The Late, Great

Ronnie Dawson proved there are indeed second acts in rock and roll

Above Ronnie and Chris Dawson's fireplace hangs an enormous yellow-and-black poster advertising a show featuring Dawson and Carl Perkins. Dawson says he keeps it there to remind himself of his place in rock-and-roll history: "Below Carl Perkins," he says, not at all joking. Yet where Perkins and Gene Vincent and their lot backed themselves into a corner in 1956, Dawson moves forever forward. And to think that when he was a child growing up in Oak Cliff, he never even wanted to perform in public. It wasn't until a friend forced him to, during a Future Farmers of America talent show, that Dawson discovered what he'd end up doing for the rest of his life.

"I was a sophomore, and I'd just play at home," Dawson says, recounting a story he seldom tells. "I was bashful. My buddies knew I could play, and they went by my house and got my guitar and took it to school. The teacher said, 'We got a guy here, and somebody said he could play gee-tar. I don't really think he can.' I looked up there, and it was my guitar. I was on the spot, and I had to play, and when I did, I went crazy. I never said anything to anyone. I went to school and walked next to the walls and did my work. That was when it started."

There was no one better than Ronnie Dawson, onstage or off.
James Bland
There was no one better than Ronnie Dawson, onstage or off.
Ronnie Dawson never wanted to perform in public until a friend forced him to.
Francis Photographers
Ronnie Dawson never wanted to perform in public until a friend forced him to.

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