Dale Hawkins dies at 73; early rock musician wrote 'Susie-Q'
By By Valerie J. Nelson
Feb 16, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Dale Hawkins, a singer-guitarist best known for his 1957 hit “Susie-Q,” which became a rock anthem, died Saturday in Little Rock, Ark., his family announced. He was 73.
He was diagnosed with colon cancer more than four years ago, according to his website.
The famous song, "with its crackling bluesy guitar and insistent cowbell, was one of the most exciting early rockabilly singles," music historian Richie Unterberger wrote of "Susie-Q" on the Allmusic Internet database.
The single reached the top 30 in the U.S. in 1957 and was later covered by many artists, including the Rolling Stones and Creedence Clearwater Revival, which had a top 20 hit with the song in 1968.
The raw, bluesy swamp-rock sound of the original "Susie-Q" grew out of a childhood steeped in rural country and blues music.
He was born Delmar Allen Hawkins on Aug. 22, 1936, on a plantation in Gold Mine, La., to a country musician and his wife, who was a teacher and day worker.
Growing up, Hawkins was exposed to a wide range of live music while riding with his sheriff grandfather on Saturday night patrols.
At 16, Hawkins lied about his age to join the Navy, he later said, and served in the Korean War.
He formed a small musical combo in 1955 that included a teenage James Burton, whose guitar lick would be crucial to "Susie-Q."