Hawkins, Erskine (Ramsey)

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Hawkins, Erskine (Ramsey)

Hawkins, Erskine (Ramsey), jazz trumpeter, band leader; b. Birmingham, Ala., July26, 1914; d. Willingboro, N.J., Nov. 11, 1993. He was one of the most popular bandleaders in black America, recording for RCA Victor from 1938-50. When the black newspapers in the 1940s had headlines about “Hawkins” or “Hawk,”it was almost always Erskine who was meant. His father was killed in action during World War I. He started playing drums at the age of seven, switched to trombone, then specialized on trumpet from the age of 13 and was an immediate Louis Armstrong devotee. He spent several years at the State Teachers Coll. in Montgomery, Ala., andwas appointed leader of the school band, The Bama State Collegians. The band originally came to N.Y. in 1934, fronted by J. B. Sims, but subsequently worked under Hawkins’s name. Their big hits included “Tuxedo Junction” (1939; later covered by Glenn Miller), “Tippin’ In” (1945), “Somebody’s Rocking My Dreamboat,” and “After Hours” (1940), written byAvery Parrish, the band’s pianist. Hawkins was a high-note specialist on trumpet, billed as, with some PR hyperbole, “The 20th Century Gabriel.” Other band soloists included Dud Bascomb and Julian Dash (who co-wrote “Tuxedo Junction” with Hawkins). Throughout the 1940s and 1950s the band retained its big following, particularly at the Savoy Ballroom (N.Y). During the 1940s, they traveled all over the South from their N.Y. base. In the 1960s, Hawkins occasionally led big band for specific bookings (and a May 1971 recording), but worked mainly withhis own quartet, including a long residency at the Concord Hotel (N.Y.) (1971) and other gigs through the late 1970s. In 1947 received an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Ala. State Coll.


Tuxedo junction (1938); At the Blue Room (1945); Tippin’ In (1945); Live at Club Soul Sound (1971).

—John Chilton Who’s Who of Jazz/Lewis Porter

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Hawkins, Erskine (Ramsey)

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