Hillbilly-Music.com—The People. The Music. The History.
Hawkshaw Hawkins
Born:  December 22, 1921
Died:  March 5, 1963
West Virgnia Music Hall of Fame (2009)
KWTO Ozark Jubilee
WFIL Hayloft Hoedown
WSM Grand Ole Opry
WWVA Original Jamboree
WWVA Wheeling, WV

About The Artist

He was born in Huntington, West Virginia; his name was Harold Franklin Hawkins, but the music world came to know him as Hawkshaw Hawkins. He grew to be about six feet five inches tall. His nature and height probably had a hand in the fans giving him the nickname of "Eleven and one-half yards of personality".

He was part of a family of four. When he was just 13 years old, he got his first guitar, a homemade one, that he got in a trade for five rabbits. He continued his musical interests and got his first foot in the door through a bit of fate.

There was an amateur radio contest in his home town and someone dared Hawkshaw to enter the contest. He not only won the contest, but the radio station, WSAZ of Huntington, WV, gave him his first regular spot on the air. In a question and answer session as part of a column called "Witness Box" in an old Country Song Roundup, Hawkshaw related that a couple named Dot and Smokey gave him one of his first breaks in the music business when he teamed with them over WSAZ. He also said Jake Taylor had helped out, too but no other details were provided.

A couple years later and he was working as the emcee of a show that aired over WCMI in Ashland, Kentucky. He also appeared over other stations such as WCHS in Charleston, West Virginia, WLAW, in Lawrence, Massachusetts and WFIL out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Like many artists in that era, Hawkshaw's musical career was interrupted by World War II. He entered the Army Engineering Corps in November of 1943. He was stated to have served in the Army about two and a half years as a Sergeant. He served in the European Theatre of Operations (ETO) and in the Pacific. He was also a part of the 197th Engineering Maintenance Company. During that time, he saw nearly 15 months of combat duty and was a participant in the "Battle of the Bulge", which took place in late 1944 and lasted through 1945. He earned four battle stars. After the war ended in Germany, he was assigned to the Philippines.

It was while he was stationed in the Philippines that Hawkshaw enjoyed one of the highlights of his career that was often mentioned in the write-ups in the magazines of that era. He was part of an all-GI show in Manila that aired over radio station WTUM or WUTM (we've seen various radio station names for this stint in the Philippines, the fan club newsletter we have mentions it was WUTM.).

In January of 1946, Hawkshaw was discharged from the military service. It appears that upon going home to resume his music career, he went first to the steel regions of Pennsylvania and hooked up with radio station WKST in New Castle. While he was there, an artists bureau member heard Hawkshaw's singing and sent a recommendation to WWVA in Wheeling, West Virginia, the home of the World's Original Jamboree. He made a guest appearance on that show on July 29, 1946 and in August, he joined the cast of the show. It didn't take long for the fans to discover his popularity. They ran a popularity contest after he had been there only six weeks and he came in second place (one article we read mentioned he came in second to Big Slim)! Later, he won a popularity contest. A fan club newsletter mentions the crowds "...would scream encores as he performed on the Jamboree stage."

We get an idea of the audience reaction to Hawkshaw's appearances on the WWVA Original Jamboree show from some quotes attributed to Curly Miller, in a Hillbilly News article of 1947. Curly was the emcee of the show back then and they wrote that towards the end of the show, Curly would step up to the microphone and introduce the man the fans called "Eleven yards of personality and song." But it seems that before Curly could even get to say his name, his voice was drowned out by "..the screaming and thunderous applause of the frenzied audience".

Curly had worked as master of ceremonies at several of the top shows of the time, the WIBC Jamboree in Indiana, the WLS National Barn Dance, the Hayloft Frolic, the Noon Day Merry-Go-Round and others before coming to the WWVA show. Curly said,

"But I have never seen or heard any other entertainer given such a tremendous applause and welcome ovation."

The article goes on to try and explain this popularity, attributing it to "His top recordings, his pleasing voice, his vibrant personality, his all-around good humor". They also said he was just Hawkshaw Hawkins, "…no airs, no strut, no sham."

Hawkshaw worked for some time with the Big Slim show as they teamed up on personal appearances before Big Slim left the station.

In July of 1948, Hawkshaw left WWVA (his replacement they said was Tennessee Morgan) and in August joined WFIL in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where it was reported he would also do television spots in addition to working on the radio. While at WFIL, he appeared on the Saturday night show, the Hayloft Hoedown which was televised and broadcast over the ABC network. But perhaps his West Virginia roots were too strong, for in November 1948, he returned to WWVA.

