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In 1958 Crawford went to college at Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee . While at TSU, he majored in music studying theory and composition, as well as playing alto and baritone saxophone in the Tennessee State Jazz Collegians. He also led his own rock 'n' roll quartet, "Little Hank and the Rhythm Kings". His bandmates all thought he looked and sounded just like Hank O'Day, a legendary local saxophonist, which earned him the nickname "Hank".  This is when Crawford met Ray Charles , who hired Crawford originally as a baritone saxophonist. Crawford switched to alto in 1959 and remained with Charles' band—becoming its musical director until 1963.