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Coleman Hawkins

Coleman HawkinsJazz saxophonist. Born: November 21, 1904, St. Joseph, Missouri.  Died: May 19, 1969, New York City.

Coleman Hawkins, known as the "father of the tenor saxophone" spent many of his early years in Kansas City and Topeka. Born in 1904 in St. Joseph, Missouri, Hawkins played piano and cello as a young boy. The family moved several times and was in Topeka, Kansas, during his teenage years.

He became interested in music early in his life. He attended frequent concerts with his mother, Cordelia Coleman Hawkins, at the Topeka auditorium where they had season tickets. He played in the Topeka High School band and studied at Washburn College for about two years while still in high school. By the time he was 17, Hawkins was playing full time with a band in Chicago. He played with Mamie Smith's Jazz Hounds (1921-1923) and Fletcher Henderson's Orchestra (1923-1934). He played with Jack Hylton's band after 1934 and as a solo act touring Europe. In 1939 he recorded the classic version of "Body and Soul" that became a standard for jazz improvisation in ballads. Courtesy Terry Cryer and St. Joseph Museum

Portrait of the members of the 1920-1921 Topeka High School Orchestra. Coleman Hawkins is on the right in the top row.

Hawkins is considered one of the most dynamic and crucial tenor saxophone figures of the first half of the 20th century. He died in 1969 in New York.

Entry: Hawkins, Coleman

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: March 2009

Date Modified: November 2013

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.