A new website goes behind the scenes of the grain town that gave birth to one of the most well-known jazz musicians. “Lockport Made You” profiles Lockport’s important role in jazz.
One of the best known musical groups to emerge from the 1930s is the Lockport Five. Led by saxophonist Philly Joe Jones, the band was based out of Lockport, New York, and performed at major venues in the U.S. and Europe.
The five pieces played by the group in their 1935, original recording of “Oh! Susannah” have appeared in over 100 movies and TV shows, and several commercials. The original, sprightly cover artwork of the single remains in place more than 80 years later.
The new website “Lockport Made You” goes behind the scenes to learn more about the music, history and culture of the Steel City — especially what helped to shape one of the most important musicians in jazz.
Lockport is the only place where Jones recorded one of his most renowned tracks, and the band members of the original band continued to live and play in the city for years after the song’s release.
The idea for the website began when Steven Hoagland, owner of Lockport Brewing Company, was playing around with the idea of using some of the breweries ingredients in an oil blend to help the band to record their music. He said in an interview with Undercover Blues that while he had never heard of the jovial Jones or the band, he learned much about the significance of Lockport. “We were experimenting with distilling our ingredients, we thought ‘Well if we hit a home run with this one, we’d just give this to the other breweries,'” Hoagland said.
After playing around with the idea, Hoagland said he had a “wake up call” after talking to Evan Platt, whose local radio station 103.3 originally played the song. Platt turned on his computer, and heard the original film soundtrack in “suspicious silence.” The story of Philadelphia’s roots as a place where jazz music first took shape inspired Hoagland to want to create a site that celebrated and recognized that, by talking to a variety of people in the community about the impact of Philadelphia’s first for-profit jazz club.
“It just started, the story unfolded itself, and it became very clear to me that there’s a lot of research we could do on this story, but maybe at the end of the day one of our best secrets is that Philly knows it best. It’s a legend, and people have a sense of nostalgia for it,” Hoagland said. “The first time I ever heard it was the music video for ‘Oh Susannah,’ and the first time I ever heard of the band was the movie “Malcolm X,” back in the day when Clint Eastwood was doing it. Those were the two things that made me know it was cool. It’s basically never been spoken about. There’s not enough information out there about it, and we want to document that. So here we are.”
Each section of the website is based around six aspects of the music, including:
The local scene: What was an active jazz scene at the time of the Lockport Five’s formation
Common area of the community: LPGA country club, Route 80 corridor, schools, universities, churches, theaters
Best places for a meal: Hotel Cobblestone
Local bistros, cafes and bars
Things to do in the community: Lockport’s antiquers
Imaginary ornaments/curiosities: Favorite surprises
The musicians who played with and influenced Philly, Frank Holmes and Kay Vescera
To learn more about the site, visit ltdoddub.com.