Blues for Ronnie – A Heritage Plaque on Gerrard Street

Jon Newey
Friday, October 25, 2019

Jazz club doyen acknowledged on his iconic club's 60th anniversary

Saxophonist Alex Garnett at the great unveiling
Saxophonist Alex Garnett at the great unveiling

Under dark skies and a wall of torrential rain, Soho’s Chinatown was brought to a standstill on the morning of Thursday 24 October when a gathering from the London jazz scene stood under umbrellas to witness Ronnie Scott being honoured with a blue plaque on the site of his first club at 39 Gerrard Street. Nowadays it is Leong’s Legend, a Taiwanese restaurant in this bustling Soho street, but back in October 1959 the basement burst into life as the first Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club. It ran until 1965 when Ronnie and Pete King moved around the corner to open in larger premises on Frith Street, with Gerrard Street remaining as ‘The Old Place’ until 1968. Unveiling the English Heritage blue plaque were Ronnie’s managing director Simon Cooke and Ronnie’s widow, Mary Scott, with saxophonist Alex Garnett (pictured) on hand to blow an opening chorus on Ronnie’s own tenor horn from the upstairs window. Mary had flown in from her home in New York and told onlookers: “Ronnie received many accolades during his lifetime, each time he would chuckle with pleasure, feeling honoured, a little mystified and humbled. When awarded the OBE his only regret was that his mother wasn’t there to see it. The English Heritage blue plaque is the well-deserved jewel in the crown of recognition for his lifetime contribution to jazz. I am grateful to have lived long enough to see this happen and am overjoyed and honoured to be a part of the celebration.” A big (blue) cherry on the cake of the club’s 60th anniversary this month. 

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