Ronnie Hawkins

and the Hawks

The Band was first brought together as inexperienced, ambitious, young musicians playing cover songs behind rock-a-billy showman, Ronnie Hawkins. Hawkins formed the band in Arkansas and got a bit of air-play with "40 Days" (a re-write of a Chuck Berry song "30 Day" - for some reason, Hawkins's trip took longer) and "Mary Lou".  Then, at the suggestion of singer Conway Twitty, he moved up to Canada to take advantage of Toronto's swarm of clubs, all hungry for a real southern rocker.

As members of his band quit to return south, Hawkins began to recruit local talent to take their place. Robbie Robertson joined in 1958, Rick Danko '60, Richard Manuel in '61, and Garth Hudson at the end of '61. The only member of the band left from the States was drummer Levon Helm, who had joined in '57.

Hawkins taught his band how to work a crowd and drove them to constantly tighten up as a group. But he also kept the band to a fairly narrow set of styles. Hawkins was a rock-a-billy singer through and through and that was what his band was going to have to play.

After a time, however, the band realized that they were capable of more. They started to play gigs on their own and eventually left Hawkins in 1963.