July 18: Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

ScreaminJayBefore Marilyn Manson, Danzig, The Cramps, Alice Cooper or even Black Sabbath, there was the original shock rocker, the one and only Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. Born on this day in 1929, Jalacy Hawkins grew up dreaming of becoming an opera singer like his hero Paul Robeson. However, Hawkins didn’t find much success in that endeavor and so he started dabbling in rhythm and blues.

One night in 1955, Hawkins hopped in to the studio to record a new love song he had written called “I Put A Spell On You.” The plan was to record it as a tender bluesy ballad, but according to Hawkins, the producer “brought in ribs and chicken and got everybody drunk, and we came out with this weird version.”

Hawkins and his band delivered a crazed, primal version full of guttural shouts. In fact, he was so drunk that he apparently blacked out during the session and had to relearn the song by listening to the record. “I don’t even remember making the record. Before, I was just a normal blues singer. I was just Jay Hawkins. It all sort of just fell in place. I found out I could do more destroying a song and screaming it to death.”

Despite being banned by some radio stations and record stores, the single became a cult hit and legendary rock ‘n’ roll DJ Alan Freed offered Hawkins $300 to perform the song in concert, on the condition that he emerge from a coffin at the start of the performance. Hawkins ran with the idea and added a cape, leopard skin suit and an assortment of voodoo themed props. Thus the ghoulish and goofy Screamin Jay Hawkins persona was created. Although he would never repeat the same smash success of “I Put A Spell On You,” Hawkins would continue to perform and record new horror filled tracks until his death in 2000. He was survived by a rumored 75 children.

Hawkins’ constant touring companion was a skull on a stick that he called Henry, so it’s only appropriate that we mix a Skull shooter in honor of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and Henry Skull. It’s a creamy drink with a whiskey kick.


  • 1/3 ounce Kahlua
  • 1/3 ounce Bailey’s Irish Cream
  • 1/3 ounce Whiskey

Mix in a shot glass, serve and drink.

Tomorrow: Maurice Garin wraps up the first tour of France.


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