Dale Hawkins – Wildcat Tamer – Review

Dale Hawkins

Wildcat Tamer (Mystic)
by Jon Sarre

The promotional material that accompanied this disc has a parenthetical clarification after Dale Hawkins‘ name. “Mr. Susie Q,” it reads. Many moons ago (Valentine’s Day, or thereabouts, 1957), Hawkins, guitarist James Burton (who went on to play with Elvis, Rick Nelson and Emmylou Harris, to name a few), bass player Joe Osburn (that’s disputed, but it’s what Hawkins says) and a drummer who was related to the producer in some way, cut a rock’n’roll classic that was apparently divined from a semi-intelligible rant from the mouth of Howlin’ Wolf, the melody from a 1954 Clovers single and a knife-sharp lead wired in super-electro by Burton. Most people think it was written by John Fogerty. It was, you’ve probably guessed it, “Susie Q.” One could argue that “Susie Q” (which Hawkins has re-recorded for this record) was Dale Hawkins’ moment. If that’s the case it’s a helluva moment, supernatural even.

Wildcat Tamer is Hawkins’ first record in thirty years. No worries though, his chords, both guitar and vocal, don’t creak like ole Johnny Cash’s (maybe takin’ a few decades off spares the body). The guy can still unabashedly rock’n’roll. Hawkins beats his hillbilly r’n’b riffs into the ground like he was doin’ when his original drummer, D.J. Fontana, split to join up with Elvis something-or-other. So, if ground zero of rock in the popular consciousness is Elvis with a drummer, does Dale Hawkins pre-date rock’n’roll? Stranger things have happened, I’m sure.
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