There are artists who carry with them a sense (and sensibility) of time and place, like a living time capsule. In Muddy Waters, you can hear the great migration from the Deep South to the factories and mills of Chicago; in Dick Dale, the boundless electricity of the California coast during the booming '60s. For Dallas, the last 40 years could not be more succinctly summed up than they are in the person of the Blond Bomber, Ronnie Dawson.
It was a time of great collision, a postwar economy of opportunity for the first time allowing white kids to dig T-Bone Walker and Gatemouth Brown while their African-American brothers and sisters began to see the prospect of equality. Elvis personified the overlap, and one of those attracted to the amalgam of R&B, fast country, and blues he represented was a barely pubescent Ronnie Dawson, slaying the crowds at the Sportatorium's Big D Jamboree in the mid-'50s with what was then called "cat music"--later to be termed rockabilly.
After the Jamboree, Dawson went off through the music-company mill, weathering an association with Dick Clark, a drumming gig that ended up with him playing on hits like "Hey Baby," and a longtime association with Dallas-area clubs, bands, and commercial jingles (he was at one time the voice of Hungry Jack). Although he'd garnered some repute by dint of early hits like the bodaciously boastful "Action Packed"--still a favorite with rockabilly DJs across the land--he was comfortably unknown when he was re-discovered by English fans in the early '90s. Now he has a slew of recent records out, including one with with indie label Upstart and an early career retrospective box set on our own Crystal Clear Sound, several other albums in stores, and quite simply one of the most joyously honest, dance-friendly stage shows you'll ever see.
Dawson is equally at home on TV, blowing Conan O'Brien's mind, or at the Dallas Museum of Art, rocking away with the avant-percussion ensemble D'Drum. This Thursday he'll be breaking a new band, King Memphis, all the way from Maine. How long has it been since you've found yourself dripping with sweat, leaning breathless against the bar while girding your loins for one more run around the dance floor? Ronnie Dawson and the Wolf Chili man both agree: That's too long.
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Ronnie Dawson plays the Sons of Hermann Hall Thursday, March 13.