Tuxedo Junction

Song by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra

Released 1938

Label RCA Bluebird

Writer(s) Buddy Feyne

Composer(s) Erskine Hawkins

Bill Johnson Julian Dash

“Tuxedo Junction” is a song co-written by Birmingham, Alabama composer Erskine Hawkins and saxophonist and arranger Bill Johnson. Julian Dash is also credited for the music. Buddy Feyne wrote the lyrics. The instrumental was a no. 1 hit for Glenn Miller and his Orchestra in 1940.

The song was introduced by the Erskine Hawkins Orchestra, a college dance band formerly known as the Bama State Collegians. “Tuxedo Junction” rose to number 7 on the national hit parade in 1939. Here is an authentic recording by Hamilton High school https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7liX70jat8 .

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. A live 6 1/2 minute version of the song by the Hawkins Orchestra exists, with extended solos from Hawkins on the trumpet, Paul Bascomb and Julian Dash on tenor saxophones, and Heywood Henry on the clarinet. It was recorded as an aircheck in the summer of 1942 at the Blue Room club in New York City.

Glenn Miller and His Orchestra had the most successful recording of the song in a best-selling (Billboard Number 1) record, RCA Bluebird B-10612-A. Miller’s arrangement slowed down the tempo and added trumpet fanfares. The infamous trumpet lick in the original recording was played by band member Johnny Best. The main soloists on that recording were Best and Bobby Hackett. The Glenn Miller recording sold 115,000 copies in the first week alone. It was featured in the 1953 Glenn Miller biopic The Glenn Miller Story starring James Stewart and Harry Morgan.

“Tuxedo Junction” was covered by numerous bands and swing orchestras and solo artists, including Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Harry James, Frankie Avalon and Joe Jackson and became the theme song for The Manhattan Transfer, first recorded on their album The Manhattan Transfer in 1975. Bob Marley used this song as an inspiration for his hit “Kaya”. It was also the inspiration for an all-girl disco group, entitled “Tuxedo Junction”.

The song is about a jazz and blues club in the Birmingham, Alabama suburb of Ensley. The area is referred to as “Tuxedo Junction”, even though the building is called the “Nixon Building” (built in 1922). This is due to the location of a streetcar crossing at Tuxedo Park, hence “Tuxedo Junction”. The building still stands at 1728 20th Street and is currently occupied by janitorial contractor. A punk rock venue bearing the same name operated near there briefly in the mid-1980s.

The song was originally written as an instrumental. When it was given to Lewis Music Publishing, they farmed it out to several prospective lyricists to see who could write the best words that matched the song. Buddy Feyne asked Erskine Hawkins why he titled it “Tuxedo Junction.” Erskine explained that the Junction was a whistle stop on the “Chitlin’ circuit”, and that information inspired Feyne’s lyrics, which Hawkins preferred to the other submissions. Once the song had been published, “white” bands such as Miller’s added it to their playlists. Stan Kenton included it on his 1961 Mellophonium Magic album

The song has been used in various movies, including Big Band films The Glenn Miller Story, The Gene Krupa Story and the Woody Allen film The Curse of the Jade Scorpion.

1940 sheet music cover for the Glenn Miller recording, Lewis Music, New York.
Trumpeter and Bandleader Al Hirt performed his own arrangement of the standard after rearranging the parts to suit his virtuosic trumpet playing.