The fan club newsletter reported that they staged a special welcome Jamboree for his return. They said thousands came to the theatre, lining up early in the day to make sure they got the best seats. They wrote, "No star ever received a greater ovation than hawk as he stepped before the footlites of the famous Jamboree stage that night."

Around September of 1950, Hawkshaw had formed a new band. In one article, it notes that Hawkshaw's band was called the "West Virginia Night Hawks" and included Billy Grammer who would later also become noted musician himself and later a member of the Opry in his own right. Billy Grammer played the "boogie guitar" in Hawkshaw's band back then. Sammy Barnhart played bass. Another couple of guys named Mel and Stan were known as the "Kentucky Twins" and another unidentified person played "Fireball", who was the comedian of the troupe. In a WWVA Family Album of 1950, it lists the members of his band as Red Watkins, guitar, Glenn Ferguson, fiddle, Herman "Jiggs" Lemley and Buddy Nelson, bass fiddle.

This stint at WWVA lasted until February 2, 1952 when he left to go on an extended tour of Canada and states such as Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Indiana, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Michigan and Ohio.

After that extended tour, he returned to WWVA on September 18, 1952 to appear twice a night on the Original Jamboree as well as a studio show at 1:45am. He stayed this time until June of 1954. He went west to Missouri to work with the cast that was being put together by the Ozark Jubilee airing over KWTO in Springfield, Missouri that was led by Red Foley. Hawkshaw's popularity continued while there and in fact was one of the original cast members that were also a part of the first television broadcasts of the show. In July of 1954, Hawkshaw had started a daily radio show over KWTO. And later that same month, on July 17, the first performance of the Ozark Jubilee took place at the Jewell Theater in Springfield. Other members of that inaugural cast included Tommy Sosebee, Slim Wilson and Porter Wagoner. Later on, the show loaned him to Nashville's Grand Ole Opry and before you know it, the Opry made him a member.

It seems that while on the Ozark Jubilee, a couple of Opry stars, Hank Snow and Ernest Tubb had heard him and talked to Jack Stapp who was the director of WSM and the Grand Ole Opry then. Let's see how Hawkshaw described his invitation to join the Opry in a magazine article (he joined the Opry in June of 1955):

"I was sitting in my house when the phone rang. I answered it and a voice said, 'This is Hank.' Hank Snow, you mean, I said. 'Yes', you have a job at WSM anytime you want it.' Well, I just couldn't believe it but I called Mr. Stapp and he told me to report in two weeks for the Opry." Later, Hawkshaw noted, " It's taken me 17 years to get to the Grand Ole Opry and I hope it takes 17 years more for them to get rid of me."

His fame continued to spread. He was being heard on a radio network show called "Saturday Night Country Style" that was broadcast each week from the famous live jamboree / Opry type shows back then from places such as Richmond, Louisville, Wheeling, Knoxville, Shreveport, Dallas and Nashville.

Hawkshaw himself was a bit of a talented musician, playing several instruments, though most fans associate him playing the guitar. He could also play the five-string banjo, mandolin, violin, bass and harmonica, too.

He also wrote many tunes during his career, such as:

  • A Heartache To Recall
  • Dog House Boogie
  • I'm A Lone Wolf
  • I'm Waiting Just For You
  • I've Got The Blues
  • I've Loved You More Than I Know
  • I Wasted A Nickel
  • Shot Gun Boogie
  • The Time Will Come
  • The Way I Love You (the first song he recorded)

During its heyday, Hawkshaw's Fan Club, "Golden Spurs" was one of the biggest in the industry.

Hawkshaw enjoyed other aspects of life besides music and was fond of outdoor sports, such as fishing, baseball, swimming, coon-hunting and horseback riding. They said he later started 'collecting' tropical fish if that's the way to describe it and also had a Pomeranian dog named Cricket.

In fact, he was quite the horseman and had several horses. He learned to use a bullwhip when he met Kit Carson while at a radio station in Lawrence, Massachusetts and continued to use it in his shows. His abilities with the horses should help us understand the natural teaming of Big Slim who was also a horseman while they were at WWVA. In a side note, Hank Snow was also a part of Big Slim's show for a short time. Hawkshaw at one time had two trained horse, one named "Chief" who was said to be able to do 25 tricks. Another horse was "Tomahawk" - a combination of the names Hawkshaw and Tom, for Tom Kelly, his manager.

