Ronnie Hawkins, rockabilly singer who was instrumental in forming The Band, dead at 87 – Everett Post

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Ronnie Hawkinsthe Arkansas-born rockabilly singer who helped mentor the primarily Canadian rock band that became The groupdied on Sunday at the age of 87 following a long illness, his wife confirmed to The Canadian Press.

During the 1950s, Hawkins began performing at local Arkansas clubs with his own bands. In the late 1950s, Hawkins formed the band Ronnie Hawkins and the Falcons and soon recruited a local musician named Helm of Levon play the drums.

The band moved to Canada and established themselves as one of Toronto’s most popular rock bands, with Hawkins earning a reputation for their dynamic stage presence. Over the next few years, the Hawks underwent several lineup changes that eventually saw the Canadian guitarist Robbie Robertsonbass player Rick Dankopianist Richard Manuel and organist/saxophonist Garth Hudson playing alongside Hawkins and Helm.

In 1963, the Hawks separated from Hawkins. Bob Dylan hired them as a backing band for its tours in 1965 and 1966. The band soon began writing original material and renamed themselves The Band.

Hawkins achieved his greatest success as a recording artist with his 1959 solo single “Mary Lou,” which reached No. 26 on the Billboard pop singles chart.

In 1976, Hawkins made a memorable appearance at The Band’s famous farewell show “The Last Waltz”, as seen in the 1978 concert film of the same name.

Robertton posted a lengthy tribute to Hawkins on his social media pages in which he thanks Ronnie for helping him and other band members launch their careers.

“My heart sank when I heard ‘The Hawk’ flying off into the sunset,” Robbie wrote. “The Band’s story began with Ronnie Hawkins. He was our mentor. He taught us the rules of the road.

Robertson adds, “He was not only a great entertainer, performer and conductor, but he had an unrivaled style of humor…[H]We will live in our hearts forever.

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