Album: Honey In The Horn (1963)
Charted: 4


  • Popularized by Al Hirt as a trumpet piece, this instrumental was written and originally recorded by the New Orleans producer/songwriter Allen Toussaint with piano as lead instrument.

    Born in 1938, Toussaint got a gig in the mid-'50s touring with the duo Shirley & Lee ("Let The Good Times Roll," #20 in 1956) on piano. He also played sessions around New Orleans, including one for Fats Domino.

    With the music scene burgeoning in the city, a producer for the RCA label named Danny Kessler would audition musicians, sometimes using Toussaint or Mac Rebennack for piano accompaniment. One of these auditions took place at Cosimo Matassa's Cosimo Recording Studio, where according to Matassa, 150 musicians showed up. None of the applicants moved the needle, but Kessler was impressed with Toussaint and offered him a deal. He asked Toussaint to write some instrumental songs, and the young pianist came up with 12 tracks that Kessler produced.

    These songs were released on an album called The Wild Sounds Of New Orleans, credited to "Tousan," a compact pseudonym for Toussaint. Issued on the RCA Victor label in 1958, the album didn't get much attention, but in 1962 Floyd Cramer covered one of the tracks: "Java." His piano version went to #49 US, and the following year the song got the attention of Al Hirt, whose trumpet rendition running 1:55 went to #4.

    Even before Hirt's hit cover, Toussaint's career was taking off. He got a job as staff producer at the Instant and Minit labels in 1959, where he wrote and produced the Ernie K-Doe #1 "Mother-In-Law" and Chris Kenner's "I Like It Like That (Part 1)."
  • "Java" was not named after a cup of coffee or the programming language (which didn't exist yet), but a racehorse. Producer Danny Kessler named each track on the The Wild Sounds Of New Orleans after a racehorse, since he was a frequent visitor to the track.
  • Allen Toussaint isn't the only composer listed on this song. Also on the writing credits are Alvin Tyler, Marilyn Schack and Freddy Friday.

    Alvin "Red" Tyler played baritone sax at the session, but the other names are pseudonyms. "Marilyn Schack" is Danny Kessler; "Freddy Friday" is Kessler's partner, Murray Sporn, who was then a veteran music publisher and who with Kessler found the talent for those sessions. Sporn and Kessler co-authored several of the compositions from that session.
  • The song's writer Allen Toussaint was serving a two-year stint in the Army when it became a hit for Al Hirt. Toussaint didn't know Hirt had recorded it, and was surprised to hear it one day playing in the barracks. He had a hard time convincing his fellow troops that he wrote it.
  • The first single from Honey In The Horn, this became Hirt's biggest hit and by far his best-known song. Like the Tousan album where "Java" first appeared, Hirt's album was issued by RCA Victor. Two more hits followed for the trumpeter: "Cotton Candy" (#15) and "Sugar Lips" (#30). Both were instrumentals that hit in 1964.
  • Al Hirt was nicknamed "The Monster" because he was 6' 2", 300 lb. When he performed the song on the Ed Sullivan Show, he did some light choreography, swaying his prodigious frame back-and-forth with his backup dancers while blowing his horn.
  • This wouldn't be the last time a song originally recorded by Allen Toussaint became a hit for another artist. In 1977, Glen Campbell had a #1 with "Southern Nights," which Toussaint had recorded two years earlier.

Comments: 13

  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn December 15, 1963, Al Hirt performed "Java" and "Man With A Horn" on the CBS-TV Sunday-night variety program, 'The Ed Sullivan Show'...
    "Java" and "Man With A Horn" were tracks from his fourteenth album, 'Honey In The Horn', the album peaked at #3 {for 8 weeks} on Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart, and those pesky Beatles prevented it from reaching #1, for all eight weeks that it was at #3, the #2 album was 'Introducing The Beatles' and at #1 was 'Meet The Beatles'.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn December 15 1963, trumpeter Al Hirt performed "Java" on CBS-TV program 'The Ed Sullivan Show'...
    Exactly two weeks later on December 29th the song entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart {See next post below}...
    Between 1964 and 1968 Mr. Hirt had eight Top 100 records; his next biggest hit after "Java" was "Cotton Candy", it reached #15 {for 2 weeks} on May 24th, 1964...
    Mr. Hirt, born Alois Maxwell Hirt, passed away on April 27th, 1999 at the age of 76...
    May he R.I.P.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn December 23rd 1962, "Java" by Floyd Cramer entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; eventually it peaked at #49 and spent 11 weeks on the Top 100...
    And just over a year later on December 29th, 1963 Al Hirt's version entered the Top 100; and on February 23rd, 1964 it peaked at #4 (for 1 week and it remained on the Top 10 for 6 weeks) and stayed on the Top 100 for 16 weeks...
    And on February 16th, 1964 Mr. Hirt's version peaked at #1 (for 4 weeks) on Billboard's Adult Contemporary Tracks chart...
    R.I.P. Mr. Cramer (1933 - 1997) and Mr. Hirt (1922 - 1999).
  • Duke from Fresno, Ca Vocal version by Donny Lynn "Java Jones"
  • Esskayess from Dallas, TxI always loved this tune when I was young, often playing 'air trumpet' to it the way some play 'air guitar' to rock songs with blazing guitar solos.
  • Lou from Atlanta, GaI bought Honey in the Horn last week for 50 cents a a local flea market. I wanted a copy of Java. The record is in near virgin condition!
  • Barbara from Atlanta, GaI have searched for years for a song that was on a juke box back in the early '60's called, "Honey In Your Heart." It was an instrumental and I believe it was by Al Hirt - could have been the flip side of one of his bigger hits. Does anyone recognize this title or know where I might buy it??
  • Daevid from Glendale, CaEverytime i hear this one, it always takes me back to a simpler time when i was a youngster and hadn't a care in the world--------ah...those were the days.
  • Marty from Chicago, IlFor anyone's information, I met Al Hirt while I was in college, after he played a performance there. He was NOT 6'2", but about 5'8" at best!
  • Garrett from Nashville, TnThe trumpet improv on the 2nd bridge is favorite horn line in a song.
  • Howard from St. Louis Park, MnIt seemed that Allen Touissant was a big horse racing fan. Java was also used as the closing theme for the British childrens TV series that was briefly syndicated in the U.S. Vision On.
  • Rick from San Juan, United StatesChet Atkins produced this, as well as "Cotton Candy" and the other early RCA Victor recordings of Al (He's The King) Hirt.
  • Jude from Thomasville, GaAl Hirt was a big man with a big heart. His nickname was "Jumbo". He often jammed with clarinet player Pete Fountain. (Hirt, Fountain and Toussant were all natives of New Orleans. Hirt owned a nightclub there where he played between tours.) Hirt did not consider himself a jazz trumpeter -- he played many different types of songs and didn't want to be pigeonholed into one category.
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