Last call at George McClintock’s jazz club, the Spigot, had ended hours ago, but the after-hours jam session at his house just off Shoreline Park was in full swing. Louis Armstrong and his band were smoking hot that September night in 1965, riffing on the Great American Songbook, to the delight of all the neighbors. George’s beautiful wife, Lucy, was serving authentic, old-world Italian cuisine, while George was barbecuing steak. This was only the second time that Louis and his band had performed at the Spigot, but they were welcomed, not only as the greatest men of jazz, but also as family.
Dr. Kathy McClintock remembers that night well. “I was about 12 years old. My brother and sisters, ‘the kids,’ as Dad would call us, were supposed to be asleep. But, that night, as with many, it was all too exciting at our house, and we just could not miss a single note. Dad described Louis Armstrong, ‘Satchmo’ or ‘Pops’ as he was known, as the most important musician in the history of jazz. Looking back, I cannot believe that Mr. Armstrong singled me out and gave me that beautiful smile, which was his trademark.
“I remember him playing his trumpet, with intensity, as though it were a part of him, an extension of his whole personality. His eyes were very wide as he played, and his face was soaked with perspiration. I was standing, half hidden, staring entranced at the legendary musician. Mr. Armstrong finished the set and looked straight at me. Smiling wide, he said joyfully, ‘Look at those big blue eyes! Isn’t she adorable? Everybody, that’s George’s little daughter! Hey, girl, have you got something on your mind?’ I smiled back at him and, embarrassed, just shook my head. He laughed heartily!”
Only a few historians of the Santa Barbara Jazz Society may have lived in Santa Barbara during the 1950s and ’60s and been patrons of the Spigot. Located on upper De la Vina Street, it was the first jazz club in Santa Barbara and one of only three nightly jazz spots on the California coast. The other two were located in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The Spigot was the vision of owner George McClintock, a passionate jazz lover and a man whose commitment to family and community are still remembered. Through his doors passed the legends of the jazz world. “Great musicians played in the club. On Sundays, George would bring in the big acts. Louis Armstrong, Cannonball, Dizzy Gillespie, Shorty Rogers, Cal Tjader, Curtis Amy, Marv Jenkins, Prince Lasha, Sonny Simmons, Herbie Mann, Billy Higgins, Ron Finney, and Vince Wallace came down from San Francisco to play along with bass player Lennie Seguiera. Sal Nistico played there with Herb Hicks and was living with Herb on Gillespie Street. They painted houses to pay the rent. Shortly after, Sal went with Woody Herman. Freddy Jackson played there also. Later he went with the Ray Charles band. Donny Ontiveros, Dave Wilson, and Bo Young were among the jazz musicians. Chip Crosby (Dave Crosby’s brother) played drums there for a while with Vince. Dave Sanchez, Harry Vizzolini, and Hal Sweasey were there.” (From “The Jazz Age in Santa Barbara,” a letter by Tony Cappiello posted on independent.com in 2010.)
After two decades of jazz, the arrival of rock ’n’ roll changed the musical interests of Santa Barbara, and the Spigot changed hands. It was a time when George looked back on his life, family, friends, and professional standing. He had fought for his country in the Korean War and was awarded the Purple Heart for bravery; he’d married the love of his life, Inez Lucy Fantin, the daughter of Italian immigrants; and they had brought up six wonderful children. Having sold the Spigot, George decided where the next few decades would take him, and they were nothing short of exciting.
He retired to pursue a Hemingway-inspired lifestyle, which included buying and captaining a sailboat in Key West, Florida; living the infamous casino life of the Las Vegas strip; and then, in his later years, coming back to Santa Barbara to focus on the achievements of his children and grandchildren, the legacy of a lifetime. An Irishman to the heart, he had a great sense of humor and amused everyone with his gifted storytelling. George loved Santa Barbara County’s natural beauty, looking out to sea, enjoying incomparable sunsets along Goleta Beach and during long walks on hiking trails. He undertook one such hike, on the Nojoqui Falls trail near Lompoc, at the youthful age of 84.
George Edward McClintock passed away at the age of 88, on February 9, 2017, in Santa Barbara. In remembrance of George and the Spigot, his family invites his friends to a meet up on Saint Patrick’s Day at Santa Barbara’s SOhO music club at 8 p.m. Come lift a glass to George, meet “the kids,” and relate your memories of the Spigot, Santa Barbara’s first jazz club. For more information, please call (805) 708-3777.