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Screamin' Jay Hawkins

Cleveland, 1940s-2000

Screamin' Jay Hawkins has become a pop culture reference about some eccentric 'coolness' associated with Cleveland in the 1950s and 60s - along with Ghoulardi, the Mad Daddy, Alan Freed, etc. He was born and raised in Cleveland, but left to join the Army as a teenager during World War II. 

Hawkins often appears near the top of musicians from Cleveland, but in fact his musical career after the war doesn't seem to have much, if any relationship to the city or the culture. He made a few trips there peforming as part of Tiny Grimes' band. Grimes wasn't from Cleveland but played there often as Cleveland was a major stop in the chitlin circuit. 

He recorded a few straight R&B 45s for Timely and Mercury before recording his signature song "I Put A Spell On You" in 1956. A few more 45s and a LP on Epic were released. He recorded sporadically in the early 1960s. He was very popular in Europe and spent time touring there from the mid/late 1960s until his death.

His recording career revived a bit with Decca, including a re-recording of "Spell" that was aiming for the teen dance crowd. The Decca deal lasted for a few 45s and he recorded for Philips, starting with a live LP that included what is probably his second most well known recording, "Constipation Blues". His second LP for Philips was targeting the emerging underground rock audience, with a psychedelic voodoo imagery cover and back cover plugs for Blue Cheer and Coven LPs. 

A 1972 LP for Hot Line records in Nashville saw him making a change in style, mainly love songs - except for a new re-recording of "Spell" - and a cover that looked like a Motown LP.  

In the late 1970s several LPs were issued of recycled 60s and 70s recordings, including a repackage of the Hot Line LP. In 1984 he got another revival thanks to the retro 60s garage band the Fuzztones.

He made  few more LPs in the 1990s relying heavily on his image as a crazy witch doctor types with lots of songs referencing spells and macabre subjects. By this time he was spending a lot of time in Europe and still performing. He passed away in 2000