Six decades ago, Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club opened its doors for the first time, and a legend was born. Inspired by the dive bars of New York, the beguiling, dimly-lit venue was founded by jazz tenor saxophonist and native East Ender Ronnie Scott in 1959, to shine a spotlight on Britain's thriving postwar jazz scene. It felt a million miles away from the stuffy concert halls of yore.
Since then, musical luminaries like Ella Fitzgerald, Chet Baker, Nina Simone and Prince have taken to the stage at the now world-famous Soho club. Located on Frith Street, it continues to attract fit-to-bursting audiences to this day. But did you know that this isn't actually where the magic started?
Ronnie Scott's original jazz club was actually located in a basement on nearby Gerrard Street. The modest venue was comprised of a small bandstand, some secondhand furniture and a baby grand piano — all purchased using a £1,000 loan. By 1965, the club had outgrown these premises and moved to its current location, the illustrious history of 39 Gerrard Street soon forgotten. That is, until now.
Now, Ronnie Scott has been posthumously honoured with an English Heritage blue plaque at the site of the original club, an accolade which the current managing director of Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club calls "a fine acknowledgement of the contribution that Ronnie Scott himself made to the British Jazz scene.”
Next time you're in Soho, go and see it for yourself. It's now a Taiwanese restaurant, so you can treat yourself to some dim sum while you're there.