Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Remembering the Legendary Ronnie Hawkins

The music world lost a titan on May 29, 2022 when Canadian icon Ronnie Hawkins passed away. Our condolences to his family, friends and fans.

Ronnie was born in Arkansas but moved to Ontario early in his career due to the great reception he received here. He's also responsible for helping launch the careers of many musicians such as the Band, Crowbar and many more.  

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Robbie Robertson (The Band)

My heart sank when I heard “The Hawk” just flew into the sunset. 

The story of The Band began with Ronnie Hawkins. He was our mentor. He taught us the rules of the road.

Ronnie Hawkins brought me down from Canada to the Mississippi delta when I was 16. He recorded two songs I’d written and thought I might be talented. He tried me out on guitar and bass the only problem was; I’m too young to play in the clubs they toured, I was too inexperienced, not a good enough musician yet, and there are NO Canadians in southern rock and roll bands. But I practiced until my fingers were bleeding and he ended up hiring me against all odds. 

Ron prided himself in always having top notch players in his group. Levon Helm his drummer in the Hawks and I talked Ron into hiring Rick Danko on bass and vocals, Richard Manuel on piano and vocals and Garth Hudson on organ and sax. Along with Levon and me this became the magic combination. 

Ronnie was the godfather. The one who made this all happen. 

He had us rehearsing constantly into the wee hours. We balked about it, but we got better and better. Our goal whether we knew it or not. 

After the Hawks left Ron and went out on our own, we joined up with Bob Dylan. Next the Hawks became The Band and the rest is history, as they say. 

All starting out with Ronnie Hawkins. 

He was not only a great artist, a tremendous performer and bandleader, but had a style of humor unequaled. Fall down funny and completely unique. Yep, God only made one of those. And he will live in our hearts forever. 

My deepest condolences to his family. 

Bless his soul.

Jesse O'Brien

This is a tough one. RIP Ronnie Hawkins, a brilliant, hilarious, once in a lifetime entertainer and family friend. My first stint as a Hawk was in the summer at 15 years old before going back to school.  Thanks Ronnie for so many laughs and lessons, a musical education like no other, and thanks for letting a young kid wear your hat. 


Jack de Keyzer

Such a generous man, he was  a father to me, I joined at age 19,  but he told everyone I was 16  lol.  Ronnie Hawkins introduced me to the real  rock and roll lifestyle. We played everywhere from concert halls to biker bars, to supper clubs to strip joints.   Through Ronnie, I met  BB King and Johnny Rivers and Roy Buchanan,  Jerry Lee Lewis, Bo Diddley and   Ian and Sylvia.  We played with Levon Helm and Dr John and had a great band with King Biscuit Boy, John Till, Mike Short, Stan Szeleste, Carl Mathers, Rob Johnston and Wayne King to name a few who are all lifelong friends.  An amazing legacy of great entertainment; humour and music.  RIP Ronnie Hawkins.

Bill Culp Productions

I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of the legendary Ronnie “The Hawk” Hawkins today. 

While I was plying my trade as a young musician living in Toronto in the 1980’s, I always looked up to Ronnie Hawkins. He was the “king” of the local “Rock’n’Roll” scene while I was just starting out. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to catch his live act on numerous occasions and eventually got to meet the man...more than once. 

It turned out “The Hawk” was a boxing fan, just like me. We’d run into each other at boxing matches, whether it was a live event featuring Canadian Olympian Shawn O’Sullivan, or a closed circuit match featuring Oscar De La Hoya, Ronnie Hawkins was always there. “The Hawk” was a true “man of the people” who loved to talk about music, boxing, and was always quick with a one-liner. 

As I reflect today on this “larger-than-life” character, it’s clear “The Hawk” had a huge influence on my own music career. We both loved “Rockabilly” music, playing with a high-energy, talented band of musicians, and putting on a show. Thanks Ronnie!! 


He will never be forgotten.

Ron Cole

I got to meet Ronnie Hawkins at his home in March. Gary Lucas invited Wendell Ferguson, Mike McCurlie and myself to come play a few BAND songs with accordion, guitar and mando. He loved it. Even said I had a bit of Garth Hudson going on in my playing which was a big compliment for me. Woo, the stories. LOL! Great to have met The Legend, The Hawk and sad to see him go.

The Smoke Wagon Blues Band

Very sad to hear of the passing of the legendary Ronnie Hawkins. Even though Ronnie was originally American his finger prints are all over Canadian Rock'n'roll & Blues history. Especially here in the Hammer and Ontario you'd be hard pressed to find a Rock or Blues group that wasn't touched or directly influenced in some way by the Hawk. 

The Smoke Wagon Blues Band is no different: We got our big break opening for the Hawk back in 2003 at The Burlington Sound of Music Festival. Ronnie had been fighting cancer and hadn't played for some years so 50,000 folks packed into Spencer Smith Park for the show. At that time we were still holding residency in the small cubs of Hamilton's Hess Village when the Hawk requested a local blues band open for him.  We felt so out of our element walking out on that big stage, we couldn't see where the crowd ended gulp! Ronnie was so gracious with us, offering lots of liquid courage back in his trailer as encouragement haha. After the show he invited us back to his trailer for lots of party favors, and to give us shit for covering the same song in our set list (Born in Chicago) haha When he realized my mom was trying to  talk to me through the back gates he said get your mom in here whom was dying to meet him. 

We most definitely got the full Ronnie experience that evening. I met Ronnie a few times over the years but I'll always remember that first moment. Its pretty damn cool to get the chance to share the stage with one of your idols and he sure made it special. Long live the Hawk in our musical memories.

Links: King Biscuit BoyMore KBB StoriesDuane Allman, Video above courtesy of Deep Track Zach

Video above courtesy of Classic Music Videos & Pictures 1960s

Links: The BandMore Stories of The BandVideo above courtesy of plimfec

Links: Ronnie HawkinsMore Ronnie Hawkins Stories,

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