In one interesting mention we found, it notes that Hawkshaw was going to take a show on tour in the Northwest for 60 days "…at a guaranteed $100,000 dollars."

He recorded first for the King record label. On May 1, 1953, he signed with the RCA Victor label. Then he moved to Columbia before returning to the King label. Perhaps his most requested song at one time was Filipino Baby, for they wrote, "…what Hawkshaw can't do with that song, no one can."

During that second tour with the King label, he recorded a Justin Tubb (son of Ernest Tubb) tune called "Lonesome 7-7203" in 1962.

But sadly, Hawkshaw would not live to see it reach number one on the charts. On March 5, 1963, he, along with fellow Grand Ole Opry stars, Cowboy Copas and Patsy Cline, were returning from a benefit show (for a disc jockey that had lost his leg) in a plane piloted by Randy Hughes, the son-in-law of Cowboy Copas and the manager of Patsy Cline. The plane encountered a blinding thunderstorm that caused the plane to crash in the woods near Camden, Tennessee.

On the personal side, Hawkshaw was married at one time to a young lady from Huntington, WV, named Reva Barbour, who he later divorced. Their daughter was Marlene, who is now a Country Gospel singer/songwriter, author and speaker.

He married again, this time to Jean Shepard, another famed country music singer who is also a part of the Grand Ole Opry. Hawk and Jean had two sons: Don Robin and Harold Franklin II. Harold is also a singer/songwriter.

The marriage of Hawkshaw Hawkins and Jean Shepard was quite a thing back on November 26, 1960. Country Song Roundup featured it on their cover and wrote up the details and provided some photos. They were appearing as part of a Grand Ole Opry show at the Forum Auditorium in Wichita, Kansas. And it was quite a show to say the least - sharing the stage that day were Tex Ritter, Hank Morton, Carl Perkins, The Plainsmen Quartet, The LeGarde Twins from Australia, Moon Mullican, Gary Van and his Western Starlighters. The article reports that a crowd of 4,000 folks attended this gala event.

Their wedding took place after the show. When the curtain closed after the last song and after a brief interlude, organ music filled the auditorium, then the Plainsmen Quartet sang a couple of tunes, "True Love" and "Her Hand In Mine" to set the mood for the ceremony.

Then Jean appeared dressed in her bridal gown. The procession took them through the audience to the stage, with an arbon of Chrysanthemums. The owner of the local radio station KSIR, Nick Sanders, was the emcee of the ceremony, letting the audience know what was occurring.

After the ceremony, Jean told the audience that those wanting a souvenir, could come to the stage and take a piece of the floral decorations. Needless to say, fans took her up on this offer. The audience even got to sample the wedding cake, though there wasn't enough for everyone, but the article said nearly a 1,000 people got to taste it. After the wedding, the couple would make their home in Nashville.

And we'll leave you with this greeting that he was known for,

"May the Lord Take a Likin' To Ya!"

Timeline and Trivia Notes

West Virginia Nighthawks members:

  • Hawkshaw Hawkins
  • Billy Grammer, boogie guitar
  • Sammy Barnhart, bass
  • Mel and Stan, the "Kentucky Twins"
  • "Fireball", comedian
  • Red Watkins, guitar
  • Glenn Ferguson, fiddle
  • Herman "Jiggs" Lemley
  • Buddy Nelson, bass fiddle

Credits & Sources

  • National Hillbilly News; July-August 1947; Poster Show Print Co.; Huntington, WV
  • Country Song Roundup No. 12; June 1951; Charlton Pub. Corp.; Derby, CT
  • Country Song Roundup No. 25; August 1953; American Folk Publications, Inc.; Derby, CT
  • Country Song Roundup No. 32; June 1954; American Folk Publications, Inc.; Derby, CT
  • Country Song Roundup No. 33; July-August 1954; American Folk Publications, Inc.; Derby, CT
  • Country Song Roundup No. 72; copy of article provided courtesy of Marlene Gilliam
  • Country and Western Jamboree; November 1956; Maher Publications; 2001 Calumet Avenue; Chicago, IL
  • The Mountain Broadcast and Prairie Recorder; January 1947; Article by Mary Jean Shurtz; Mountain Broadcast Pub. Co., Inc.; 45 Astor Place, New York, NY
  • Country & Western Jamboree; January 1957;
  • The Original Country Music Who's Who Annual for 1960; Edited and Produced by Thurston Moore, Cardinal Enterprises, Inc., Cincinnati, Ohio; 1960.
  • Hawkshaw Hawkins Golden Spurs Fan Club; December 1953; President, Monna Massey.
  • Hawkshaw Hawkins Song Folio; circa 1950; Lois Publishing Company; Cincinnati, Ohio

