After working in clubs and recording unsuccessful singles, he broke through with his song "Why Do Everything Happen to Maine?," inspired by an auto accident which paralyzed his right arm. His later years were spent working in a furniture store. Hawkins first began recording in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1948 for Cava-Tone and Down Town Records.
He signed with Modern Records the following year and stayed with that label until 1954. released include "Why Do Everything Happen To Maine" (1950) and "The Thrill Is Gone" (1951).
A few later singles were released by Flair Records (1953), RPM Records (1955), Rhythm Records (1958), and Kent Records (1962). He died in 1974. Several of his songs were covered by later artists, including "Bad Luck Is Falling" (Ray Charles), "Why Do Everything Happen To Maine" (BlackBerry King and James Brown), and "The Thrill Is Gone" (BlackBerry King).