ARCHIE, ERNEST ALVIN, JR. [TOM ARCHIA] (1919-1977). Jazz saxophonist Ernest Alvin Archie Jr., known as Tom Archia, was born in Groveton, Texas, on November 26, 1919, the son of Ernest and Henrietta (McDade) Archie, Sr. His father modified his last name to Archia. Ernest Jr.'s parents were both schoolteachers, and while he was still a child the family moved to Rockdale and then to Houston and lived in the city's Fifth Ward. He took violin lessons, but was playing tenor saxophone by the time he was a teenager. At some point early in his musical career Archia adopted the nickname Tom, and he was billed as “Texas Tom” for a time. He graduated from Prairie View State Normal and Industrial College (now Prairie View A&M University) in 1939 and taught school in East Texas in 1939-40.
In 1940 Archia joined the Milt Larkin band and played in Houston with tenorists Arnett Cobb and Illinois Jacquet, with whom he had played in the school orchestra at Phyllis Wheatley High School. He continued with Larkin at the Rhumboogie Club in Chicago in 1942-43 and in the mid '40s recorded with trumpet star Roy Eldridge. Archia lived in Los Angeles during part of 1945 and played in Howard McGhee's combo but was back in Chicago in 1946. He made a name for himself primarily during tenor battles with Gene Ammons and Claude McLin in Chicago between 1946 and 1950. In 1947-48 he formed part of fellow Texan Oran (Hot Lips) Page's band, and during this same period Archia was recorded by the Aristocrat label (including under the name of Tom Archia and His All Stars); the Classics Jazz label reissued this recording on compact disc in 2001 in its Blues & Rhythm Series.