POMEROY — Even an old business can learn a new trick. The Court Street Grill in Pomeroy, Ohio will host its first “One-Man Band Competition” tonight beginning at 8 p.m. Jackie Welker, owner of the Court Street Grill, said he got the idea when he noticed some friendly competition between his live acts.
“We’ve done some one-man band shows in here before,” Welker said. “A few of the musicians that frequent here regularly, I think, started almost a little grudge match by challenging each other. Then the idea came of ‘Hey, let’s make a full-blown competition’. It’s a winner-take-all competition, as well as a creative outlet for the musicians.”
Welker said he took over the business 16 years ago, but Court Street Grill’s history and influence in the community go back much farther.
“The Court Street Grill started as a soda counter inside Reed’s Drug Store back in the late 1800s,” Welker said. “Then sometime right after prohibition, the drug store went away, and the Grill became essentially just a little tavern. I’ve had it for 16 years now and introduced the live music. We have a full bar and do a brisk lunch and dinner. We’re just a little town pub with a music venue, lunch venue, wings and burgers, basically something for everyone.”
Welker said the Grill’s music venue also opened up the music scene for the town of Pomeroy.
“I can’t say enough how the live music has changed things. A lot of people come to the Grill and think it’s very unique. We predominately do blues and roots style music, like juke joints and urban lounges in Chicago and Memphis. We’ve had Grammy-nominated performers. The music here led to the establishment of the Pomeroy Blues and Jazz Society which is in charge of the Rhythm on the River and the Big Bend Blues Bash. Those events bring thousands of people to Pomeroy, so it has definitely shaped things.”
Welker said he chose to take over the business because of his work experience to get him through school.
“I put myself through Ohio University working at a bar, and I took away the knowledge of running a bar,” Welker said. “When I came back to my hometown and bought a house, I realized there weren’t a lot of options for an establishment for young professionals. The places that were here, including this one, were more of the rough, tough river bars. So I decided to add live music and make it a place more welcome to a younger crowd.”
Welker said there will be a $5 entry fee at the door for the one-man band competition, which will be part of the winner’s prize.
“Whatever we collect from the door entry fee will go to the competition, but we won’t have prizes for second place or lower,” Welker said.
The Court Street Grill has never hosted a one-man band competition before. Welker said he wants to continue hosting the event in the future, but for now, he said he wants to see how well this trial run works.
“I would love for it to continue, but I wouldn’t call it an annual event yet,” Welker said. “If we have success with it, and the musicians have fun with it, then I would say we would absolutely pencil it in for next year. We typically do a blues competition in June, so I don’t know why we couldn’t do a one-man band competition, as well.
“The one-man band is probably exactly like you would imagine it,” Welker said. “The musicians are going to be multi instrumental. They’re playing multiple instruments as one person in addition to singing.”
Welker said six musicians have signed up for the show.
“Each musician will get a 15-minute set to show their talent,” Welker said. “I’m hoping it will turn into an open jam later, or maybe each artist will get up and do another set, but it’s six right now and still time for others to get on board if they’re interested. There’s no entry fee for signing up.”
The Court Street Grill is located at 112 Court Street in Pomeroy, Ohio. The show starts at 8 p.m. tonight.