Dawkins was born in Tchula, Mississippi and moved to Chicago in the 1950’s after teaching himself guitar. Once he moved there, he started playing guitar for tips before starting a band and playing blues clubs in the city. He eventually became a sought-after sideman, playing with the likes of Buddy Guy and Otis Rush. Rush even appeared on Dawkins’ second album, All For Business.
While he never became a huge star in America, Dawkins maintained a sizable fanbase outside of the United States, particularly in Europe and Japan. Besides being a musician, Dawkins also wrote about music, contributing a column for Living Blues magazine for many years.
Bob Koester, owner of Delmark Records (the label that put out many of Dawkins’ albums), described the guitarist as a singular talent, both as a guitarist and as a vocalist. “His voice was feathery, soft,” Koester told AP. “He wasn’t a shouter, which is unusual in blues.”