Related Web Links

Marlene (Hawkins) Gilliam - Hawkshaw's Daughter
Country Gospel Music Singer/Songwriter

Sound Sample—(YouTube Video Format)

I Ain't Goin' Honky Tonkin' Anymore & WWVA Jamboree Promo

Recordings (78rpm/45rpm)

Rec. No. Side Song Title
  41419 A Big Red Benson
  41419 B Soldier's Joy
  41574 A Patanio (The Pride Of The Plains)
  41574 B Arkansas Lil And Texas Bill
  41714 A Put A Nickel In The Jukebox
  41714 B Your Conscience
  41811 A You Know Me Much Too Well
  41811 B My Story
  42002 A No Love For Me
  42002 B The Love I Have For You
  42223 A Twenty Miles From Shore
  42223 B Big Ole Heartache
  42441 A Darkness On The Face Of The Earth
  42441 B I Can't Seem To Say Goodbye
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  1039 A Be My Life's Companion
  1039 B Everybody's Got A Girl But Me
  1047 A I Am Slowly Dying Of A Broken Heart
  1047 B Over The Hillsung w/ Huby Wright
  1062 A Unwanted
  1062 B Got You On My Mind
  1081 A I Love The Way You Say Goodnight
  1081 B Loaded With Love
  1134 A I'm A Lone Wolf
  1134 B I Hope You're Crying Too
  1154 A Tangled Heart
  1154 B Betty Lorainne
  1174 A The Life Of Hank Williams
  1174 B Picking Sweethearts
  1175 A Kaw-Liga
  1175 B If I Ever Get Rich Mom
  1190 A The Life Story Of Hank Williams
  1190 B Barbara Allen
  3123 A Rattlesnakin' Daddy
  3123 B I Hate Myself
  3240 A Two Roads
  5404 A Nothing More To Say
  5404 A Nothing More To Say
  5404 B Between The Lines
  5404 B Between The Lines
  544 A After All
  544 B The Way I Love You
  557 A Never Cry Over You
  557 B I Ain't Goin' Honky Tonkin'
  558 A Soldier's Last Letter
  558 B There's A Little Bit Of Everything In Texas
  559 A Try Me One More Time
  559 B Blue Eyed Elaine
  560 A Are You Waiting Just For Me
  560 B You Nearly Lose Your Mind
  561 A It's Been So Long Darling
  561 B I Wonder Why You said Goodbye
  562 A Walking The Floor Over You
  562 B I'll Get Along Somehow
  563 A Mean Mama Blues
  563 B Mean Old Bed Bug Blues
  564 A I'm Wondering How
  564 B That's When It's Coming Home To You
  5692 A Silver Threads And Golden Needles
  5692 A Girl Without A Name
  5692 B Silver Threads And Golden Needles
  5692 B Girl Without A Name
  5695 A Bad News Travels Fast
  5695 B Let Them Talk
  5712 A Lonesome 7-7203
  5712 A Lonesome 7-7203
  5712 B Everything Has Changed
  5712 B Everything Has Changed
  5765 A Love Died Tonight
  5765 A Love Died Tonight
  5765 B Sunny Side Of The Mountain
  5765 B Sunny Side Of The Mountain
  5810 A Caught In The Middle Of Two Hearts
  5810 A Caught In The Middle Of Two Hearts
  5810 B If I Ever Get Rich Mom
  5810 B If I Ever Get Rich Mom
  5871 A I'm Beginning To Forget
  5871 A I'm Beginning To Forget
  5871 B Teardops On Your Letter
  5871 B Teardrops On Your Letter
  5909 A Waiting In The Shadows
  5909 A This Particular Baby
  5909 B This Particular Baby
  5909 B The Shadows
  6047 A Never Mind The Tears
  6047 B Last Letter
  6074 A Jealous Fate
  6074 B It's Easy To Remember
  611 A Since You Went Away
  611 B When They Found The Atomic Power
  625 A Blue Skies In Your Eyes
  625 B Moonlight On My Cabin
  667 A After Yesterday
  667 B Sunny Side Of The Mountain
  686 A Secrets Of My Heart
  686 B Never Say Goodbye
  689 A Pan American
  689 B I Suppose
  696 A I'm Waiting Just For You
