The Coon-Sanders NighthawksView in iTunes
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Although today largely forgotten, the Coon-Sanders Night-Hawks were one of the top big bands of the 1920s. Drummer Carleton Coon (born February 5, 1894, in Rochester, MN) and pianist/arranger Joe Sanders (born October 15, 1894, in Thayer, KS) met in December 1918 in a Kansas City music store. The two soon formed the Coon-Sanders Novelty Orchestra. They recorded four numbers in 1921, only one of which was released, and then more importantly, on December 5, 1922, they made their first radio broadcast. Soon they caught on big; the orchestra was renamed the Night-Hawks (since their show was on late, from midnight until 2 a.m.) and became very popular in the Midwest. The Coon-Sanders Night-Hawks recorded regularly from 1924 on, cutting around 75 selections during the next eight years; they relocated to Chicago later in 1924 and prospered on both road trips and the radio. Although none of the sidemen became individually famous, the band featured a lot of brief solos, while Sanders' arrangements were full of surprises, and the two co-leaders' vocals were consistently heated whether performing stomps, novelties, or rare ballads. Only Coon's sudden death on May 5, 1932, after an operation on a septic tooth halted the magic. Joe Sanders lived until May 1965 and led a band on and off through 1959, but never recorded again. The Old Masters label has recently started a CD reissue series slated to include all of the very enjoyable Coon-Sanders Night-Hawks recordings, which still sound fun over seven decades later. ~ Scott Yanow