Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
“I learned all about roots from living in the forest without no blanket and no food. I learned how to eat certain bark, plants, and flowers, how to get certain stones out of ponds and rivers and make rock soup and how to cure pains and cuts with certain plant – strictly old home remedies. If my Blackfoot Indian mother was from Africa, you would call her a witch doctor; if she was from New Orleans, you’d call her a voodoo priestess. I just put it to music.”
I get a lot of my info from biographies. Books fill my shelves with the lives of people I should know about, dead people who existed before me. These are history books to me — books about punk rockers and writers, about bomb builders and mutants. It’s sad that there’s not a book about Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, that I know of, but thankfully someone has an extensive site up that does more than his Wikipedia entry. He’s known for three hits, mostly ‘I Put a Spell On You,’ though I admittedly don’t know much more about him.
There’s something about Screamin’ Jay Hawkins that makes him seem important to our current affairs in the Horror Business. He started to do his act back in the mid-fifties, thirteen years before Alice and thirty years before the Misfits. He’s dubbed as the ‘orginal shock-rocker’ but that’s such a weak brand to put on him.
Screamin’ Jay, born in Cleavland, given up as a child and raised by Blackfoot Indians, boxing his way into World War II at age 14 and becoming a champion of Alaska, turning to music and from that, bringing coffins, snakes and canibals to showbizness. Aligator wine. Feast of the Mau Mau. He was singing about horror and spooky before everyone else. Rocket From the Crypt dressed up like him for their final appearance because they wanted to go out as kings. Screamin’ Jay was a king. He wasn’t a shock rocker. ‘Shock’ implies a lack of ‘substance,’ a firework or a loud noise that burns away with little or nothing remaining. What of Jay Hawkins? Is he forgotten? I don’t know. I would hope not. There’s parts of him I want to know about that aren’t clear.
The site writes this:
The time until 1962 includes a prison sentence of 22 months for whatever reason…
22 months of prison for whatever reason? FUCK.
Before a Boston show he tells the Boston Herald, “I am going to reach into … [spectators’] chests, grab their hearts, fumble with their emotions, and have them walking sideways and eating chop suey with chopsticks out of their ear[s] while wearing a gas mask.”
Jay’s been dead for eight years now. His death was overshadowed by Tom Landry and Charles Schultz. I think that’s an example how comic strips and football made everyone look past the dead wild man. I want to think there’s a good amount of people out there that know about him and could answer my questions, write his story down in a book. I think he needs something like that. I’m also talking without knowing, which makes me a fool.