Gene Watson’s Peers within the country music industry believe in the sheer talent of this unassuming man from east Texas, so much so that Gene is regarded by many of them as ‘the singer’s singer’ – and rightly so!
All of Gene Watson’s Peers, who were contacted by The Gene Watson Fan Site, during 2006, were most gracious with their time and words.
It is here, within this special part of The Gene Watson Fan Site, that you have an opportunity to read a quote from Ronnie Hawkins, which he submitted to this site on Saturday 14 October 2006.
Sean Brady would like to take this opportunity to say ‘thank you’ to Ronnie Hawkins who has made a special contribution to a unique part of this online ‘celebration of a Lone Star Hero’.
This quote was submitted on Saturday 14 October 2006.
‘When I think of Gene Watson, I remember him as one of the best music men and car men and you can’t beat that!
Gene, I would like to wish you all the best – you deserve it all.
Thank you, Ronnie Hawkins, for your support of Gene Watson.
About Ronnie Hawkins…
Ronnie Hawkins was a native of Huntsville, Arkansas where he was born on Thursday 10 January 1935, two days after the birth of Elvis Presley (Tuesday 8 January 1935 – Tuesday 16 August 1977).
Ronnie Hawkins’ mother was a teacher and his father was a barber. The family moved to nearby Fayetteville, Arkansas, when Ronnie Hawkins was nine years old.
During high school, Ronnie Hawkins served in the National Guard, yet he still had time to dabble in his first love, which was music.
When he graduated from high school, Ronnie Hawkins enrolled at University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, majoring in physical education. It was there that Ronnie Hawkins formed his first band, The Hawks, and toured with them regionally in Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri.
After attending college, Ronnie Hawkins joined the United States Army and served six months of active duty.
Ronnie Hawkins attended basic training at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas for three months and was then moved to Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
During this time, Ronnie Hawkins continued pursuing his passion for music, often performing for officers’ clubs.
Ronnie Hawkins eventually heard from other musicians about a man named AC Reed, who took a young, naive Ronnie under his wing with his band, The Black Hawks.
After his stint in the United States Army, Ronnie Hawkins received a phone call from Memphis and was offered $100 a week to front a band of musicians at Sam Phillips’ Sun Studios.
However, by the time Ronnie Hawkins got there, the band had broken up and Ronnie Hawkins didn’t want to return to Fayetteville.
Ronnie Hawkins then joined up with respected guitarist Jimmy Ray Paulman and they formed a band together.
Jimmy Ray Paulman’s first cousin, Will ‘Pop’ Jones, played piano in the band, and he knew Levon Helm (Sunday 26 May 1940 – Thursday 19 April 2012) from Marvell, Arkansas who sang and played guitar and also played the drums too.
They performed at The Rockwood Club in Fayetteville, which Ronnie Hawkins owned and operated. Noted musicians who played there included Jerry Lee Lewis (Sunday 29 September 1935 – Friday 28 October 2022), Carl Perkins (Saturday 9 April 1932 – Monday 19 January 1998), Roy Orbison (Thursday 23 April 1936 – Tuesday 6 December 1988) and Harold Jenkins, who became famous as Conway Twitty (Friday 1 September 1933 – Saturday 5 June 1993).
It was Harold Jenkins / Conway Twitty (Friday 1 September 1933 – Saturday 5 June 1993) who told Ronnie Hawkins that Canada was the promised land for a rock ‘n’ roll singer.
As a consequence, Ronnie Hawkins took his band to Canada, touring along the way and busting club record attendance records everywhere.
As his fame grew, Ronnie Hawkins was signed by Morris Levy to Roulette Records in New York, where he was an artist between 1959 and 1964. During this time, the members of The Hawks were constantly changing. New members included bassist Jimmy Evans, guitarist Fred Carter Jr., bass guitarist Robbie Robertson (Monday 5 July 1943 – Wednesday 9 August 2023) and keyboard player Stan Szelest.
A further version of The Hawks – Ronnie Hawkins, Levon Helm (Sunday 26 May 1940 – Thursday 19 April 2012), Rick Danko, Richard Manuel, Robbie Robertson (Monday 5 July 1943 – Wednesday 9 August 2023) and Garth Hudson – wowed crowds until 1963, when The Hawks decided to leave Ronnie and strike out on their own. They eventually hooked up with Bob Dylan after which they went out on their own and gained stardom shortly afterward.
Ronnie Hawkins then formed another version of The Hawks, formed Hawk Records and recorded three singles in 1964 and 1965 with the new Hawks.
Ronnie Hawkins’ influence earned him several awards and special appearances. Ronnie Hawkins’ ‘Making It Again’ (Epic Records, 1985) earned him the Juno Award for ‘Country Male Vocalist’; the album was subsequently re-issued by ZYX Music on Wednesday 17 September 2003.
In 1989, Ronnie Hawkins helped tear down the Berlin Wall, playing with The Band and, in 1992, he performed at Bill Clinton’s inaugural party, The Blue Jeans Bash.
Ronnie Hawkins’ ‘Let It Rock!’ (Quality Records, 1995) earned him a 1996 Juno Award nomination and is full of the exciting music that Ronnie loves, with friends Carl Perkins (Saturday 9 April 1932 – Monday 19 January 1998) and Jerry Lee Lewis (Sunday 29 September 1935 – Friday 28 October 2022) joining him for his 60th birthday party; the album was subsequently re-issued by ZYX Music in 2010.
The pinnacle of Ronnie Hawkins’ influence on Canadian music was achieved when he received the ‘Walt Grealis Special Lifetime Achievement’ Award as CARAS’ Industry Builder in 1996.
Ronnie Hawkins was credited with bringing rock ‘n’ roll music to Canada and had two books written about his life in music.
Ronnie Hawkins’ son, Ronnie Robin, is a musician in Ontario, Canada, while Ronnie’s daughter Leah, who lives in Nashville, is a singer.
Ronnie Hawkins Jr. was diagnosed with schizophrenia as a teenager.
Ronnie and Wanda Hawkins actively raised money for The Schizophrenia Society of Ontario in the hope that, with research, someday a cure would be found.
In 2003, Ronnie Hawkins was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and went into remission, which he attributed to everything from psychic healers to native herbal medicine. His remarkable remission was featured in the 2012 film ‘Ronnie Hawkins: Still Alive & Kicking’.
On Sunday 29 May 2022, Ronnie Hawkins died in the early morning hours, at the age of 87, after the cancer returned. Ronnie Hawkins was survived by his wife of 60 years, Wanda, their two sons, Ronnie Hawkins Jr. and country singer Robin Hawkins, who had served as his guitarist since the 1980s, and daughter Leah Hawkins, an aspiring songwriter who had been his backup singer.
• Visit Ronnie Hawkins’ official site at ronniehawkins.com