The Sundowners never landed a hit record and very rarely played a show outside of their home town, but for the better part of 30 years, they were the honky tonk heart and soul of the city of Chicago, and journalist Dave Hoekstra once wrote, "The Sundowners are the patron saints of Chicago's insurgent country movement." In 1959, lead guitarist Don Walls and rhythm picker and lead vocalist Bob Boyd were playing in a Windy City country group called the Circle C Boys when their bassist, Curly Coldiron, left the band; local steel guitarist Curt Delaney was so taken with their sound that he switched over to electric bass in order to join the group. All three men were transplanted Southerners -- Boyd from Tennessee, Walls from West Virginia, and Delaney from Georgia -- and their sharp vocal harmonies, economical arrangements, and effortlessly hot picking (especially Walls' jazz-flavored leads) at once captured the sound of traditional country while making room in their repertoire for anything from folk standards to current pop hits, all performed with an easygoing but potent country & western swing.
The Circle C Boys adopted the name the Sundowners in 1960, and the group played a number of longstanding residencies at Chicago honky tonks in the years that followed, the longest being a four-nights-a-week gig at the Double-R Ranch, a club on Randolph Street where they were on the bandstand from 1971 to 1989. The band earned a loyal cult following during their years playing in the Chicago Loop, and occasionally drew celebrity guests; Fats Domino was a regular patron when playing in town, Robert Duvall once sang with the band while visiting Chicago, and Jon Langford jammed with the band on the Mekons' first visit to the city, later recalling with admiration that "the Sundowners had no musical prejudice."
The Sundowners also served as the house band on a local television series, American Swingaround, and appeared on the nationally broadcast radio show WGN Barn Dance, but it was their countless club gigs that endeared them to Windy City music fans, and in 1993, four years after the Double-R Ranch was closed down by real estate speculators, Mayor Richard M. Daley took part in a tribute to the band by proclaiming an official "Sundowners Day in the City of Chicago." The band continued to perform occasionally until the late '90s, when Curt Delaney died following a stroke in 1997, and Bob Boyd succumbed to cancer in 1999. In 2003, Chicago insurgent country label Bloodshot Records, which featured two tracks by the band on its very first release (a compilation of underground country acts called For a Life of Sin), paid homage to the Sundowners by releasing a collection of live recordings from their many live shows. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi