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Coasters Lead Singer Cornelius Gunter Slain Inside Car

February 28, 1990 GMT

LAS VEGAS (AP) _ Police interviewed witnesses Tuesday to track down the man who shot to death Cornelius Gunter, lead vocalist for The Coasters. The ’50s group’s hits included ″Charlie Brown″ and ″Love Potion No.9.″ He was 53.

Gunter, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, was the second member of the ’50s group to die in a shooting in the Las Vegas area.

Witnesses told police that Gunter’s car was parked at an intersection in a residential area of the adjoining city of North Las Vegas on Monday and a thin black man was standing on the driver’s side, talking to Gunter.


″They apparently got into a loud argument,″ said North Las Vegas Police Lt. Gary Rainey. ″People heard a couple of shots. Then the car took off, went about a block, then hit a block wall.″

Gunter, who was scheduled to perform this weekend, was found slumped over the steering wheel, with two gunshot wounds in his chest.

″It appears he was shot through the windshield and he was dead on the scene. We don’t have a motive at this time,″ said Rainey.

The suspect was seen running from the intersection with a gun in his hand, Rainey said.

Rainey said Gunter, a Las Vegas resident, had no police record other than some traffic citations in North Las Vegas.

Gunter, a tenor, joined The Coasters in 1957, two years after the group was formed in Los Angeles. Their comic vocals resulted in a string of wise- cracking do-wop hits in the late 1950s.

With a flurry of hits that included ″Yakety Yak″ in 1957 and ″Charlie Brown,″ ″Along Came Jones″ and ″Poison Ivy″ in 1959, The Coasters were the country’s most popular black rock ‘n’ roll group at the end of the decade.

Among their other hits were ″Framed,″ ″Idol with the Golden Head,″ and ″Shoppin’ for Clothes.″

Their last chart appearance was in 1971 with ″Love Potion No. 9.″

With varying personnel, Gunter kept the group on the concert circuit in the 1980s, including the current ensemble known as Cornell Gunter and His Coasters. Various band members headed separate groups billed as The Coasters in recent years.

Gunter and The Coasters were scheduled to perform at the Lady Luck Hotel this weekend, said Janice Mazuroski, a hotel spokeswoman.

″It’s a sad situation. He was so well liked in the industry,″ she said.

The other Coaster slain, Nathaniel ″Buster″ Wilson was shot in the head in April 1980. His dismembered body was dumped near Hoover Dam and in a canyon near Modesto, Calif.

Patrick Cavanaugh was convicted in the slaying and is now on Nevada’s death row. Prosecutors speculated that Wilson was shot because he was going to tell police about a fraud scheme in which Cavanaugh was allegedly involved.