The Bama State Collegians is a student jazz orchestra made up of students at Alabama State University. This group was organized in the late 1920s by Len Bowden, Fess Whatley, and Paul Bascomb. Bowden went on to direct the Navy's music program at Camp Robert Smalls during World War II. John Tuggle "Fess" Whatley (1895-1972) was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and has a K-8 school in Birmingham named after him.
The group also holds an important place in jazz history. In 1934, the entire group travelled to New York and became the Erskine Hawkins Orchestra, recording hit records such as Tuxedo Junction, which rose to No. 7 nationally by Erskine Hawkins and No. 1 by Glenn Miller. Members of this band worked with the NBC Orchestra, the Lucky Millinder Orchestra, the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Louis Armstrong and others.
In 2011, the story of Erskine Hawkins and his start in the Bama State Collegians was the subject of a Florida State University Film School MFA Thesis Film "The Collegians", written and directed by Alabama State University alumn Bryan Lewis.
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