Ronald "Ronnie" Hawkins (born January 10, 1935) is a rockabilly musician whose career has spanned more than half a century. Though his career began in Arkansas, USA, where he'd been born and raised, it was in Ontario, Canada where he found success and settled 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, Hawkins 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". His other well-known recordings are "Who Do You Love?", "Hey Bo Diddley", and "Suzie Q", which was written by his cousin, the laterockabilly artist Dale Hawkins.
Hawkins is also notable for his role as something of a talent scout and mentor. He played a pivotal role in the establishment of premiere backing musicians via his band, The Hawks. The most successful of those eventually formed The Band, while other musicians Hawkins had recruited provided the makings of Robbie Lane & The Disciples, Janis Joplin's Full Tilt Boogie Band, Crowbar, Bearfoot and Skylark.
Hawkins was born in 1935 in Huntsville, Arkansas, just two days after the birth of Elvis Presley. At the age of nine, 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, touring 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.
Hawkins began touring Canada in 1958, per Twitty's advice, and 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.
After the move, The Hawks, with the exception of drummer Levon Helm, dropped out on Hawkins. Their vacancies were eventually filled by Canadians Robbie Robertson, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson, all hailing from across 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 Mississauga, Ontario home during the couple's Peace campaign. John Lennon signed his erotic "Bag One" lithographs during his stay at Hawkins' farm. Lennon also did a radio promo for a Ronnie Hawkins single entitled "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, Bob Dylan cast Hawkins as "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 and Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II.
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 Healy sat in on guitar for most, if not all, of the performances. Hawkins' 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' 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 4 March 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 recovery, attributed to everything from psychic healers to native herbal medicine, is featured in the film, Ronnie Hawkins: Still Alive and Kicking. In 2005, he was awarded an honorary degree from Laurentian University. Also Hawkins recently has reissued most of his albums on CD through Unidisc Music Inc.
|Folk Ballads of Ronnie Hawkins||—|
|1961||Sings the Songs of Hank Williams||—|
|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|
|CAN||CAN AC||CAN Country||US
|1959||"Forty Days"||—||—||—||45||Ronnie Hawkins|
|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|
|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