(1924-July 12, 2014)
The man who launched “Lennie’s on the Turnpike, a Jazz Listening Room” on Route 1, West Peabody, Massachusetts, in 1953, died in July at the age of 90.
Seacoast jazz listeners, and especially the older ones, have fond memories of the modest little club that hosted the biggest names in the world of jazz until Lennie closed it down in 1972. In the beginning, the room housed just 56 customers snugly, prompting Stan Kenton to quip, “This is the first time I've played under a bed!” The club was later expanded to accommodate 200, but, doing so, lost none of its appeal to the musicians who played there or the jazz fans who came to hear them.
Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Bill Evans: They all played at Lennie’s. And when the club wasn't presenting big names from out-of-town, as often as not, the late Hammond B3 organist Joe Bucci was holding down the fort with his drummer Joe Riddick. And local audiences loved the duo, too.
Talk to anybody who visited or played at Lennie's, and you’ll hear an anecdote.
There’s the one about the time Sonny Rollins positioned himself just inside the men’s room, holding the door open with his foot, and played the set there, on the opposite side of the room from the rest of the band. He liked the sound he got there.
In its obituary of Lennie, The Boston Globe recalls the time singer Nina Simone performed at the club. When she complained about the lack of a private restroom, Lennie told her: “Just let me know when you have to go and I'll clear everybody from the ladies’ room myself.”
At the time of his death, Lennie Sogoloff was living at Devereux House, a nursing home in Marblehead, Massachusetts, and still bringing in musical performers to entertain his fellow residents.
RIP, Lennie. And thank you.