DATE OF EVENT: Nov. 26, 1922
DATE PUBLISHED: Dec. 10, 1922, in The Kansas City Star
Editor’s note: Kansas City jazz broke onto the national scene when the Coon-Sanders band first broadcast on The Kansas City Star’s radio station, WDAF. A week later, a live broadcast from 11:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. prompted an engineer to remark — inadvertently on the air—that “anybody who’d stay up this late to hear us must be a real night hawk.” Within a week 5,000 letters arrived from all over the United States and North America to announce the presence of the listening “Nighthawks.” The club that formed was the first radio fan club, and the orchestra would change its name to the Coon-Sanders Original Night Hawk Orchestra.
The Night Hawk broadcast is significant in Kansas City’s cultural history because it helped create the city’s reputation as a music center at the dawn of the Jazz Age.
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‘NIGHTHAWKS’ DEFY SLEEP
THE WDAF MIDNIGHT “FLOCK” HAS FIVE THOUSAND MEMBERS.
Three Nations and Thirty-Seven States Hear The Star’s Dance Program — Coon-Sanders Orchestra a Big Success.
It’s an informal gathering, the crowd of “Nighthawks” that gather around receiving sets and tune into The Star’s midnight dance programs. Already the organization embraces three nations — United States, Canada and Mexico. Thousands of volunteer Nighthawks” have joined since the inception of the “flock” last Monday night at the Hotel Muehlebach.
Promptly at 11:45 o’clock, the “Chief Hawk” rings a cowbell in front of the microphone in the Plantation Grill and calls his flock together. The diners peer curiously at the announcer sitting at a table and talking into a small wooden box. Over in a corner an operator cuts in a switch and the meeting of “Nighthawks” is on.
The Star’s “nighthawks” was organized when the first midnight dance frolic was broadcast last Monday night. Since that time more than five hundred telegrams and four thousand letters have been received from listeners throughout North America, desirous of joining the organization.
When The Star’s radio editor reads the names of some of the applicants and the telegrams received, a charter is granted to the applicants. The initiation consists of a ring of the cowbell.
Even the dancers have entered into the spirit of good fellowship. They gather around the microphone eager to hear the names of the new members. The election of new members is made during the intermission. Then the Coon-Sanders Orchestra starts to play. The meeting is immediately converted into a dance.
Listeners in thirty-one different states in the United States have been granted charters and tune in every night. The organization has declared war against the manufacturers of mattresses and bed springs. Its slogan is “The Enemies of Sleep.”
From 11:45 o’clock until 1o’clock the dance and the initiation of new members continues. Joseph Sanders has written a special song for the organization, “The Nighthawk Blues,” and each member joins in the chorus.
The atmosphere of the grill room is broadcast. The applause of the dancers, the clinking of dishes, the shuffling of feet and the by play of the orchestra, all go into the ether to entertain the whole crowd of “Nighthawks.”
An idea of the carefree informal spirit of the gatherings can be gleaned from a few of the telegrams received from out of town members. …
Elkhart, Kas. — We have been tuned in with you every night since your initial entertainment and will say your Coon-Sanders Orchestra has all other stations knocked in the creek. The missus and myself wish to become members of the “Nighthawks.” Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Perkins also wish their names added to the list. Mr. Perkins is a mighty promising young attorney and assure you will be of great assistance should any legal battle arise over the discontinuance of the slumber equipment. Give the Perkinses a good ring, as they are listening in at this time. — S. C. Keeley and Wife.
Louisville, Ky. — More “Nighthawk Blues.” Longer programs. We never sleep. Give us ring for new members. — Matilda Houchin, L. E. Houchin, F. H. Meredith…