  696 B A Heartache To Recall
  720 A Dog House Boogie
  720 B I Can't Tell My Broken Heart A Lie
  742 A I Don't Have The Heart To Say Goodbye
  742 B Some Of These Nights
  756 A Somebody Lied
  756 B Memories Always Linger On
  776 A All Because Of My Jealous Heart
  776 B Life Lost It's Color
  793 A Would You Like To Have A Broken Heart
  793 B The Longer Were together More We Drift Apart)
  821 A I Wasted A Nickel
  821 B I'm Kissing Your Picture Counting Tears
  838 A There's A Teardrop In Your Eye
  838 B Wanted Someone To Love Me
  859 A Back To The Dog House
  859 B Pardon Me For Loving You
  876 A Yesterday's Kisses
  876 B That's All She Wrote
  897 A Stop Please Stop
  897 B Handcuffed To Love
  918 A I Love You A Thousand Ways
  918 B Teardrops From My Eyes
  932 A Shotgun Boogie
  932 B You Don't Belong To Me
  944 A Rattlesnakin' Daddy
  944 B I Hate Myself
  969 A I'm Waiting Just For You
  969 B A Heartache To Recall
  997 A Skies in Your Eyes
  997 B Side of the Mountain
  998 A Slow Poke
  998 B Two Roads
RCA Victor
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  20- 6794 A Oh How I Cried
  20- 6794 B Action
  20-5333 A I'll Trade Yours For Mine
  20-5333 B The Long Way
  20-5444 A A Heap Of Lovin'
  20-5444 B The Mark Round My Finger
  20-5549 A I'll Never Close My Heart
  20-5549 B When You Say Yes
  20-5623 A Waiting For My Baby
  20-5623 B Flashing Lights
  20-5702 A Rebound
  20-5702 A Rebound
  20-5702 B Why Didn't I Hear It From You
  20-5702 B Why Didn't I Hear It From You
  20-5808 A One White Rose
  20-5808 B I Wanna Be Hugged To Death By You
  20-5890 A Why Don't You Leave This Town
  20-5890 B I'll Take A Chance With You
  20-6022 A Koko Mo
  20-6022 B Lin Ting Tong
  20-6103 A Pedro Gonzales Tennessee Lopez
  20-6103 B How Could Anything So Purty Be So Doggone Mean
  20-6211 A Car Hoppin Mama
  20-6211 B The Love You Steal
  20-6298 A I Gotta Have You
  20-6298 B Standing At The End Of My World
  20-6396 A Borrowing
  20-6396 B If It Ain't On The Menu
  20-6508 A Baby, It's In The Making
  20-6508 B You Can't Divorce My Heart
  20-6716 A I'll Be Gone
  20-6716 B My Fate Is In Your Hands
  20-6910 A Dark Moon
  20-6910 B With This Pen
  20-7054 A Sensation
  20-7054 B The Ring On Your Finger
  20-7145 A Guilty Of Dreaming
  20-7145 B It's Easier Said Than Done
  20-7222 A I Don't Apologize
  20-7222 B I'll Get Even With You
  47-5623 A Waitin' For My Baby (Rock, Rock)
  47-5623 B Flashin' Lights
  47-5890 A Why Don't You Leave This Town
  47-5890 B I'll Take A Chance With You
  47-6022 A Ko Ko Mo (I Love You So)
  47-6022 B Ling Ting Tong
  47-6298 A Standing At The End Of My World
  47-6298 B I Gotta Have You
  47-6396 A Borrowing
  47-6396 B If It Ain't On The Menu
  47-6509 A It Would Be A Doggone Lie
  47-6509 B Sunny Side Of The Mountain
  47-6716 A My Fate Is In Your Hands
  47-6716 B I'll Be Gone
  47-7054 A Sensation
  47-7054 B Is My Ring On Your Finger
  47-7145 A Guilty Of Dreaming
  47-7145 B It's Easier Said Than Done
  47-7222 A I'll Get Even With You
  47-7222 B I Don't Apologize
  47-7389 A Freedom
  47-7389 B I've Got It Again
  47-7478 A She Was Here
  47-7478 B Are You Happy
  47-7486 A She Was Here
  47-7486 B Are You Happy
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  105 A Slowpoke
  105 B Lonesome 7-7203