Reunion for legendary Century Sky Room is Dec. 6 in Phoenix

The legendary Century Sky Room jazz and blues club of 1960s Phoenix will be celebrated with a city-wide reunion of past musicians and past patrons starting at 4 pm Sunday, Dec. 6, at the William H. Patterson Elks Lodge #477, 1007 S. Seventh Ave. (north of Buckeye, lot parking at lodge & across Seventh), Phoenix 85007, 602-254-1772.


The reunion is a free event aimed to rekindle the spirit of the oldest continuous where local bands performed from 1961 until it closed in 1982 and was razed. The reunion event will include free food and live music. Donations will be accepted for the lodge’s building fund.


The reunion was the idea of George “Sweet Erv” Campbell Jr. of the George Campbell Sr. family that operated the venue on the second story of a wood-frame building at 1140 E. Washington St., where the rest rooms were outside, down a long corridor. Robert “Bobby” Clayton operated Bobby C’s on the same property from 2003 to 2013, when luminaries such as guitarist George Benson and organist Jimmy Smith often sat in on Sunday jam sessions, replicating the Sky Room’s venerable history.


Local musicians built the early reputation of the club, and it was where Margo, Francine and Michael Reed launched their individual Arizona careers, as did internationally acclaimed and Phoenix-born drummer Lewis Nash. Among their earliest predecessors were pianists Charles Lewis, Prince Shell, Lee O’Donnell, Jimmy Green, Ralph Chavarria; organist Jimmy Van; flutist Joe Corral; vocalists Sherry Roberson, Stan Devereaux, Maxine Johnson, Helen “Lady J” Jones, Lottie Price, Duke Draper, Lee Meza, Big Pete Pearson, Small Paul; trombonist Chuck Jenkins; trumpeter Steve Hufstetter; bassists Roy Yancey, Bill White, Jerry Manfredi, Joe Griffin; drummers Dave Cook, Pete Magadini, Robbie Wainwright, George Carrillo, Edsel Reid, Maurice Cotton, Roy Calhoun, Jerry Davey; conga player Don Littleton; saxophonists Bob Tate, John “Schoolboy” Porter, Jim “Zeke” Zoeckler, Virgil Lane, Armando Noriega, Phil Paul, Richard Clark.


Frequently, members of the touring Duke Ellington, Count Basie and other big bands would stop by and sometimes sit in with locals, after performing concerts at the Phoenix Playboy Club or Symphony Hall. Traveling bands heard about the Sky Room from colleagues or audience members. Other touring notables who visited the club were bandleader-vocalist Louis Jordan, vibraphonist Milt Jackson, organists Jimmy McGriff and Wendell Byrd, drummer Charlie Perslip, vocalists Billy Eckstine and Ike Cole; and saxophonists Paul Gonzalves, Hank Crawford and Stanley Turrentine.

The Sky Room was the first location for the “Roots of Jazz” series produced by then-manager, Mary Bishop, who later produced it in another legendary jazz venue, The Boojum Tree Lounge of the Phoenix Doubletree Inn, that regularly also booked stars such as trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, saxophonist Stan Getz, Super Sax, pianists Ahmad Jamal and Monty Alexander, as well as pianists-vocalists Mose Allison and Judy Roberts.

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