Dale Hawkins Interview

Dale Hawkins is a rock 'n' roll original. His claim to fame is a song he wrote in the 50's called "Suzie Q." In 1957, that song, as sung by Hawkins went to Number 27 on the charts. John Fogerty and Creedence Clearwater Revival enjoyed a Number 11 hit with "Suzie Q" in 1968.

Over the years, Hawkins recorded for labels such as Chess, Tilt, Zonk, Atlantic, Roulette, and ABC-Paramount. In the mid-60's, Dale Hawkins served as a producer on such hits as "Western Union," "Do It Again A Little Bit Slower," for the "Five Americans," and "Hey Baby" by Bruce Channel.

What's Dale Hawkins been doing with himself all these years? That's what we wanted to know.

Q. Dale, what keeps you busy these days?
A. Most of my time is spent as Director of the Arkansas Crisis/Suicide Intervention Center. One of our fundraising projects for the teen suicide hotline is a state talent search. Talent contests take place around the state, and then the local winners come in for the state finals. I take the state winner into the recording studio and produce them, on a couple of tunes. The contest is now 5 years old and so far we have had some terrific winners and contestants.

I'm occasionally a guest star at festivals featuring music in the U.S. and Europe and even occasionally do club dates. I'm also writing and producing a new album on myself that has received attention by major record companies. The major problem in getting it finished is having the time to be by myself to write the rest of the tunes. I keep thinking I'll take a portable word processor, along with my guitar, up to the Ozark Mountains and get away from all the distractions that demand all my time. Speaking of records, M.C.A. is putting my old stuff out on CD this year. I also spend time answering the fan mail I get from around the world. Some of the letters I get really touch my heart, to know people think so much of my music.

Q. As you travel across the country, I imagine you must constantly think about how audiences have changed and how the music itself has changed. Give me your thoughts on these two subjects.
A. The thing about audiences that has changed so much, that I've noticed, is the music they call country, now, is what we used to call rock 'n' roll. As far as the music goes, the biggest changes have been in the technology.

Q. You recorded for so many different labels. What were you looking for, that you couldn't find?
A. The Tilt and Zonk labels were started by a friend of mine and on the way back from New York, we stopped off in Louisville and did the sides. The Roulette album was a 'live' LP of me, cut at one of their clubs in Miami. I was a producer for Atlantic. I was producing for Abnack and we needed a distributor and at the time ABC-Paramount wouldn't sign on any new labels unless I recorded for them.

Q. "Suzie Q" was your ticket to fame, but how about fortune? Did any publisher rip you off? Do you still own the song?
A. It was a rip-off of course by the time they got through. I still get BMI rights.

Q. Since so many versions of that song have been recorded, do you have a personal favorite?
A. Mine. Chet Atkins. Lonnie Mack has a good version.

Q. What about James Burton's claim that he co-authored "Suzie Q," any truth whatsoever?
A. He should have gotten the credit instead of the people they gave credit to.

Q. If you had everything to do over again, what would be the one thing you'd change?
A. Change, funny, how do you? You don't know what the end result would be. You can't really change something. I'm glad I was liked for what I did — or what I do.

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