“Ronnie Hawkins was the first ‘Canadian’ rock ‘n’ roll person we knew, and he was a local legend in 1960! This was a time when our music was only played on CFOR Orillia during a brief ‘teen time’ once a week for two hours. As much as any other artist, he was my introduction to Blues, rock ‘n’ roll, rockabilly, and Memphis Soul. He was a hard-working showman whose influence cannot be underestimated. He is my cornerstone for what real rock ‘n’ roll is.” – Tom Coxworth, host of Folk Routes on CKUA
He was known variously through his long career as “Rompin’ Ronnie Hawkins,” “Mr. Dynamo,” or simply “The Hawk.” But mostly, he was known as one of the most galvanizing and important figures ever in the history of Canadian rock’n’roll. Ronnie Hawkins has died at the age of 87, leaving behind a vast, colourful, and crucial legacy in the Canadian and global roots music communities.
His legendary work ethic as a tireless road warrior led him to perform in Canada in the late 1950s, and soon Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks became catalysts for the fabled 1960s Toronto music community, a vibrant scene that gave rise to the careers of artists like Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, and Ian & Sylvia.
Holger Petersen, host of CKUA’s Natch’l Blues, says that Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks were the most influential blues and roots music group to come out of Canada. “They had a huge influence on my taste,” he says. Petersen first met Hawkins in 1970, when he had a running gig at an Edmonton hotel with a group that included King Biscuit Boy and had just added a young David Foster. In subsequent years, Petersen would go on to interview Hawkins twice at The Hawk’s Nest on Stony Lake, near Peterborough, Ontario. “The thing about Ronnie Hawkins was that he was absolutely charming and had an often outrageous sense of humour. He had time for everybody, and was always gracious.”
As tributes pour in from the music industry, fellow artists, and countless fans, all of us at CKUA add our thanks and appreciation to Ronnie Hawkins for sharing so much wonderful music with the world for so long.