Joe McQueen memorial set for Saturday at the Monarch in Ogden

Joe McQueen memorial set for Saturday at the Monarch in Ogden

OGDEN — Family, friends and fans will honor pioneering Ogden jazz musician Joe McQueen at a memorial event Saturday.

“He was really one of a kind and had a huge impact on the state of Utah,” Ryan Conger, a member of the Joe McQueen Quartet, said Monday.

At the Monarch, 455 25th St., a memorial is planned for 2-4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 21, including a service by McQueen’s church, the 2nd Baptist Church of Ogden, and music performed by the quartet and others who played with the saxophonist over the years.

McQueen, 100, died Dec. 7, six months after the community celebrated his life at a birthday party in his church.

McQueen and his wife, Thelma, arrived in Ogden in 1945.

“He was the first black musician in white clubs in Utah and was really instrumental in desegregating the clubs with his playing in the early years,” said Conger, 42, of Logan, who began performing with McQueen nine years ago.

“I don’t know another person that comes along who touches so many people’s lives and has such a big impact on his community.”

After McQueen retired at age 83, he volunteered another 10 years with Weber Human Services’ Seniors Companions program.

“He was older than a lot of his clients,” Conger said.

During his long jazz career, McQueen played with famed musicians Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Ray Charles, Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Lester Young and Charlie Parker, according to the quartet’s website.

Conger, who plays the Hammond organ, said he first played with McQueen when he stood in for a pianist who was ill.

“One show led to another and another,” and Conger, Don Keipp and Brad Wright joined McQueen to form the quartet.

“We were really close, a lot more than just bandmates,” Conger said. “He was a lot like a grandpa to me on some levels but we were also good friends.”

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