Raised around Shreveport, Louisiana, Dale Hawkins occupies a special place in Southern rock'n'roll history. Like Carl Perkins and the early Elvis Presley, he is drenched in both blues and country music and consequently his admirers go far beyond the fanatic rockabilly fraternity.
Hawkins is best known for his classic-in-every-sense Susie-Q, which became a #27 Top 100 hit for Checker in 1957-.-it was even a Top 10 R&B hit before his whiter-than-white publicity photograph was circulated. The song was revived as the first hit for Creedence Clearwater Revival 11 years later. Other big hits by Hawkins were La Do-Dada (#32 in 1958) and Class Cutter (Yeah Yeah) (#52 in 1959), which are included here.
However, ROCK'N'ROLL TORNADO is far from a re-hash of previous Dale Hawkins LP and CD compilations, which have tended to concentrate on the earlier Checker recordings. From the outset, co-compiler and liner note writer Bill Millar was intent on including some of Dale's unissued sides, but where do you start when these tracks have remained unheard, stashed away in tape vaults, since the time of recording. All Bill could do was to judge the potential of the actual titles (did they have a rocking feel or not?), and relate them to their session dates (were other good titles recorded at the same time?).
But guess what? The bulk of these previously unreleased recordings are fabulous! Especially noteworthy are the genuine rockers Teenage Dolly, Boogie Woogie Teenage Girl, Sweetie Pie, Boy Meets Girl, One Dozen Roses and Superman. One can only assume that these particular tracks were not selected originally due to the high overall standard of the material available for 45 and LP release.
There are several new-to-CD cuts including the sublime ballad Grandma's House, the novelty rocker Back To School Blues and the catchy, stick-in-your-mind I Want To Love You. The final research task was to ensure that we used the correct versions of songs such as Wild Wild World, Liza Jane, Someday One Day and even Susie-Q. Previous reissues often carried inferior alternate takes.
Dale Hawkins' recordings, their distinct southern edge apart, standout for the quality of the backing bands. Likewise, Ricky Nelson benefitted from small rocking combos and, as is well known, utilised Dale Hawkins' first guitarist James Burton - the teenager who transformed Susie-Q into the quintessential rock'n'roll record. If the presence of the legendary Burton is not enough, the young Roy Buchanan and Kenny Paulsen (subsequent guitar heroes, both) are heard delivering blistering solos.
As Bill Millar says in his detailed notes based on personal interviews, singer, songwriter, producer, rhythm guitarist, textbook rock'n'roll idol Dale Hawkins has done it all. We concentrate here on his finest legacy, leading bands which matched the right spice of breathtaking guitar lines to his potent, clear-toned rockabilly vocals. The impact is as devastating as a tornado.
By John Broven