Riding with Jinx Dawson in the driver’s seat through Broad Ripple Village can be quite an enlightening experience. The biggest selling female recording artist from Indianapolis drives a black Cadillac Deville as she recalls a time when the Dawson name commanded much respect in this Northside Indianapolis community.
As she drives north by Glendale Mall and then turns west on 62nd Street, she points out the boundaries where the old Dawson family mansion once stood. There’s a Marsh supermarket there now.
“The house was huge,” she says. “It was just like in an old Gothic horror movie. It was a real classic.”
Dawson’s ancestors pioneered part of Indianapolis from this once small river town. Though the family mansion was built much earlier, original Dawson ownership of the park can be documented in 1866. Dawson farmland ran from Keystone westward down 62nd Street, past the park to 1001 Broad Ripple Ave., formerly Dawson’s Lumber Co. — now business and doctors’ offices — and then further to College Avenue and even north up Westfield Boulevard to the White River Bridge.
Just north of that bridge, Oxbow Estates now stands. It was originally part of the town of Shore Acres, which Dawson’s father purchased in the 1960s. On one summer visit from Los Angeles around 1978, Jinx changed the name to Dawson Lake and Lodge and, while under the radar, she started promoting events open to the public. Her love of music stemmed from singing operas as a child.
“I was the youngest opera student to ever win a scholarship to Butler [University],” she says. “I believe I was there between the ages of 9 to 11. I won first prizes in several statewide competitions singing the great opera classic ‘Love is Where You Find It.’ The professors at Butler used to make me sing in front of the regular older students to show them how a certain aria was performed correctly. It was extremely embarrassing.”
After joining the cover band Them and helping rename it Him, Her and Them, Dawson received bookings “like crazy.”
“It occurred to me that if I could sing other people’s songs, I should find my own voice and perform original songs,” she says. “At that point, the band’s popularity progressed from a local level to a regional level; we were big throughout the entire Midwest.”
The lead singer of the now infamous rock band Coven, Dawson, much like her pioneering elders before her, also became a pioneer of metal and occult rock and of many other rock “firsts,” beginning with her first Coven album, Witchcraft, in 1969. The band’s first single, “Wicked Woman,” quickly became a regional hit in the Midwest. However, their biggest selling single was “One Tin Soldier,” the title song to the 1971 cult film Billy Jack that became one of Vietnam’s biggest protest anthems.
After the passing of her father, Robert L. Dawson Sr., she ultimately lost the family’s last house on Dawson Lake to a sheriff’s auction, a house she lived in as his sole caregiver since her father became ill with cancer seven years ago. Dawson now has a book and new CDs in the works.