Lennie's on the Turnpike
(Buck Clayton and Lennie Sogoloff)
Lennie's-on-the-Turnpike was a hallowed jazz club operated by Lennie Sogoloff on Route 1 in Peabody, Mass between 1951 and '71. Sogoloff originally provided a juke box stocked with jazz, then began presenting the living artists themselves. For a decade-plus, Lennie's was on the itinerary of just about every jazz artist of the time. Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, and countless others played the room, and because Lennie was a straight-shooter and a "loving host," as Jack Woker wrote earlier today, they kept coming back.
In my teens, I traveled to Lennie's on several occasions to see bluesmen Muddy Waters, Paul Butterfield, and Charlie Musselwhite, whose group included guitarist Fenton Robinson. It's also where I first heard Clark Terry in person. When Lennie's was destroyed by fire in 1971, Sogoloff continued to present jazz in various settings north of Boston but worked primarily as a clothing salesman in Salem. Imagine the challenge he faced in finding as much style in Hickey-Freeman as he did in Basie, Buck, and Jaki.
Worcesterite Jaki Byard made recordings for Prestige at Lennie's, and they've been among the most celebrated living artifacts from the club. There's also a fabulous set by Illinois Jacquet with Milt Buckner and Alan Dawson on Argo. And now there's more. Sogoloff, who's still with us at age 87, left his collection of memorabilia to Salem State University in 2006, and a selection of photos from the archive is making the rounds. Click here for this treasure trove of snapshots of dozens of jazz greats. Surprises include the legendary Earl Bostic in 1965; Abbey Lincoln modeling a stunning Afro in 1963; Jimmy Rushing at the microphone; Woody Herman's band on Lennie's cramped, low-ceiling stage; Howard McGhee relaxing with his beautiful wife; and Rahsaan Roland Kirk in action.
The Boston Globe reported on Lennie when his collection and a scholarship in his wife Barbara's name were established at Salem State. Sogoloff told the Globe, "Lennie's was a destination. You had to work to get here, but it was always a happy ending."