Gerald W. Hawkins

Gerald, or "Jerry", was born in Mangham, Louisiana, and was the brother of a famous rock-and-roll star, Dale Hawkins, and a sister, Linda. His father was a musician from northwest Arkansas who was one of the original Sons of the Pioneers. His parents divorced when Jerry was a "year or so old. I didn't even see my father until I was 19 years old," he recalls. His mother re-married when Jerry was "six or seven" and the family lived on a farm. As a boy, Jerry listened to KWKH and WSM where he heard Grand Ole Opry. "When I was a little older I remember over KWKH they played a lot of what was considered to be race music then," he says. "In the afternoon there was a guy named Rax Bartlett that had a radio program. We called him Groovy Boy. We'd hear Sister Rosetta Thorpe, Mahalia Jackson." Meanwhile, Jerry worked on the farm, hoeing and picking cotton, shucking corn, and bailing hay. Jerry attended Mangham High School, then moved to Bossier City where he attended Bossier High School for a year, then went to a high school in Fort Walton Beach, Florida where he lived with his uncle. Jerry enlisted in the air force, completed his tour of duty, and attended a semester at Holmes Junior College in Mississippi on a football scholarship. While in Mississippi, his love of music was further enhanced at a place called the Wagon Wheel. "Some guys that I was in there with pushed me up on stage to sing with the band," he recalls. "Dale was already established at that time. He was constantly pushing me towards the music," Jerry remarks. Dale invited him to Miami where he was appearing on the Dick Clark Show. There he met Duane Eddy, and soon auditioned to "front" his band and sing. He performed across the country for about a year. Once, while in "Washington or Oregon" where his father was living, his father came to a performance. "That was the first, the only time I ever saw him," Jerry says. "It's not a love-hate or you know it's almost like a total stranger except you say, `Well, okay, that's it.' I mean that's the way it was with me." His first cousin, Ronnie Hawkins also played music. "They whole clan up there (northwest Arkansas) played music," he says. They met in Toronto where both were performing. "It was a gas really," he recalls. "We just visited and talked and you know, it was a lot of fun." Jerry's singles included Lucky Johnny; Cha, Cha, Cha; Need Your Loving; and Swing Daddy Swing. Although he wrote some songs, none, he believed, were "sellable." Jerry returned to Bossier City in the early 1960s. He played local clubs "for the next year or so," including many along the Bossier Strip. He never played on Louisiana Hayride. He remarks that drugs did not greatly affect his generation of musicians. "We would drink beer and alcohol," he says. "People would take benzedrine and that kind of stuff, you know, to keep going." Jerry became president of local 116 of American Federation of Musicians, in which he became active in "about '65". Jerry became a beer distributor. His brother, Dale, he says, "just lived the music twenty-four hours a day. He was music when he went to bed. He was music when he got up. He just loved it, loved every aspect of it. He liked to sing. He liked to entertain. He liked to be around other people that were doing it. It was just his life," he remarks.