The Rockets That Didn't Quite Take Off

Kansas City Jazz - A Little Evil Will Do You Good - Con Chapman

Con Chapman [+-]
Music writer
Con Chapman is the author of Rabbit’s Blues: The Life and Music of Jonny Hodges (Oxford University Press, 2019), winner of the 2019 Book of the Year Award by Hot Club de France, and a 2020 Certificate of Merit for Best Historical Research from the Association for Recorded Sound Collections. His writing on jazz has appeared in The Boston Globe, The Boston Herald, Syncopated Times, and Brilliant Corners, among other publications.


The Kansas City Rockets, a band that was formed by trombonist Thamon Hayes but was taken over by fellow Bennie Moten alumni Harlan Leonard, is depicted as one of the missed opportunities of Kansas City jazz. Both Hayes and Leonard were dismissed from Moten’s band when Count Basie’s favored musicians replaced them, and as a result the Rockets carried a chip on their shoulders that motivated them to become respected heirs to the Kansas City “stomp” rhythm tradition. They bested Moten in a battle of the bands and had a shot at a big hit when they recorded “I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire,” but their producer persuaded them to play the song in an up-tempo arrangement rather than as a tender ballad. They were also thwarted by union rules that kept them from expanding from their Kansas City base into Chicago.

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Chapman, Con. The Rockets That Didn't Quite Take Off. Kansas City Jazz - A Little Evil Will Do You Good. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. Mar 2023. ISBN 9781800502826. Date accessed: 05 Oct 2022 doi: 10.1558/equinox.42628. Mar 2023

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