The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum

Video: Interview with Ronnie Hawkins

Tuesday, January 15: 1 p.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Rockabilly legend Ronnie Hawkins' backstage interview with the Rock Hall

For more than half a century, Ronnie Hawkins – known variously as "Mr. Dynamo," "Sir Ronnie," "Rompin' Ronnie" and "The Hawk" – has been energizing crowds with his signature rockabilly swagger. Born in Huntsville, Arkansas, in January 1935, Hawkins would find his way to the Grange club in Hamilton, Ontario, on the recommendation of Conway Twitty. He never left, adopting Canada as his own and becoming a permanent resident in 1964. 

In addition to hits that included "Hey, Bo Diddley," "Marylou" and his cheeky cover of Chuck Berry's "30 Days" (renamed "Forty Days"), Hawkins gained recognition for recruiting and grooming outstanding Canadian talent to play in his band, the Hawks. The rotating cast of musicians over the years included Robbie Robertson, Richard Manuel, Garth Hudson, Rick Danko and Arkansan drummer Levon Helm – the quintet that would leave the Hawks to back Bob Dylan before striking out on their own as the Band. Other incarnations of the Hawks included the members of Janis Joplin's Full Tilt Boogie Band, and another Ronnie Lane and the Disciples. John Lennon and Yoko Ono traveled to Hawkins' Ontario farm to plan a festival during the couple's peace crusade. In 1992, Hawkins was hired to perform for one of his biggest fans: former President Bill Clinton, at his inaugural party.

In this clip, filmed backstage at the 17th annual American Music Masters concert honoring Chuck Berry on October 27, 2012, Hawkins shares memories of first hearing Chuck Berry, the impact of Berry's lyrics and guitar playing, why he renamed Berry's tune "Forty Days" and more.

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