Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

Screaming Jay Hawkins - I Put a Spell on You (Audio)

I PUT A SPELL ON YOU / Little Demon – OKEH Records 1956 – re-released on Fontana – 1963 / Pye International R & B
I Hear Voices – Pye International R & B

Screamin’ Jay Hawkins – Voodoo – Mojo Hand, cannibals, witch doctors, skeletons and a screaming skull called Henry  – it’s all here in the mocking mystery style of the Screamin’ Jay Legend. He even appeared with a large bone through his nose, coming out of a flaming coffin.

Screaming Jay At the Twisted Wheel
Screamin’ Jay looking all too human @copyright Brian Smith.

However, all this stuff must have affecting the man. He seemed somewhat paranoid when he came to Manchester‘s Twisted Wheel. He told us about how many kids he had in Honolulu, where he was living at the time. Years after he thought so many people were after him he had a special wire suit made that electrocuted anyone touching him which made going into a recording studio with him a little dangerous.

I Put A Spell On You is an all time great song and has had several excellent cover versions,  best being by Nina Simone with Allan Price doing a very decent job in 1968.

An updated version of “Heart Attack and Vine” was a hit in the 1990’s used in a Levis advert but was sued by Tom Waits over its use. .

Other Screamin’ Jay Hawkins titles
Feast of The Mau Mau
Alligator Wine
Itty Bitty Pretty One
Portrait of a Man
Constipation Blues – 1969
The Whammy

Heart Attack And Vine – its a great version!

He once said “I don’t sing songs I destroy ’em” despite the fact that at one time he wanted to be an opera singer (he studied opera at the Cleveland Conservatory of Music). He owned the rights to I Put A Spell on you, and as it was recorded by by many others – and the fact that he toured with major acts like the Rolling Stones, he made money unlike a lot of other acts of the period.

He stipulated in his will:

“Cremate me, Fly over the ocean and scatter the dust, so I can be little particles in everybody’s eyes, drive everybody crazy the rest of their lives”.

He appeared in a couple of films: Mystery Train, A Rage in Harlem and his story about having 56 kids became a UK TV Documentary.


Photographs taken at The twisted wheel courtesy of Brian Smith. BOOM BOOM book. And for more about Brian Smith.
Screamin’ Jay on The Front Cover of CENTRAL 1179

Screaming Jay Hawkins DVD his last performance in Greece

There is a great double DVD (1999; above) about Screaming Jay at his last live performance in Athens, Greece. Lots of great stuff, music, stories and great anecdotes.

Screaming Jay Hawkins - Book

Book Review (from Amazon):

Mark Binelli turns his sharp, forceful prose to fiction, in an inventive retelling of the outrageous life of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, a bluesman with one hit and a string of inflammatory guises

He came on stage in a coffin, carried by pallbearers, drunk enough to climb into his casket every night. Onstage he wore a cape, clamped a bone to his nose, and carried a staff topped with a human skull. Offstage, he insisted he’d been raised by a tribe of Blackfoot Indians, that he’d joined the army at fourteen, that he’d defeated the middleweight boxing champion of Alaska, that he’d fathered seventy-five illegitimate children.

The R&B wildman Screamin’ Jay Hawkins only had a single hit, the classic “I Put a Spell On You,” and was often written off as a clownish novelty act — or worse, an offense to his race — but his myth-making was legendary. In his second novel, Mark Binelli embraces the man and the legend to create a hilarious, tragic, fantastical portrait of this unlikeliest of protagonists. Hawkins saw his life story as a wild picaresque, and Binelli’s novel follows suit, tackling the subject in a dazzling collage-like style.

At “Rolling Stone,” Binelli has profiled some of the greatest musicians of our time, and this novel deftly plays with the inordinate focus on “authenticity” in so much music writing about African-Americans. An entire novel built around a musician as deliberately inauthentic as Screamin’ Jay Hawkins thus becomes a sort of subversive act, as well as an extremely funny and surprisingly moving one.

Born 18th July 1929 – Cleveland Ohio

Died Saturday 12th February 2000 at Neuilly-sur-Siene, Paris.

Screamin’ Jay Hawkins – Wikipedia