Dale Hawkins and the ‘Susie-Q’ Quandary


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You’d think a little matter like the spelling of the 1957 hit “Susie-Q” would be as easy as flipping to the right page of the ‘Encyclopedia of Popular Music.’ Right under the entry for “Hawkins, Dale” — the singer-guitarist who died Saturday — on page 2,438 is “Suzie Q.” Uh-oh, only one “s” and no hyphen.

Nine different references offered seven permutations. In their official release, his family offers up “Suzie Q,” and the title is listed several different ways on Hawkins’ own website. Multiple seemingly authoritative sources say Suzy-with-a-z-hyphen-Q, so I go with that. At first.


Enter copy editor Ethan Robinson, who, yep, questions the spelling of the song in question. We chat about how later versions of the song recorded by others played with the ‘Susie’ spelling.

An e-mail plea for help from Kent Coloma, our crack librarian-researcher, for a truly authoritative source quickly receives this reply:

Says “Susie-Q” in the Billboard Top Pop books. I’m always most comfortable with those.

Via Google images, I eyeball what appears to be the original single and on Hawkins’ website find vintage-looking sheet music. Both clearly say “Susie-Q.”

Case solved, or so I thought, until I see the photograph of Dale Hawkins that accompanies the story. He’s holding a Dale Hawkins album titled “OH! SUZY-Q.”
-- Valerie J. Nelson