Concept

Erskine Hawkins

Summary
Erskine Ramsay Hawkins (July 26, 1914 – November 11, 1993) was an American trumpeter and big band leader from Birmingham, Alabama, dubbed "The 20th Century Gabriel". He is best remembered for composing the jazz standard "Tuxedo Junction" (1939) with saxophonist and arranger Bill Johnson. The song became a hit during World War II, rising to No. 7 nationally (version by the Erskine Hawkins Orchestra) and to No. 1 nationally (version by the Glenn Miller Orchestra). Vocalists who were featured with Erskine's orchestra include Ida James, Delores Brown, and Della Reese. Hawkins was named after Alabama industrialist Erskine Ramsay. Erskine Hawkins was named by his parents after Alabama industrialist Erskine Ramsay who was rewarding parents with savings accounts for them for doing so. Hawkins attended Councill Elementary School and Industrial High School (now known as Parker High School) in Birmingham, Alabama. At Industrial High School, he played in the band directed by Fess Whatley, a teacher who taught many African-American musicians, many of whom worked with such musicians as Duke Ellington, Lucky Millinder, Louis Armstrong and Skitch Henderson (of the NBC Orchestra). During 1936 through 1938, Hawkins recorded for Vocalion Records as "Erskine Hawkins and his 'Bama State Collegians". In 1938, he signed with RCA Victor and began recording on their Bluebird label as, simply, "Erskine Hawkins and His Orchestra". In the late 1930s, Hawkins and his Orchestra were one of the house bands at the Savoy Ballroom. They alternated with the Chick Webb band, and often used "Tuxedo Junction" as their sign-off song before the next band would take the stage, so that the dancing would continue uninterrupted. Hawkins also engaged in "battles of the bands" with such bandleaders as Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, and Lionel Hampton. In 1943, a Hawkins concert caused trouble in Little Rock, Arkansas: "3,000 Negroes jammed into the Exhibition Hall to dance to the music of Hawkins and his crew became unruly and began to push white police all over the floor.
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