May 30, 1971: Fire Closes Lennie’s-on-the-Turnpike
Firefighters broke through the roof to fight the blaze, which was confined mainly to the bar and dressing rooms, but the entire building suffered extensive smoke and water damage.
Just about all of the great jazz clubs described in The Boston Jazz Chronicles or in posts on this blog were inside the Boston city limits—the Savoy, the Stable, Storyville, the Jazz Workshop. But one, a favorite of both performers and listeners, was way up in the suburbs. That was Lennie’s-on-the-Turnpike, on the northbound side of Route 1 in West Peabody. On the morning of May 30, 1971, fire struck the club.
“You could say I am down, but not out,” proprietor Lennie Sogoloff told the Globe’s Bill Buchanan later that day. “This club has been my life since the early 50s and to see all the damage was a great shock to me. I just don’t know what direction we’ll take now. It’s something I’ll have to think about.”
Joe Bucci’s Capitol LP, Wild About Basie!, garnered a 3-star review in Down Beat. Organist Bucci (1927-2008), from Malden, worked in a duo with drummer Joe Riddick in the early 1960s. His work was marked by its relentless bass lines, which he played on the foot pedals exclusively.
Organist (and accordionist) Joe Bucci wasn’t the only guy playing the Hammond B-3 in Boston in the 1960s. Hillary Rose, Fingers Pearson, Hopeton Johnson, Walter Radcliffe, and others were playing it in the South End clubs from the late fifties on.
Bucci’s big break came at the Agganis Arena in Lynn, on Aug 21, 1961, Count Basie’s 57th birthday—and Bucci and Riddick opened the show for Basie Band. The Count was impressed, and he booked Bucci for a month in his New York club. He also put in some good words in the right places, and Bucci was on the program at Newport in 1962, and recording for Capitol. The result was Wild About Basie!, an all-Basie program of favorites old and new, including “Splanky,” “Shiny Stockings,” and “Woodside.”