Jazz Musician Ronnie Scott Celebrated With English Heritage Blue Plaque
New plaque marks the site of Ronnie Scott’s first eponymous club, ahead of the 60th anniversary of its opening.
British jazz tenor saxophonist Ronnie Scott (1927-1996) in action at the Ronnie Scott Club, c1961.© Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images
Jazz musician and club owner Ronnie Scott has been honoured with an English Heritage blue plaque in Chinatown, Soho. The unveiling this week comes as Scott’s eponymous club, now on Frith St in Soho, celebrates 60 years since it first opened its doors at its Chinatown venue.
Scott opened the jazz club in the basement of 39 Gerrard Street on 30 October 1959 with fellow saxophonist Peter King. With the help of a loan of £1,000 from Scott’s step-father, they painted the room, built a small bandstand, and bought some second-hand furniture and a baby grand piano.
A later refurbishment saw the construction of built-in upholstered seating on a tiered platform at the back. The tables covered with red tablecloths and topped with dimly-lit lamps emulated the risqué mystery of New York’s jazz clubs on 52nd Street. Loudspeakers placed on the steps outside the club broadcasted jazz into the street as a way of enticing people in. But as the club’s only ventilation was from keeping the front door open, the music escaped that way as well.
Ronnie Scott’s Managing Director Simon Cooke, said:
'Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club has led the way in British Jazz for 60 years through its innovative programming and championing of the music and musicians. An English Heritage blue plaque is a fine acknowledgement of the contribution that Ronnie Scott himself made to the British Jazz scene.'
Mary Scott, Ronnie Scott’s widow, said:
'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 life time 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.'
Gerrard Street was home to Ronnie Scott’s for six years, between 1959 and 1965. At that time American musicians were banned from performing in Britain because of disagreements between the unions. In 1961, as well as promoting British modern jazz, King negotiated an exchange deal so that American artists could perform in British clubs, and vice versa. The club started presenting international musicians. Zoot Sims came first, for a month-long residency, followed by artists such as Johnny Griffin, Roland Kirk, Dexter Gordon, Sonny Stitt, Stan Getz, Benny Golson, Ben Webster, and Al Cohn. In the early days the clientele included Harold Pinter, the Beatles, Peter O’Toole, and Spike Milligan, who later visited Frith Street with Peter Sellers and Princess Margaret, and was a very good friend of Scott’s.
The Gerrard Street premises closed on 27 November 1965 when the club moved to 47 Frith Street. Scott and King re-launched Gerrard Street in September 1966 – renaming it the Old Place – until the lease ran out in 1967.
Find out more about Ronnie Scott's plaque.
Nominate someone for a blue plaque today.
Latest News from
English Heritage Returns 450-year-old Painting to Audley End Following Transformative Restoration by Conservators16/07/2021 14:33:00
Today, Friday 16 July, visitors to Audley End House in Essex will be able to see an important 16th century Dutch painting, known as The Vegetable Seller, reinstated to the historic house’s art collection for the first time in 60 years.
Jean Muir, Dressmaker And Fashion Designer, Celebrated With English Heritage Blue Plaque29/06/2021 13:43:00
Joanna Lumley, Muir’s model and friend, unveils plaque at designer’s London headquarters and showroom.
Winter Solstice Sunrise to be Live Streamed From Stonehenge05/11/2020 16:33:00
Due to the pandemic, English Heritage cannot host the usual celebrations at the prehistoric stones.
Blue Plaque For Artist Barbara Hepworth30/10/2020 12:02:00
Sculptors Barbara Hepworth and John Skeaping honoured at their London home and studio, 24 St Ann's Terrace in St John's Wood.
New Portrait of Queen Victoria’s African Goddaughter Goes on Display at Osborne07/10/2020 12:25:00
English Heritage commissions portraits of black figures associated with its historic sites to tell previously overlooked stories.
New Poems Tell The Untold Stories of English Heritage01/10/2020 16:08:00
Six poets have been commissioned by English Heritage for a new digital anthology, including its Poet in Residence who leads a poetry programme to launch Black History Month
London's Blue Plaques, Statues And Black Lives Matter17/06/2020 13:10:00
English Heritage looks after 48 statues and monuments in London, including the Cenotaph and Marble Arch.
Unsung Heroes of Dunkirk Evacuation Revealed on 80th Anniversary26/05/2020 15:48:00
Dunkirk 1940: The Making of the Miracle – English Heritage's online event tells the story of the evacuation day-by-day.