Not many mayors, at least around here, own and operate a juke joint.
Jackie Welker, the mayor of Pomeroy, Ohio, population 1,800, about 40 miles south of Parkersburg along the Ohio River, owns the Court Street Grill, which he calls a juke joint. The grill has great food, cold drinks and hot music, according to its website.
Welker has owned the Court Street Grill, at 112 Court St. in the Meigs County seat, for 15 years. He was appointed Pomeroy's mayor in February, when the former mayor resigned, and was village council president before that.
Welker told me this week he plans to run in November for the two years remaining on the unexpired term as mayor. The part-time job pays $500 a month - double his grill salary, he said with a smile.
Bill Poole of Vienna, a former owner of the Front Row Sports Bar & Grill in Parkersburg, said Welker has the best live music venue he has ever visited - and that includes cities such as Austin, Texas, and Nashville. Poole used to provide live music several times a week at the Front Row and is a music fan.
"He (Welker) gets musicians to perform at the Court Street Grill who are on their way to perform in big cities," Poole said. "It's an intimate place."
Welker, 46, a Meigs County native and Ohio University graduate, said he loves his juke joint, where he flips burgers during the day. The Court Street Grill seats 45-50 people and can hold 100 people, including those standing.
"It is small, cramped, loud at times and a place where you can dance," Welker said. "It is a house built around music. It is hopping when music is playing."
He likes the philosophy behind the old juke joints of the South where Delta blues music, dancing, good times and friendship reigned. Urban lounges in the North and Midwest now feature the rhythm and blues music that the disappearing southern juke joints were known for, Welker said.
Music was not a part of the grill at first, but it quickly became a blues club for local musicians to perform on Tuesday nights and nationally touring blues acts to play on weekends.
Welker listed some of the bigger names to perform in his juke joint as Joe Bonamassa, Eddie "The Chief'' Clearwater, Jimmy Thackery & the Drivers, Steady Rollin' Bob Margolin, Johnny Rawls, Lil' Ed & the Blues Imperials, Anson Funderburgh & the Rockets, Sugar Ray & the Bluetones, Phillip Walker, and the Chicago Rhythm & Blues Kings.
"We are a gas stop for groups traveling from Indianapolis and Chicago to the Carolinas and Virginia and from the South to Pittsburgh or the East Coast," Welker said. "We give them gas money, food and lodging."
The building housing the grill dates back to around the mid-1800s and is a former drugstore.
Welker called Pomeroy and Meigs County a "weird hub" or crossroads for musicians traveling to larger gigs.
Last Friday and Saturday, Pomeroy hosted the 13th annual Big Bend Blues Bash, a smorgasbord of blues and rock music along the river, organized by the Pomeroy Blues & Jazz Society. Welker, society creator and director, said several thousand people attended.
Welker said the blues festival provides small economic development for his village.
Proceeds from the bash also provide free concerts on five Friday nights in July and August, during the "Rhythm on the River" summer music series, at the Riverside Amphitheatre in downtown Pomeroy.
Jeff Fox of Parkersburg, who was master of ceremonies at the Big Bend Blues Bash, said the Pomeroy festival is a highlight of his summer. He enjoys the diversity of the musical genres presented - folk rock, classic rock, hard rock and blues - and hearing the national touring musicians that perform.
Fox also is a fan of the Court Street Grill - where the live music is unique and interesting and "you are treated like a friend." He said he has met people from Parkersburg, Marietta, Athens, Ripley and Point Pleasant there and that Welker does a good job of picking the bands.
"Jackie catches bands on the way up before they become too big for Pomeroy," Fox said.
Contact Paul LaPann at email@example.com