A number of years ago, a friend presented me with a copy of Cowboy Songs number 37. Published fifty-nine years ago, as the September-October 1954 edition by Charlton Publications of Derby, Connecticut, the magazine was loaded with surprises, from an early portrait of Dave Dudley to a wonderful candid snapshot of Jumpin’ Bill Carlisle. Out of all thirty-one pages, number eighteen held the thrill: a small feature on WJR radio’s singing disk jockey May Hawks (pictured at right, upper right-hand corner).
Originally from middle Tennessee, Hawks started her career working with the Casey Clark and Jimmy Dickens bands in Saginaw, Michigan, in 1947. After Dickens moved to Nashville, Tennessee, in 1947, he helped Hawks land a gig portraying Little Miss Martha White for Royal Flour Mills on WSM’s “Grand Ole Opry” as well as a morning show sponsored by the Mills. After about a year, Hawks returned to Michigan, where she sang on the WJR “Big Barn Frolic” and made records for Fortune Records, RCA subsidiary Label “X,” Starday, and others.
The Cowboy Songs feature stated: “May has since organized her own band, which accompanies her wherever she appears. She has worked such exclusive spots as the Detroit Yacht Club and Waldorf Astoria Hotel, to mention just a few. Miss Hawks currently has her own show on radio station WJR, Detroit, where you can hear plenty of that ‘good ole music’.”
May Hawks is no longer with us. When she shared her story with Keith Cady, her voice and conversation still rang with the warmth, charm, and charisma that attracted listeners to her radio and recorded performances. May Hawks’ story appears in the book “Detroit Country Music: Mountaineers, Cowboys, and Rockabillies.”