Our new hangout spot is a place called Weezy's Movin' On Up Jazz and Barbeque Cafe. Right around the corner, it's a jazz and R&B nightspot located right in the middle of button-downed John's Creek, Georgia. The owner is a cat named Sanford Sanford, the son of the late Louise Sanford, who you will know forever and ever as Louise Jefferson, the wife of drycleaner George Jefferson on the seventies sitcom The Jeffersons , a show whose reruns seem to be playing continuously on a cable channel somewhere thirty years later.
The show is especially poignant for me because my father, who is a lot taller than Sherman Hemsley, owned a few drycleaning stores in the seventies and eighties when I was growing up. And my mother had a faint resemblance to Isabel Sandford. But we didn't live in a high rise - the biggest residential building in our town had eight stories and was home to all the down on their luck divorced men and families on Section 8 vouchers. We lived in the suburbs, such that they were in a town whose population was less than 20,000 people. My parents, unlike the Jefferson's, did not spend a dime on themselves. And the drycleaning business itself was work of the W-O-R-K variety, something I do not miss to this day. But you heard the jokes anyway.
The royalties from The Jeffersons must be good - Sandford Sandford doesn't let you get in the door without seeing his tribute to his mother. Housed in a former country style barbeque restaurant that used to be a hangout for several players from the Atlanta Braves, the place reminds me of the VFW back in my hometown, with red walls, red carpeting, red ceilings, and red curtains that cloak the stage.
The only political slant I can see coming in this entire post is that Weezy's serves an "Obama Burger" - two beef patties, two strips of bacon, cheese and two onion rings. I had to laugh when I saw it on the menu - there is no way in the world the real Obama would come within ten feet of a cholesterol bomb like this one. The food Weezy's has is good, but the music is really why you come to a place like this.
Maybe it's middle age, maybe it's the other things you have to do with a teenager in the house, or maybe it was just that the places we enjoyed were all the way down in Buckhead, almost twenty miles south - whatever the reason, S. and I haven't really hung out much in the last few years. But one Friday night about six weeks ago, we decided to try Weezy's out since we needed to eat anyway. We ended up closing the joint down.
Sandford is a big man who makes you think of Ving Rhames when he's in a good mood. When Sanford isn't wandering around, chatting up his guests and making them feel comfortable, he is on stage playing the bongos. We were sitting in a booth at Weezy's last weekend, listening to the music and gnawing on some damn good chicken wings, when I wondered out loud "why do we like this place so much? I didn't wait for S. to say anything, but answered my own question. "I think we like it because there are so many black people in here." I guess we've lived in this land of Starbucks and blonde soccer moms so long that it almost feels normal to see only one or two black faces in the grocery stores and bookstores.That and the music.
But these aren't the black folks you think of when you think of Atlanta - the high gloss, high toned Downtown Brown types who get elected to be mayor or are the CEO of an emerging growth company or have just gotten back from modeling in Europe. Nope, these are the people who populate the suburbs - the 40% of us who are I.T. specialists, or H.R. staffers, or middle managers in the myriad of businesses that crisscross the northside of the Atlanta metro, people who go to church almost every Sunday, coach their kids soccer teams, and find time to volunteer with our local civic organizations. Which means it's not the party crowd you think about when you think about Atlanta. In fact, most of the people look like they are from the same kind of small towns that S. and I are from, a sentiment that was underlined a few weeks ago when the singer for one of the bands talked about his hometown, and it turned out to be the same one I'm from.
Occasionally, S. is wistful when the band is playing. A piano player herself, who grew up on all the old jazz standards, she often wonders what it would have been like to be a performer instead of a corporate attorney. the best band we've seen, in my opinion, is the Ike Harris and Friends band. The front man is a riot, and he really knows how to work a crowd. But his best attribute is his ability, even as a young singer, to invoke the raspy, country boy rawness of Otis Redding when he sings "Try A Little Tenderness", which he delivers with all the gusto of the man himself.
In some ways, Weezy's is reminiscent of the place where S. and I first met, although that place was more of a dance club than this spot, which encourages dancing but doesn't seem interested in becoming known as a dance hall. Which is good, because I am getting to like it just the way it is. So if you find yourself in John's Creek, Georgia one Friday or Saturday night, come on in. Who knows - you might even see the Brown Man himself grooving to the sounds.