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Joe Mooney

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For a period of time, Joe Mooney was a well-known jazz accordionist -- which is definitely a small field -- but he had a lengthy and a rather episodic career. He went blind in the early '20s but by 1926 was playing duets with his brother Dan on radio. They recorded from 1929-31 as the Sunshine Boys (also as the Melotone Boys); Joe played piano and both brothers sang while joined by some notable jazz all-stars. The siblings stayed together through 1936 (broadcasting on WLW Radio in Cincinnati). Dan slipped away from music, while in 1937 Joe became the pianist and arranger for Frank Dailey. He joined Buddy Rogers in 1938 and was soon contributing charts for Paul Whiteman, Vincent Lopez, Larry Clinton and Les Brown, plus vocal arrangements for the Modernaires. In 1943 he formed his own quartet, playing accordion and taking vocals; his group also included clarinet, guitar and bass. The swing-oriented combo became very popular during 1946-49. After the band ran its course, Mooney worked as a vocalist with the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra, recorded with Johnny Smith in 1953, moved to Florida in 1954 and gradually switched to organ. Joe Mooney's Quartet recorded for Decca from 1946-47 and he also recorded for Carousel (two titles in 1951), Atlantic (1956) and Columbia (1963-65). Occasionally he would travel to New York for television work or to record, but he mostly worked in Florida, including at his club The Grate Joy. He died of a stroke in 1975 at the age of 64. ~ Scott Yanow

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March 14, 1911 in Paterson, NJ

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