Easy Going Magic : Roy Hawkins©2004JCMarion


Roy Hawkins was a Texas born piano playing blues singer, who found himself in the San Francisco Bay area after World War II. He played many small clubs in Oakland and Richmond, California, and it was there that record label owner and talent scout Bob Geddins discovered Roy and his backing combo called The Four Jacks. The Jacks featured William Staples on tenor sax and Ulysses James on guitar behind Hawkins. Soon Geddins had Hawkins and band in the recording studio and the result was "They Raided The Joint" released on Geddins own Cava-Tone Records.

Roy Hawkins next recording session takes place in Oakland, California in November of 1948 for another small local independent label owned by Geddins called Downtown Records. The first release for the label are the songs "Christmas Blues" and "Roy's Boogie" on Downtown # 2018. This record is followed by # 2020 with "It's Too Late To Change" and "West Express". Further recordings for Downtown by Hawkins include "Forty Jim" / "I Don't Know Why" on # 2024, "Quarter To One" and "Strange Land" on # 2025, and "Easy Going Magic parts 1 & 2" on # 2026. In 1949 Hawkins had drawn the interest of the Bihari Brothers at Modern Music Records (soon to be just Modern) in Los Angeles and Hawkins soon set up at the Modern recording studios for new sessions. First though, Modern released some masters from Downtown by Hawkins on their own label - "Quarter To One" / "Strange Land" on #695, and "West Express" / "It's Too Late To Change" on # 705. The first new recording for Modern is "Sleepless Nights" and "Mistreating Baby" released on # 720. "Why Do Everything Happen To Me?" and "Royal Hawk" are next for Modern on # 734. By February of 1950, "Why Do Everything" is a big seller on the R & B charts in New Orleans, and in March it charts in Los Angeles. Soon it will get to be the number two R & B seller on the national charts. The song was written in part as a reaction to personal events as Hawkins had been involved in a serious auto accident (as so many R & B performers were in those years) which left him with paralysis in his left arm.

During the spring of 1950 Hawkins returns to the San Francisco Bay area where he is a good draw in clubs in Oakland and Richmond. Modern releases "On My Way" and "Where You Been?" on # 752 in late June as Maxwell Davis takes over the production chores for Hawkins in the studio. In July Roy is on the bill at the big Rhythm & Blues Jubilee at the Shrine Auditorium in L.A. Also on the show is Jimmy Witherspoon, PeeWee Crayton, Joe Lutcher, Helen Humes, and many other performers. In late August "My Temperature Is Rising" and "Wine Drinkin' Woman" are released on # 765. In October Modern Records plans to produce its first LP album, and one of the featured artists will be Roy Hawkins. He closes out the month with a big box office success at appearances in New Orleans. "Just A Poor Boy" and "You Had A Good Man" are released by Modern on #777.

In February of 1951 Roy Hawkins newest record for Modern is out - "Blues All Around Me" and "Mean Little Girl" on # 794. That record is followed by "You're The Sweetest Thing" and "I'm Never Satisfied" on # 812. In June "The Thrill Is Gone" and "Trouble Making Woman" is issued by Modern on # 826. Chicago provides a good market for "Thrill" as it is one of the top R & B sellers in that city, and would rise to number six on the national R & B charts. In later years that song would become a world wide hit for B.B. King and become the Memphis blues master's theme song. In November "Gloom And Misery All Around" ( a very early song written by two transplanted Baltimore teenagers - Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller - who would gain world wide fame as writers and producers in coming years) and "I Walk Alone" are Hawkins newest efforts for Modern on # 842. Early in 1952 "You're A Free Little Girl" and "I Know Just What To Do" is released on # 853, followed in March by "Highway 59" and "Would You?" on # 859. "The Thrill Hunt" and "Doing All Right" follows on Modern #869. The last release for Hawkins on the Modern label was "The Condition I'm In" and "Bad Luck Is Falling" on # 898. Hawkins later lack of success on Modern causes the company to move him to their RPM subsidiary label and release "If I Had Listened" and "Is It Too Late?" on RPM # 440, and their Flair label recorded Roy as The Royal Hawk on the songs "I Wonder Why" and a remake of an earlier Modern tune "Royal Hawk" on # 1013. There was one last release for Hawkins on still another Bihari label Kent Records with "Trouble In Mind" and "What A Fool I Was" on # 376.

From the late nineteen fifties on, Roy Hawkins drifted into obscurity as many of the R & B performers fell by the wayside during the transition to rock 'n roll. His time in the spotlight came too early to gain him wider popularity and recognition, and his last years were shrouded in mystery. He is thought to have passed away, unknown and poverty stricken, in Oakland, California in the late seventies. Not much more is known about Roy Hawkins at this time, except for the two big R & B hits he had back in the early fifties that live on. His best Modern Records sides are preserved on a CD released by Ace (a British label) called appropriately enough "The Thrill Is Gone". Hawkins is also represented with a number of tracks on the compilation CDs "The Cats Creep At Midnight" and "The Strangest Blues" produced by DeltaHaze. Roy Hawkins, another R & B performer who never caught the brass ring but whose music should be remembered.

back to title page . . . . .