The Sundowners: Chicago Country Legends
"Echoes of the Sundowners can be heard in urban honky tonks ranging from the Hideout on the Near North Side to Carol’s Pub in Uptown to FitzGerald’s in Berwyn. Jon Langford and the Mekons used to jam with the traditional Western trio, although the Sundowners were almost twice the age of the punk band from Leeds, England." -Chicago Sun-Times
The Sundowners’ music and love of life struck a chord with generations of music fans. They are true legends in Chicago and an important part of the city’s ongoing connection with country music.
To simply call The Sundowners a country-western trio is to diminish their free-swinging landscape of long-neck bottles, neon lights and bright ideas. They held court in several downtown Chicago honky tonks from 1959 to 1989 and provide a direct, important historical road map of Country’s Northward wanderings--away from the mountains and plains and hollers and towards the factories and jobs. They took their name from a 1960 Robert Mitchum film and learned more than 15,000 songs, playing about 7,000 songs annually.
Influenced by groups like the Sons of the Pioneers, the Sundowners sang harmony as if they were family. But they often updated traditional cowboy harmonies by reworking Appalachian, Tin Pan Alley and traditional western melodies for an urban audience. The result was a legion of fans that stretched over the decades and over all musical tastes, and included hundreds of musicians and celebrities stopping by their Bar RR whenever they were in town--folks like Fats Domino, Sting, John Entwistle, the Mekons, Mickey Mantle, Robert Duvall, Don Gibson and so many others.
The tracks on this collection were recorded between 1960 and 1971. Country and Western standards rub shoulders with The Sundowners’ takes on Beatles ("Something") and Bobby Darin tunes. The sounds of glasses breaking and waitresses yelling make the occasional appearance, and west coast guitarist Johnny Davis sits in for a few. The Sundowners’ music and love of life struck a chord with generations of music fans; fans who liked all kinds of music. They are true legends in Chicago and an important part of the city’s ongoing connection with country music. Cover art by Jon Langford.