Rockabilly Hall of FameŽ Archives
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ROCKABILLY HALL OF FAME

REVIEWS

Sun., 30 November 1997
DALE HAWKINS (UK)
by Rod Pyke


THE DAY day started off with me meeting Barry Dixon (Photographer) outside the US Embassy, in London, at 11.20am. We drove down to the British Museum where it is easier to park the car. As we were had a couple of hours to spare we decided to go for a quick tour of the West End record stores and bookshops. We first went to Tower Records in Piccadilly. The route took us along Old Compton Street and past the site of the 2 I's Coffee Bar where Tommy Steel first got recognition. Then through some of the seedier areas of Soho, until we came to Piccadilly. It was almost midday and we had to wait a few minutes for Tower to open. The shop opened on time and we headed for the Magazine department. We both brought a copy of Blue Suede News that had a feature on Dale Hawkins, plus our own Ronnie Weiser.

We then went to the Rockabilly section and this still has the best selection of our type of music in the West End. I was pleased to see the notice board still displayed the RAB HOF flyers. Time did not allow us to stay to long so we headed off through Soho once more along Berwick Street market to HMV. We only spent about 10 minutes in there and moved on along Oxford Street to Virgin Records. Barry and I both wanted another copy of the November "Now Dig This" and we found them in Virgin. We the went over to the bookshops in Charring Cross Road which usually have a good selection of cheap music books. Today was no exception but we never had time to really browse through them as we had to be off to the Tennessee Club for the 2pm sound check. Our route took us across London to the North part of the City. We passed the famous Camden Market, Arsenal Soccer ground, Alexander Park, where you can get the best view across London from anywhere. We got delayed a bit in traffic as we approached Wood Green as the Londoners were out in force doing there Christmas shopping.

Barry and I arrived at the Tennessee Club at 2pm and only the The Mercurys were there doing their own sound check. We watched them rehearse for about 15 minutes and then went downstairs to the pub to wait for the others to arrive. After about 20 minutes some other people we new arrived, including Tony Fry of BBC Radio Shropshire, Ian Wallis (writer of the book about Ronnie Hawkins) and his partner.

At 3.20pm the man of the moment arrived, Dale Hawkins. He arrived with Willie Jeffery (Co - promoter of the show) and Willie's wife, Varik. Everybody went upstairs to the Club and there we were all introduced to Dale. Dale was especially pleased to meet me as Bob Timmers had warned him I was going to be present. As Dale had arrived late, no time could be lost as he had to rehearse with the Mercurys who he was meeting for the first time. We were all allowed to stay and watch the rehearsal. It was surprising how quickly the Band and Dale gelled. Not too much time was wasted on having to repeat numbers. It was good to see such a professional performer coaching a young up and coming rock band. The band line up of the Mercurys is Jon Dinsdale - Lead Vocals/Rhythm Guitar, Peter Mulvihiu - Lead Guitar, Brian Tucker - Drums and Chip Waite - Double Bass.

When the practise had finished Dale came to sit with the rest of us and get ready to be interviewed for BBC Radio Shropshire. Tony Fry had his reel to reel tape recorder all set up ready. The interview began, Tony asked his first question. Dale was half way through his answer and then realised the reels were not going round. It was lucky he noticed it. Several minutes went by and it was decided that the machine was not going to be fixed. Luckily Willie Jeffery had a small cassette recorder with him and offered it to Tony to carry on the interviewer. A real life saver.

AT THE CONCLUSION of the interview I got Dale's attention and asked if he could spare me a few minutes, which he was happy to do. I then produced the framed RAB HOF Certificate and asked him to accept it on behalf of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. He was really overwhelmed to accept it and he said we couldn't imagine how much it meant to him to receive it. He then posed for photos with it for everybody. He gave it to his driver to put somewhere safe and then suggested it was time to eat as it was now nearly 7pm.

Dale and Willie asked everybody if they would like to join them for a meal at a Beefeater Inn about 4 miles from the Tennessee. Ten of us decided to go and we all piled into our cars for the short drive to the restaurant. We all had to follow Willie, as he was the only person who knew where it was. Unfortunately, due to the heavy traffic one car got separated and therefore only eight of us arrived for the meal. It was a really nice restaurant and we all had a great time and a great laugh.Dale was telling us how he had only finished his gig in Finland at 2.45am on Sunday morning. Willie had picked him up at the UK airport at 9.30am and therefore, Dale had only had 2 hours sleep. To make things worse, Dale only had the clothes he had travelled in, as his luggage had mistakenly gone to Atlanta. Dale was telling us some of his early memories, and how he did not like artificial music and believed music should only be played with real instruments.

At 9pm it was time to head back to the Tennessee as Dale was due on stage at 10.30. Back at the Tennessee Dale was ushered to his dressing room and we all crammed in and had another photo session. Meanwhile the Mercurys were now doing their 45-minute spot and gave a very good account of themselves. Some fine musicianship and some good vocals. They should have no problem finding a lot of work on the rockabilly circuit. Barry and I grabbed a quick drink from the bar and took it down to the front of the stage so we had a good vantage point for Dale's performance. DJ Wildcat Pete brought his session to an end and the MC came on and introduced Dale Suzie-Q Hawkins to his ecstatic fans. He got a rapturous round of applause from the audience and rattled off all of his great numbers, from La-Do-Dada to Suzie-Q, and a lot of unrehearsed ones such as Roll Over Beethoven and High Heel Sneakers. Dale showed a lot of energy and artistry and all the time he was directing his newly acquired band through the numbers.It must have been difficult not having any stage costume to wear. He had to perform in his jumper and jeans and a black jacket he had to borrow from somebody. The fans probably didn't even notice, they just wanted to hear one of the all time greats of Rockabilly. Dale rounded off his set with Suzie-Q and was encouraged back to do a short encore of Number Nine Train.

The audience of about 250 really seemed to enjoy their night's entertainment and I think Dale and the Mercurys gave a good performance considering they only had two hours to rehearse and get to know each other. It is eight years since Dale last appeared in the UK and I hope we can be lucky enough to see him back soon. Barry and I had to fight our way into the dressing room at the end of the evening to say thank you and say our goodbyes. For the umpteenth time that day Dale thanked Bob and I for his Certificate, once again saying how much it meant to him.

I then ran Barry back to West London to catch his coach back to Oxford.On the way Barry said to me. "You couldn't buy a ticket for a day like that, could you?" How true that is.