Born Ronald Monroe Dawson, 11 August 1939, Dallas, Texas
Ronnie Dawson was one of the 1950s rockabilly singers who enjoyed much more success in later decades than during the first round of rock ’n' roll. His popularity peaked internationally with tours and new recordings in the 1980s and 1990s.
Dawson was an only child raised in Waxahachie, Texas, by a father who played western swing and a mother who sang in the Pentecostal church the family attended. His father, Pinkie Dawson, taught young Ronnie the basics of playing guitar, mandolin, bass and drums. For a brief period he studied at the Southwestern Bible Institute, until he was expelled (like Jerry Lee Lewis before him).
After winning a local talent contest in 1956, Dawson formed his first band, Ronnie Dee and the D Men. They appeared regularly on the Big D Jamboree radio show and made their first recordings in the summer of 1957 (unreleased until 1989). The Jack Rhodes song “Action Packed”, previously recorded by Johnny Dollar, was Dawson’s first release (November 1958), on the Backbeat label. Label credit went to Ronnie Dee. This was followed in 1959 by the famous “Rockin’ Bones”, this time on the Rockin’ Records label. It was issued under Ronnie’s own name (with “The Blond Bomber” added above - a nickname that stuck), after it was discovered there was already a Ronnie Dee recording elsewhere. Dawson’s unchanged voice gave the impression that he was several years younger than his actual age. Though Ronnie toured nationally with Gene Vincent and appeared on TV, his records gained no more than regional airplay. In the late 1950s he also performed with the well- established western swing band The Light Crust Doughboys.
After two Swan singles that are best forgotten, Dawson recorded two R&B styled rockers for the Columbia label in 1961 (“Do Do Do”/“Who’s Been Here”), credited to Commonwealth Jones - a moniker Ronnie wasn’t too happy about. By then his style of rock n roll was passé and Dawson had to pursue other musical avenues. He became a session drummer for Major Bill Smith’s operations, taking part in two number one hits, Bruce Channel’s “Hey! Baby” (1962) and Paul and Paula’s “Hey Paula” (1963). Then he tried to capitalize on the 1960s folk boom with a vocal group called the Levee Singers, who recorded three LPs featuring Dawson in the 1960s. After leaving the group around 1970 he formed the country rock band Steel Rail, who performed in Texas clubs throughout the 1970s. Meanwhile Ronnie supplemented his musical income by work in TV and radio advertising.
The resurgence of interest in rockabilly music in England and other European countries led Ronnie to tour Britain for the first time in 1986. He was blown away by the audience reception. Dawson sounded purer and wilder than any of his contemporaries from the 1950s and he put on a more energetic show. He started recording new material for No Hit Records, the label of British rockabilly fan Barry Koumis, which was leased in the USA to Crystal Clear Records. No Hit also reissued his recordings from the 1950s and early 1960s on a 16-track LP called “Rockin’ Bones” (1987), an extended 2-CD version of which was released by Crystal Clear in 1996. The best of the three new studio albums was - in my opinion - “Just Rockin’& Rollin’” (1996), which featured three guitarists : Ronnie himself, Eddie Angel and, most prominently, Dutchman Tjarko Jeen of the Tin Stars. Standout tracks were “Veronica”, “Tired Of Travellin’” and the title song. Never a full-fledged rockabilly, Dawson incorporated shades of blues, country and garage rock into his albums for No Hit, which were recorded in the UK. In 1998 he cut a live album and a CD (“More Bad Habits”) for the Yep Roc label, his first recordings in the USA since the 1960s.
Just as his career began to yield significant returns, health problems began to dog Dawson. Cancer of the tongue required rest and chemotherapy, but the indefatigable performer continued to perform as often as he could. In February of 2003, doctors told him that the cancer had spread to his lungs. Ronnie Dawson died in Dallas on September 30, 2003, at the age of 64.
More info :
CD recommendations :
Acknowledgements : Ken Burke, Craig Morrison, Trevor Cajiao, Wikipedia.
YouTube : Action Packed : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NlXA2tFH_70
Dik, September 2015
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