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Remembering Ronnie Dawson

By Catherine Cuellar, KERA 90.1 reporter

Dallas, TX – Clip from Ronnie Dawson's "Party Town"

Catherine Cuellar, KERA 90.1 reporter: "The Blonde Bomber" Ronnie Dawson first made his mark as a teenager in the Big D Jamboree, a weekly showcase of rockabilly musicians at the Sportatorium during the 1950s. In an interview with 90.1 last spring, he talked about sharing the stage with Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley.

Ronnie Dawson: Elvis came through. Everyone's always asking me about that. But I was really more interested in what Scotty Moore was doing to get that sound. That slap back echo sound they got on "Mystery Train" was a tape recorder in an amplifier. So I got my information.

Cuellar: That's also about the time Dawson got his nickname.

Dawson: Johnny Hicks was an MC who had a TV show on Saturday afternoon and it was a preview of the Jamboree. One day I got finished with a song, and he said, "That was the Blonde Bomber with 'Rockin' Bones,'" and I knew right then I'd be hearing that name for the rest of my life, and I have.

Cuellar: Dawson recorded on Dick Clark's Swan label and appeared on American Bandstand twice before a payola scandal put the record company out of business. When rockabilly enjoyed a revival in the mid '80s, so did Dawson's career, and he was signed with a record company in England.

Clip from Ronnie Dawson's "Up Jumped the Devil"

Dawson: We had enough material to give 'em an album, and when it came out, we went over there. It was like dying and going to heaven. It was amazing. I didn't know what to expect. I figured, I was in my 50s. I'd done a lot. There's nothing to be afraid of.

Clip from Ronnie Dawson's "Rockin' Bones"

Cuellar: He went on to perform at Carnegie Hall, The Lincoln Center, and on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. He married late, at age 56, to Chris Davis, who survives him. A memorial will be held Sunday from 3 to 6 p.m. at Sons of Hermann Hall in Deep Ellum. For KERA 90.1, I'm Catherine Cuellar.


KERA's Jeff Whittington and Abby Goldstein contributed to this report.

Email Catherine Cuellar about this story.