Erskine Ramsay Hawkins (July 26, 1914—November 11, 1993) was a trumpet player and big band leader from Birmingham, Alabama, dubbed "The 20th Century Gabriel". He is most remembered for composing the jazz standard "Tuxedo Junction" (1939) with saxophonist and arranger Bill Johnson. The song became a popular hit during World War II, rising to #7 nationally (version by the Erskine Hawkins Orchestra) and to #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.
Read more about Erskine Hawkins, free from the New York Times. 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 trained numerous African-American musicians, many of whom populated the bands of famed band leaders such as Duke Ellington, Lucky Millinder, Louis Armstrong and Skitch Henderson (of the NBC Orchestra.)
Hawkins was trumpeter and band leader in the lobby bar and show nightclub at The Concord Resort Hotel in Kiamesha Lake, New York. from 1967 to 1989.
Induction into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame
In 1978, Erskine Hawkins became one of the first five artists inducted into the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame. In 1989, he was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. He died in 1993 in Willingboro, New Jersey. Hawkins was an exact contemporary of another Birmingham jazz great, Sun Ra. The story of the Erskine Hawkins legacy continues to be told today by Ray Reach (Director of Student Jazz Programs) and Dr. Frank Adams, (Director of Education, Emeritus) at the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame.
On his final Sunday Night Radio Show (26th July 2009) Malcolm Laycock celebrated the 95th anniversary of Hawkins birth by featuring music performed by Hawkins.