Ronnie Hawkins was born in Huntsville, Arkansas on January 10, 1935. His parents soon moved to Fayetteville where he attended school. It was in high school where he formed his first band. He played in clubs and bars around the area and soon began college. Even early on Hawkins had an amazing stage performance and persona including his “camel walk” dance.
Finding college not to his liking Ronnie Hawkins dropped out and joined the military. He was stationed at both Fort Chaffee and Fort Sill. After serving, he moved to Helena, Arkansas where he once again formed a band. This new group included a young Levon Helm on drums and they were known as Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks. They had two big hits in 1959. Forty Days went to number 45 in the United States and Mary Lou got to number 26.
At the urging of Conway Twitty Ronnie Hawkins and his group moved to Canada and achieved even greater success. Hawkins loved Canada and called it the “promised land.” He gathered together a number of musicians who would eventually join with Levon Helm to form “The Band.” As Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks the group performed from 1959 to 1963 and were one of the hottest bands around. They released a song titled Hey Bo Diddley in 1963.
The Band with Levon Helm split from Hawkins during 1963 and went out on their own. He continued as a solo artist. In 1992 Ronnie Hawkins won a Juno Award for Best Male Country Vocalist. Then in 1996 he was presented the Walt Grealis Special Lifetime Achievement Award. The city of Toronto even proclaimed October 4, 2002 as “Ronnie Hawkins Day.” In 2004 the talented musician was inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.
Ronnie Hawkins and his wife Wanda live in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada. They have three adult children. Although he has had health issues he released a new album titled Still Crusin’ in 2002.