Susie-Q: One of 500 Songs that Shaped Rock & Roll

Single Susie-Q by Dale Hawkins
Susie-Q
Single: Dale Hawkins
B-side: Don't Treat Me This Way
Released: May 1957
Genre: Rockabilly
Songwriters: Dale Hawkins, Robert Chaisson

Dale Hawkins recorded "Susie Q" towards the end of the rockabilly era in 1957. His cousin, Ronnie Hawkins, released a version of the song with the Hawks, later known as The BandNotable live performances of "Susie Q" include Johnny Rivers' cover on his album Meanwhile Back at the Whisky à Go Go and the Everly Brothers' version on their LP The Everly Brothers Show. Dale's original version is listed in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's "500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll." 

Dale Hawkins
"We just had to have something different."
Hawkins to Mojo in 2007

Dale Hawkins and his bandmates honed the sound  of "Susie Q" around North Louisiana's notorious Bossier City strip before paying a local radio station $25 to let them record it in the station's studio during early morning downtime. A 15-year-old James Burton, who worked with Ricky Nelson and later with Elvis Presley, provided the swampy guitar riff. King Curtis played tenor saxophone on the record.  

Dale Hawkins
Dale Hawkins

According to Dale: "Radio Station KWKH was the only place in town that had a good mono tape machine, so we cut it there with Bob Sullivan, an engineer who was from our part of the country and understood. We only had an hour because we had to do it in between the time that they would switch radio towers.

Although the song didn't chart, it was a favorite of the Rolling Stones. They covered the tune on their 1964 12 x 5 album.

Creedence Clearwater Revival

"I went crazy and immediately began banging on the dashboard."
John Fogerty when he heard Burton's guitar riff while driving

"Suzie Q" was the first single Creedence Clearwater Revival released from their debut album in 1968. It peaked at number 11 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart; their only track not written or co-written by Fogerty to reach the Top 40. In Bad Moon Rising: The Unofficial History of Creedence Clearwater Revival,  Fogerty said:

Creedence Clearwater Revival  debut album

"I knew I needed to work on arranging the song so that the band would sound like Creedence Clearwater Revivial, would sound professional, mysterious and also have their own definition. The song I chose was 'Susie Q.' I decided not to write the song myself. I decided to pick something that existed because it'd just be easier. I'd be less self-conscious about doing things."

When asked what the rhymes are in the latter part of the song, bass player Stu Cook said, "They were just simple rhymes. John hated it when songwriters used simple rhymes just to make things rhyme, so this was a statement against that. It was sort of anti-Dylan.

 

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