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Pete King, co-founder of Ronnie Scotts. 1929-2009

posted Monday 21st December

We are incredibly sad to announce Pete King, co-founder of Ronnie Scotts, passed away on Sunday 20th December.KING_Pete_4ccomp.jpg

1929 – 2009

Pete King, co-founder and manager of Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, sadly passed away on Sunday 20th December 2009 following a prolonged period of illness.  He was 80.  

Managing director Simon Cooke said “It is with great sadness we heard about the loss of Pete King. in 1959, Pete and Ronnie Scott opened a small jazz club in the middle of London. 50 years later, it has become possibly the best and most celebrated jazz club in the world in great part due to Pete’s fortitude and management skills in keeping jazz afloat during many difficult periods. That we are all now able to enjoy such a wonderful club is entirely down to his abilities.”

A talented saxophonist with a keen ear for business as well as music, King played with Ronnie Scott in a number of ensembles before the two decided to open their joint venture in 1959.  With Scott taking the role of compere, King ran the day-to-day workings of the club in favour of performing, booking artists from all over the world.  In addition to helping set-up one of the most famous jazz clubs in the world, he played a crucial role in arranging for the ban on American musicians playing in the UK to be lifted, paving the way for some of the greatest musicians in the world to come and play in London - the ‘foreign exchange’ of Tubby Hayes’ group with US saxophonist Zoot Sims, who played a month long residency at Ronnie Scott’s in 1961, was the first of its kind, and King was instrumental to the discussions that allowed it to go ahead.  King also struck a deal with the Cuban authorities, instigating a musical exchange which resulted in club performances for Cuban groups such as Irakere, Afrocuba and Arturo Sandoval.

Following the death of Scott in 1996, King continued to manage the club for 9 years before deciding to sell the venue to Sally Greene in 2005 - he retained the title of Lifetime President and still regularly visiting to check out the music to which he had devoted so much of his time and energy.  A enormously important and influential figure, as well as a dear friend to many, his passing is a huge blow to the jazz scene both here and abroad, and he will be sorely missed.
Mr. Kevin Spacey, Artistic Director of the Old Vic, said that his thoughts and prayers are with his family, and club proprietor Sally Greene, said: “We are sending his family, Chris and Stella, our deepest sympathies at this time, and hope they can find some comfort in how revered he was amongst the colleagues and musicians who came to be his friends. He will be truly missed but his spirit will be ever-present at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club.”

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