Louisiana native Dale Hawkins (cousin of fellow rockabilly great Ronnie Hawkins) was an early pioneer of the rockabilly sound, in particular known for his 1957 swamp-rock classic “Suzie Q”. Since then he had spent most of the 60s as a record producer, and didn’t record again until the end of the decade, when he put together a fantastic album which was released in 1969 on Bell Records.
L.A., Memphis & Tyler, Texas was recorded in the three cities of its title, which Hawkins helpfully explains during the opening track (“See what I mean?”). Many notable musicians lent a hand in the recording process - the L.A. sessions featured bassist Joe Osborn and guitarists Ry Cooder and James Burton, the Memphis sessions featured Dan Penn, Taj Mahal, keyboardist Spooner Oldham and The Memphis Horns, and in Texas he was backed by local garage rock band Mouse & The Traps. Despite coming from three recording sessions, it all came together into a fantastic rootsy blues-rock mix, tied together by Hawkins’ drawling vocals and his sense of humour. With horns, fuzz guitar and mellotron, it was far removed from the classic rockabilly sound he had originally been known for, and almost psychedelic in its swampy, freaked-out grooves. The songs included creative, often bizarre reworkings of Roy Orbison’s “Candy Man”, Jimmy Reed’s “Baby What You Want Me To Do”, Mel Tillis’ “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town”, the Leiber/Stoller classic “Hound Dog” and a couple of obscure Bobby Charles numbers.
The result was a strange album, something of an oddball, but undeniably great fun.