by: Dale Hawkins

These 12 tracks, compiled from Hawkins' own personal stash of well-worn acetates, brings together the rarest of the rare of this Louisiana rockabilly songwriter/producer. The centerpiece of this 12-track collection is the first-time appearance of the original 1956 demo version of Dale's big hit, "Susie-Q." Recorded by country songwriter Merle Kilgore -- then a disc jockey at KENT in Shreveport -- the original demo is looser and faster than the better-known hit version, moved along with two raw guitar solos from a 16-year-old James Burton (this now becoming his debut recording) and a surprise solo from saxman Sheldon Bazelle. The sound is raw and over-amped, the feel of a band taking a bandstand jam and trying to shape it into something that would fit onto one side of a phonograph record. The flip side of this scratchy 78 acetate is perhaps an even bigger surprise, Hawkins and band playing an impromptu slow blues entitled "If You Please Me" with Burton spraying licks all over the place, Dale mumbling a hastily assembled vocal, and no clear-cut ending. Equally fine is a version of Tarheel Slim's "Number Nine Train" featuring explosive guitar work from Carl Adams and the rare appearance of a slappin' upright bass (played by Bossier Strip regular Shorty Tony) on a Dale Hawkins record. This collection also features Hawkins in a supporting role picking guitar behind local boy vocalist Donnie Ray White and Nashville buddy Roger Miller, while his original band moonlights behind Maylon Humphries on "Weep No More," another cowbell rocker, this time in a minor key. Another noteworthy inclusion is "Superman," featuring Margaret Lewis on backup vocal, Roy Buchanan on guitar, and D.J. Fontana on drums. The title track, a wild instrumental with Adams driving the band on an agitated riff, later became the blueprint for "Lovin' Bug." Later cuts from the early '60s flesh things out (the gospel-styled "Everglades," "On Account of You," "Hey Pretty Baby," "Mumbly Peg"), but these half-dozen tracks -- and especially the "Susie-Q" demo -- are the main reasons to grab this one and add it to the MCA-Chess best-of compilation. ~ Cub Koda

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