Ronald Hawkins, OC (January 10, 1935 – May 29, 2022) was an American/Canadian rock and roll musician whose career spanned more than half a century. His career began in Arkansas, where he was born and raised. He found success in Ontario, Canada, and lived there for most of his life. He is considered highly influential in the establishment and evolution of rock music in Canada.
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 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“. Other well-known recordings are a cover of Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love?” (Hawkins’ version was released without the question mark), “Hey Bo Diddley“, and “Susie Q“, which was written by his cousin, rockabilly artist Dale Hawkins.
Hawkins was 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 of this were the musicians who left him to form The Band. Other musicians Hawkins had recruited went on to form Robbie Lane and the Disciples, Janis Joplin‘s Full Tilt Boogie Band, Crowbar, Bearfoot, and Skylark.
Hawkins was born on January 10, 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 Twitty, 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 area, his home in 1970. Hawkins moved from their Stoney Lake Manor in Douro-Dummer after selling in 2017 to live in Peterborough.
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.
In 1975, Dylan cast Hawkins to play the role of “Bob Dylan” in the movie, Renaldo and Clara. 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. 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 10, 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”.
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 was also recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
In later years, Hawkins developed pancreatic cancer. His state of health, attributed to everything from psychic healers to native herbal medicine, was featured in the 2012 film Ronnie Hawkins: Still Alive and Kicking.
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.
Hawkins later reissued most of his albums on CD through Unidisc Music Inc.
Hawkins died on May 29, 2022, at age 87.
The Hawks lineups
|Fall 1957 – Late 1957||Late 1957 – Early 1958||Early 1958 – 1959||1959 – Early 1960|
|Early 1960 – 1960||1960||1960 – Summer 1961||Summer 1961 – Fall 1961|
|Fall 1961||Fall 1961 – December 1961||December 1961 – Late 1963|
The Hawks / The Levon Helm Sextet / Levon and the Hawks / The Canadian Squires / Bob Dylan & The Band Timeline
|Folk Ballads of Ronnie Hawkins||—|
|1961||Sings the Songs of Hank Williams||—|
|1968||Ronnie Hawkins (aka The Hawk in Winter)||—||Yorkville|
|1972||Rock and Roll Resurrection||—||Monument|
|1974||Giant of Rock’n Roll||—|
|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|
| “Live at Fayetteville High School, 1962”
|CAN||CAN AC||CAN Country||AUS||US
|“Hey! Bo Diddley“||—||—||—||—||—|
|1959||“Forty Days“||4||—||—||—||45||Ronnie Hawkins|
|1963||“Bo Diddley“||8||—||—||—||117||singles only|
|1965||“Bluebirds over the Mountain”||8||—||—||—||—|
|“Goin’ to the River”||34||—||—||—||—|
|1970||“Home from the Forest“||60||—||29||—||—||Ronnie Hawkins|
|“Down in the Alley“||20||—||—||30||75|
|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
- Special Achievement Award, Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers (SOCAN), 2007
- Officer of the Order of Canada (honorary), 2013
- ^ “UPI Almanac for Friday, Jan. 10, 2020”. United Press International. January 10, 2020. Archived from the original on January 15, 2020. Retrieved February 1, 2020.
…musician Ronnie Hawkins in 1935 (age 85)
- ^ Quotes from Sylvia Tyson and Burton Cummings. Quotes and Tales. Ronnie Hawkins’s Official Website. Accessed June 4, 2010.
- ^ “The Hamilton Memory Project” (Press release). The Hamilton Spectator- Souvenir Edition. June 10, 2006. p. MP43.
- ^ Robbie Lane & the Disciples. Canadian Pop Encyclopedia. jam.canoe.ca.
- ^ Jump up to:a b c Hawkins, Ronnie (2008). “Ronnie Hawkins Biography”. Official Ronnie Hawkins Website. Hawkstone Enterprises Inc. Retrieved June 2, 2009.
- ^ “Ronnie Hawkins sells Stoney Lake estate to Mississauga family”. The Toronto Star. December 8, 2017.
- ^ “Cast of Renaldo and Clara”. imdb.com. October 19, 2010. Retrieved June 11, 2014.
- ^ Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock ‘N’ Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 295. CN 5585.
- ^ Hampson, Sarah (May 3, 2003). “Cancer-free, he’s rompin’ again”. Globe and Mail. p. R3. Retrieved March 24, 2009.
- ^ “Ronnie Hawkins: Still Alive and Kickin'”. Real2Real. October 9, 2012. Retrieved June 11, 2014.
- ^ “Honours Secretariat”. Office of the Governor General. Retrieved January 21, 2016.
- ^ “Ronnie Hawkins, Who Gave The Band Their Start, Dies”. BestClassicBands.com. May 29, 2022.
- ^ Rockabilly musician Ronnie Hawkins dies at 87
- ^ “Members of The Band”. Theband.hiof.no. Retrieved March 14, 2016.
- ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 135. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
- ^ Whitburn, Joel (2011). Top Pop Singles 1955–2010. Record Research, Inc. p. 393. ISBN 978-0-89820-188-8.
- ^ Jump up to:a b “Ronnie Hawkins Biography”. Ronniehawkins.com. January 10, 1935. Retrieved March 31, 2012.
- ^ “Appointments to the Order of Canada”. June 28, 2013. Retrieved June 29, 2013.
- “Hawkins, Ronnie“. The Canadian Pop Encyclopedia. Canadian Online Explorer. Retrieved 2011-02-11.
- Adapted from the article Ronnie Hawkins, from Wikinfo, licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
|Wikiquote has quotations related to Ronnie Hawkins.|
- Official Home Page
- Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks
- Ronnie Hawkins at IMDb
- (Video) 2005.12.17 Ronnie Hawkins Playing Bo Diddley on Canada Jams at Massey Hall (Toronto, Ontario)
- Ronnie Hawkins Interview on The Hour with George Stroumboulopoulos
- Ronnie Hawkins at AllMusic Ronnie Hawkins
- Ronnie Hawkins at AllMusic Ronnie Hawkins and The Hawks
- Ronnie Hawkins at AllMusic Ronnie Hawkins and The Disciples
- Ronnie Hawkins discography at Discogs
- Entry at thecanadianencyclopedia.ca
- Entry at canadianbands.com
- 1935 births
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- American country singer-songwriters
- American rock singers
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