OGDEN — According to the man who knew him perhaps better than anyone outside of his own family, Joe McQueen didn’t place a lot of value on life’s material objects.
So McQueen probably wouldn’t even bat an eyelash over that fact that his 120-year-old, lifelong Ogden home — a significant remnant of the Jazz legend’s prolific life — is up for sale.
“He wasn’t into that kind of thing — materialism, or being sentimental about objects,” said Brad Wheeler, local Blues musician, radio DJ, and an Ogden cultural icon himself. “He used to let me borrow his car and he’d tell me he didn’t care what I did with it as long as I brought it back full of gas.
“There was also a time he wanted to get rid of this horn he had — and this was an instrument that had basically been with him through it all — and I was trying to convince him to keep it. I was like, ‘Joe, you can’t. You played it at this show, you played it with this guy, that guy. It’s got so much of your history.’ He looked at me and said, ‘It’s a piece of metal.’ That was Joe. What he cared about was people. What are you doing to help others? That’s really what mattered to him.”
So while McQueen probably wouldn’t think much of someone else inhabiting the home he and his family lived in for more than 70 years, he’d probably be eternally grateful for the painstaking effort and care that’s gone into restoring it, which those involved with the project say is a salute to the jazzman’s legacy.
McQueen died Dec. 7, 2019, after a struggle with cancer. He was 100 years old. According to the state’s visitor bureau, Visit Utah, McQueen was “The Godfather” of 25th Street’s lively music scene.
He began playing the saxophone as a teenager, eventually touring the country with jazz bands. In late 1945 McQueen and his wife, Thelma, were traveling with a band when they made a stop in Ogden. According to legend, another member of the band stole the group’s money while they were in Junction City and left town. The couple decided they might as well make Ogden their home.
McQueen quickly put his imprint on Ogden’s music scene, playing with many of the big jazz names coming through town — Charlie Parker, Chet Baker, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie.
He regularly toured, but always came back to Ogden. In 2002, former Utah Gov. Michael Leavitt declared April 18 Joe McQueen Day.
“Joe McQueen is just a legend here,” said Crystal Guillen, a real estate broker with RE/MAX on 25th Street who is listing the home. “So when the opportunity came up to be involved with the home he spent basically his entire Ogden life in, it was just kind of surreal.”
At 3158 Grant Avenue, the home was built in 1900, according to Weber County property records. Guillen said the home needed some care, so she recruited Ogden-area investor Richard Casperson to remodel it. Casperson says he’s “about 97%” finished with an upgrade that started in March.
“We basically stripped it down to the 2x4s,” Casperson said. “It’s got all new electrical, we put in new sheet rock, got it up to code. It’s been a labor of love and we’ve been doing it with the family involved. We wanted to make his family proud. It’s been interesting and some people might not believe in this kind of thing, but I think Joe’s energy is still there.”
“The first time I stepped into the house, it just had a really good energy,” she said. “You can just kind of feel, it was centered around family and love.”
Wheeler said when thinking about McQueen’s old home, a torrent of emotional memories come flooding back. When Wheeler was a young, up and coming musician in Ogden, he idolized McQueen. He was first introduced to the jazz player at a bar on 25th Street in the 1990s. Though they did play music together, the pair eventually went on to develop a deep, long-lasting relationship that went beyond their mutual love of organized sound.
“I thought Joe was like, almost a mythical folk hero,” Wheeler said. “So when I met him for the first time, I remember how the air felt, how the light was, what time of day it was. I just kind of knew this guy was going to be a significant part of my life.”
Upon meeting the Jazz legend, Wheeler said he wanted to soak in McQueen’s musical aura, so he pestered him constantly, begging to spend some time with him.
“One time I called him up and said, ‘Hey Joe, I think we should hang out,’” Wheeler said. “Joe was like, ‘So you really wanna hang out, huh? Are you sure?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m sure.’ And Joe says, ‘Alright, then come on over to my house right now.’ I said, ‘Now?’ And Joe goes, ‘Yeah, if you really want to hang out so bad, come on up here right now.’ I thought it was a little weird and really just abrupt, but I was like, ‘Well, I guess this is my chance.’”
What followed was Wheeler’s very first memory of McQueen’s home.
“I get there, and he’s standing in the driveway with a big rubber hose, a boat oar and a wheelbarrow full of concrete,” Wheeler said, laughing. “He was like, ‘Well, you wanted to hang out, didn’t you? We gotta get this concrete put down.’ So I helped him with his concrete. It’s funny to look back on it, but I came to realize it was so much of what Joe was about, people helping people, community. He was always asking, ‘What do you do for other people? It’s a gift to do things for other people.’ So when I think of that home, that’s what kind of stands out.”
For more information on the home, call Guillen at 801-589-2771.