Born in Birmingham in 1914, Erskine Hawkins drew on memories of a neighborhood nightspot for his big band standard "Tuxedo Junction", which became the most popular song of the World War II era.
While attending the State Teachers College in Montgomery, he became leader of the Bama State Collegians. The group traveled to New York City during the depression and generated funds used to help keep the college aŁ1oat. The band drew a strong following, especially at the posh Savoy Ballroom.
He also became one of the principal influences on a young rhythm and blues piano player named Ray Charles.
Hawkins is a 1989 Lifework Award for Performing Achievement recipient.