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Cold War Music from the Golden Age of Homeland Security

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When They Found The Atomic Power: Hawkshaw Hawkins [1947]

This is another rather heavy-handed song that claims the atomic bomb as an American birthright ("In that zero hour seeking out some heavenly power while the Star Spangled Banner was being played") and one that was issued by divine providence. It should be noted that the tune's treatment of the Oak Ridge scientists as folk heroes was in keeping with their treatment in the media of the day. It was the scientists, after all, who saved our boys from a Japanese invasion. One could argue that the Manhattan Project was the ultimate redemption of the egghead (with a strong assist from the Almighty, of course).

Hawkshaw Hawkins was born Howard Franklin Hawkins in Huntington, West Virgina in 1921 and by the age of 16 had appeared on radio station WCMI in Ashland, Kentucky and, after winning a contest on WSAZ, found steady employment at that station for $15 a week. Upon graduating high school in 1939, Hawkins managed to get hired at the much larger WCHS in Charleston where he formed a duet called Hawkshaw & Sherlock (Hawkins's nickname, Hawkshaw, is derived from a 19th century term for a detective).

In 1943 Hawkins joined the Army and, after the Battle of the Bulge, spent most of his years appearing on Armed Forces Radio in Manila. After the war Hawkins began recording for Syd Nathan's King label and shortly thereafter became a popular act on WWVA's Wheeling Jamboree where he performed for eight years.

Some of Hawkins' signature cover tunes (he did not write much of his own material) on King are as follows: Rattlesnakin' Daddy, Shotgun Boogie and I Love You A Thousand Ways.

On New Years Day in 1953 it was Hawkshaw Hawkins who replaced the deceased Hank Williams at the show in Canton, Ohio that Williams was scheduled to play. Hawkins reportedly gave quite a performance. In 1956 Hawkins signed with RCA Victor where he remained hitless for two years. In 1960 he married his second wife, country artist Jean Shephard. In 1962 Hawkins was re-signed to King where he would record his biggest hit, Lonesome 7-7203.

On March 3, 1963 Hawkshaw Hawkins, Cowboy Copas and Patsy Cline died in a plane crash near Camden, Tennessee.

LYRICS/TRANSCRIPTION:
When They Found The Atomic Power: Hawkshaw Hawkins [1947]

In Alamogordo, New Mexico just a few years ago
While the nations of this world were at war
America's greatest men were workin' hard then
On the things that had never been before

Refrain: When the Lord held out His mighty hand
So that others in this world might understand
That wars could never be and this world it must be free
When they found the mighty, mighty Atomic Power

They were at Los Alamos, Oak Ridge and old Pasco
Working in a downpour of rain
In that zero hour seeking out some heavenly power
While the Star Spangled Banner was being played

Refrain

Then a flash, a rumbling roar out across the desert floor
They had found the atomic power from above
Then God with His mighty hand showed the world it could not stand
When they found the mighty, mighty Atomic Power

Refrain

Hawkshaw Hawkins [1947]
When They Found The Atomic Power
(Hawkins-Big Slim)
King 611

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