LOCAL NEWS

Utah Saxophone Legend Set To Turn 100

May 28, 2019, 10:51 PM | Updated: 10:58 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Jazz itself may be timeless, but a saxophonist who has entertained Utah crowds for over 7 decades has also stood the test of time.

Joe McQueen turns 100 on Thursday and has shows scheduled well beyond his milestone birthday.

“You try to find another saxophone player almost 100-years-old still playing gigs and you can’t find them—I’m the only one!” McQueen said minutes before his band, the Joe McQueen Quartet, performed at the Rabbit Hole, 155 W. 200 S., on May 15.

It was a long career McQueen could not have foreseen as a boy.

He first picked up a horn when he was 14, during a trip to his aunt’s home following his mother’s death.

“She had a full-length mirror showing me how it looked with the horn and all that and telling me all the things that I could do with playing the horn and that I couldn’t do playing football, basketball and all that stuff,” McQueen recalled. “From that day on, all I could think about was playing music.”

There was no turning back, even when his journey took him to a frigid Ogden in 1945.

“When I first came here, I wanted to kill the guys that brought me here!” McQueen said. “I’d never seen that much snow!”

Success was soon to pile up as well.

McQueen played with some of the biggest names in Jazz, from Duke Ellington to Ray Charles to Count Basie.

He held his own.

“I never have seen any of those guys that I just idolized and figured they were so much greater than I was,” McQueen said. “They put their pants on one leg at a time just like me.”

McQueen forever altered the tenor of history by refusing to play in Utah’s white-only clubs.

“Jazz wasn’t near like it is now when I started playing way back there,” the saxophonist said.

It was the beginning of many changes.

Some McQueen reluctantly accepts today, including those related to technology.

He shook his head recently when band member Ryan Conger presented him with an electric sign that advertised that the quartet could receive tips via Venmo.

One constant, however, has always been the music, something McQueen delights in bringing to audiences whenever he is able.

“I don’t know how you could get a groove like that in any other way,” he said.

The audiences ultimately end up delighted themselves.

“I’m totally blown away!” exclaimed Matthew Kolanko during the Rabbit Role show. “Like, how can you push out the tunes like that?”

Angela Livingston said she tries to see McQueen whenever she can and has been to numerous past performances.

“100 years-old—who can beat it?” she questioned.

Band members are also grateful to have had the experience of playing with a living legend.

“It’s like nobody else, really,” Conger said. “He’s got this kind of authentic connection with jazz that I have not felt playing with anybody else and I think that it comes from being there when it was invented.”

Conger said McQueen’s style can’t be duplicated.

“I always feel like Joe kind of metaphorically just picks up the whole band and we ride on his shoulders when we play a song,” Conger said. “It’s amazing at any age—but especially at 99 with a tenor saxophone—that he’s got that kind of swing and that kind of swagger to his playing where he really does, like, lift up the whole band and I feel like I’m riding on a wave. Pretty cool. Pretty cool experience.”

McQueen insisted his 100th birthday wasn’t the milestone most important to him.

“I have another one 11 days after that that I think more of—and that’s my wife and I will celebrate our 75th anniversary on the 10th of June,” McQueen said.

He said he’s determined to play until he can’t anymore.

“If the good Lord blesses me and lets me stay here that long, I’ll be playing at 100 and past,” McQueen said. “There isn’t anything else that could take me away from music.”

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Local News

A barbeque caught on fire at house in Sandy....
Michael Houck

Barbeque fire catches Sandy house on fire; displaces family

A barbeque caught on fire, causing a 2nd alarm house fire in Sandy Sunday evening.
22 hours ago
FILE PHOTO (Idaho State Police/Facebook)...
Michael Houck

Kearns woman killed in two vehicle crash in Idaho

A Kearns woman has died after being hit by a car while on a motorcycle in Idaho Saturday.
22 hours ago
Iron County Search & Rescue responded to a injured mountain biker at Boulder Dash Trail. (Credit: I...
Michael Houck

Search & Rescue crews help an injured biker near Cedar City

Iron County Search & Rescue helped a mountain biker who needed help after getting hurt on a trail Saturday morning near Cedar City.
22 hours ago
A minor apartment fire on 761 So. 300 E....
Michael Houck

SLC Fire crews take down a minor apartment fire

Salt Lake City Fire crews responded to a minor apartment fire Sunday afternoon.
22 hours ago
Utah's state Route 24 on June 23, 2022. (NPS)...
Larry D. Curtis

Flood watch over popular Utah recreation areas Sunday

A flood watch is in effect over central southern Utah, through Sunday night, as thunderstorms create potentially dangerous conditions.
22 hours ago
Hundreds of protesters marched in Provo for abortion rights....
Michael Locklear

Hundreds protest in Provo to demand abortion rights

A crowd of roughly 300 people gathered in Provo Saturday night to demand abortion rights.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...
1-800-GOT-JUNK?

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
Utah Saxophone Legend Set To Turn 100