That Stockton song

Reader Ross Busher asks, isn’t there some song written about Oxford Circle and its streetcars?

Ross may be thinking of the Big Band-era classic “Tuxedo Junction.”

Although music history records that Tuxedo Junction was written by Erskine Hawkins, and made famous by Glenn Miller, many locals swear it was written by a University of the Pacific music student named Alan Harkins. Harkins, who became a Merced music teacher, says he got the name from Tuxedo Park, UOP’s neighborhood. He always claimed Harkins stole his song.

Stockton has been mentioned in numerous songs. And it has inspired numerous songs.















On “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” Bruce Springsteen sings about a migrant worker’s pitiful fate in Stockton (which he pronounces Stock-tone).

They found him shot dead outside of Stock-tone/His body lyin’ in a muddy hill/Nothin taken nothin stolen/Somebody killin’ just to kill .

The Stockton Symphony once performed a commission by composer Virgil Thompson called Stockton Fanfare.

Pavement, the internationally famous alt-band rooted in Stockton and Linden, listed a song called “Spanos Canyon Rag” on  advance copies of 1995′s Wowee Zowee. Spanos is, of course, millionaire developer Alex Spanos. The canyon is Spanos Park, which grossed out Pavements members. When Wowee Zowee shipped, the title “Spanos Canyon Rag” was gone, but the song is still there, the name changed to Pueblo.

Another Stockton developer, Fritz Grupe, inspired singer/songwriter Fiona Lehn on her third CD The Will. In “Empty Mansions,” Lehn laments urbanization.

He came and cleared 500 cornfields/Sure he would his fortune make/He built 1,000 empty mansions/All beside tractor-carved lakes.

Lehn’s first album featured a song about a gay Stockton man anguishing over his relationship and sexuality. “The Will” itself alludes to Stocktonians will (or lack thereof) to improve their city.

Singer/songwriter Dirk Hamilton, a former Stock-tone-yan now living in Austin, Texas, wrote numerous songs about Stockton. Three stand out.

“She’s Inside the Moon” on 1989′s Too Tired To Sleep was inspired by a disturbed 15-year-old girl Hamilton met while counseling at Childrens Home Of Stockton.

“Rainbows in the Night” on 1995s “Yep!” is about a crummy late night in Stockton.

And ”My Dead Body” tells the true story of Hamilton’s discovery of a corpse by the Calaveras River.

Stretching further, “The Mighty Casey at the Bat,” a 1953 opera by William Schuman, is set in Stockton — if you believe Stockton was the Mudville of Thayer’s poem.

Stockton rocker Grant Lee Phillips’ album “Copperopolis,” includes “Better For Us,” about an oak tree from Phillips’ east Stockton boyhood.

This is the burial ground of my youth and my innocence if the axe splits the trunk, better for us.

Pavement’s former drummer, Gary Young, formed Hospital and released a single, Plant Man; the B-side is a Revolution No. 9-style cacophony called Stockton Hausen.

There’s “Tuleberg Levee,” a Dixieland tune written by a Lodi songwriter; “Downtown El Dorado” by Stockton’s Dave Halford; and “Stockton, California,” by former Stocktonian Jackson Brian Griffith, now of Sacramento.

Sings Griffith, I think it only fair to warn ya/I come from Stockton, California.

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  • Blog Author

    Michael Fitzgerald

    Mike Fitzgerald is The Record’s award-winning metro columnist. His column runs in the paper three times a week. Born in San Francisco, he was raised in Stockton. His column covers diverse beats including, sometimes, the offbeat. Read Full
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