight by claiming

You guys may be the best philosophers man, but the Hawks - they're the best band. I could'a written Satisfaction - easy. But there's no fucking way you guys could'a written Mr Tambourine Man. You know that? Think about it.[5]

In 1975, Dylan cast Hawkins to play the role of "Bob Dylan" in the movie, Renaldo and Clara.[6] The following year he was a featured performer at the Band's Thanksgiving Day farewell concert, which was documented in the 1978 film The Last Waltz.[7] His 1984 LP, Making It Again, garnered him a Juno Award as Canada's best Country Male Vocalist. In addition to his music, he has also become an accomplished actor, hosting his own television show Honky Tonk in the early 1980s and appearing in such films as Heaven's Gate with his friend Kris Kristofferson, Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and Snake Eater.

On January 8, 1995, Hawkins celebrated his 60th birthday by throwing a concert at Massey Hall in Toronto, which was documented on the album Let It Rock. The concert featured performances by Hawkins, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Band and Larry Gowan. Jeff Healey sat in on guitar for most, if not all, of the performances. Hawkins's band, the Hawks, or permutations of it, backed most, if not all, of the acts. All of the musicians performing that night were collectively dubbed "the Rock 'n' Roll Orchestra".[]

Ronnie Hawkins's star on Canada's Walk of Fame

In 2002, October 4 was declared "Ronnie Hawkins Day" by the city of Toronto as he was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame, in recognition of his lifetime contribution to music and his generous support of the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario and other charitable organizations. Hawkins was inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame at the Canadian Music Industry Awards on March 4, 2004. His pioneering contribution to the genre has also been recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.

In recent years, Hawkins battled pancreatic cancer. His current state of health, attributed to everything from psychic healers to native herbal medicine,[8] is featured in the film Ronnie Hawkins: Still Alive and Kicking.[9]

In 2005, he was awarded an honorary degree from Laurentian University. On May 2, 2013, Hawkins was made an Honorary Officer of the Order of Canada. He was invested on May 7, 2014. The citation read:

For his contributions to the development of the music industry in Canada, as a rock and roll musician, and for his support of charitable causes. For more than 50 years, musician Ronnie Hawkins has demonstrated a strong devotion to Canada's music industry. Often referred to as the "father of Canadian rock n' roll", he was a key player in the 1960s rock scene, with his band The Hawks serving as a launching pad for a host of Canadian musicians. In addition to producing scores of singles and albums, he has performed in support of many charitable causes, notably the Peterborough Flood Relief and the Schizophrenia Society of Ontario.[10]

Hawkins recently reissued most of his albums on CD through Unidisc Music Inc.[]

The Hawks Lineups

The Hawks / The Levon Helm Sextet / Levon and the Hawks / The Canadian Squires / Bob Dylan & The Band Timeline



Year Album CAN Label
1959 Ronnie Hawkins -- Roulette
1960 Mr. Dynamo --
Folk Ballads of Ronnie Hawkins --
1961 Sings the Songs of Hank Williams --
1963 The Best --
1964 Mojo Man --
1970 The Best --
Ronnie Hawkins 12 Cotillion
1971 The Hawk 91
1972 Rock and Roll Resurrection -- Monument
1974 Giant of Rock'n Roll --
1977 Rockin' -- Pye
1979 The Hawk -- United Artists
1981 A Legend in His Spare Time -- Quality
1982 The Hawk and Rock -- Trilogy
1984 Making It Again -- Epic
1987 Hello Again ... Mary Lou --
1995 Let It Rock -- Quality
2002 Still Cruisin' -- Hawk


Year Single Chart Positions Album
1958 "Summertime" -- -- -- -- singles only
"Hey! Bo Diddley" -- -- -- --
1959 "Forty Days" -- -- -- 45 Ronnie Hawkins
"Mary Lou" -- -- -- 26
1963 "Bo Diddley" -- -- -- 117 singles only
1965 "Bluebirds over the Mountain" 8 -- -- --
"Goin' to the River" 34 -- -- --
1970 "Home from the Forest" -- -- 29 -- Ronnie Hawkins
"Down in the Alley" 20 -- -- 75
"Bitter Green" 36 -- -- 118
1971 "Patricia" 84 2 38 -- The Hawk
1972 "Cora Mae" 71 -- -- -- Rock and Roll Resurrection
1973 "Lonesome Town" -- 8 39 -- Giant of Rock'n Roll
1981 "(Stuck In) Lodi" -- 7 8 -- A Legend in His Spare Time
1983 "Wild Little Willie" -- -- 45 -- The Hawk and Rock
1985 "Making It Again" -- -- 44 -- Making It Again
1987 "Hello Again Mary Lou" -- 17 39 -- Hello Again ... Mary Lou
1995 "Days Gone By" -- -- 51 -- Let It Rock


  • Juno Award for Making it Again, 1984
  • Walt Grealis Special Achievement Award, Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, presented at the Juno Awards of 1996[13]
  • Special Achievement Award, Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers (SOCAN), 2007[13]
  • Officer of the Order of Canada (honorary), 2013[14]


  1. ^ Quotes from Sylvia Tyson and Burton Cummings. Quotes and Tales. Ronnie Hawkins' Official Website. Accessed June 4, 2010.
  2. ^ "The Hamilton Memory Project" (Press release). The Hamilton Spectator- Souvenir Edition. June 10, 2006. p. MP43.
  3. ^ Robbie Lane & the Disciples. Canadian Pop Encyclopedia.
  4. ^ a b c Hawkins, Ronnie (2008). "Ronnie Hawkins Biography". Official Ronnie Hawkins Website. Hawkstone Enterprises Inc. Retrieved 2009.
  5. ^ Fathers and Sons: American Blues and British Rock Music, 1960--1970. ProQuest. 2008. p. 294. ISBN 978-0-549-96604-3.
  6. ^ "Cast of Renaldo and Clara". October 19, 2010. Retrieved 2014.
  7. ^ Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 295. CN 5585.
  8. ^ Hampson, Sarah (May 3, 2003). "Cancer-free, he's rompin' again". Globe and Mail. p. R3. Retrieved 2009.
  9. ^ "Ronnie Hawkins: Still Alive and Kickin'". Real2Real. October 9, 2012. Retrieved 2014.
  10. ^ "Honours Secretariat". Office of the Gove, rnor General. Retrieved 2016.
  11. ^ "Members of The Band". Retrieved 2016.
  12. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2011). Top Pop Singles 1955-2010. Record Research, Inc. p. 393. ISBN 0-89820-188-8.
  13. ^ a b "Ronnie Hawkins Biography". January 10, 1935. Retrieved 2012.
  14. ^ "Appointments to the Order of Canada". June 28, 2013. Retrieved 2013.


External links

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