[Dixielandjazz] Guinness

Ken Mathieson ken at kenmath.free-online.co.uk
Thu Dec 29 20:13:46 EST 2016

Hi Robert et al,

Robert's mail and poem of Dec 27 included this: "lesser-known brands of 
Irish stout came on the UK market after the owners of Guinness organised 
the takeover of a Scottish whisky company some time back." For listmates 
unfamiliar with that saga, well-known Dublin brewers Guinness had a 
virtual monopoly on the stout market in the UK until they upset the 
Scots by a massive, but fraudulent takeover of the biggest Scotch Whisky 
distilling group. For those interested in such arcane matters (actually 
they're not so arcane as they involve the only recorded recovery from 
Alzheimer's Disease!) check this out:


Anyway, that's only for background and not really the point of this 
mail. When Scottish topers (believe it or not we're not all 
teetotallers!) boycotted Guinness in Scotland, pubs had to find an 
alternative stout and into the breach charged the much smaller Irish 
stout brewery of Murphy's from Cork. At this point, I have to get this 
back on topic for DJML by pointing out that Murphys were in fact 
responsible for the fame of the Guinness Jazz Festival, located in Cork. 
It's a very Irish tale, highly improbable but nonetheless true: a long 
time ago, someone of genius in Murphy's Marketing Department invented a 
simple ruse to keep Guinness out of their home turf of County Cork by 
inventing *penny shares* which could be acquired in lieu of small change 
in all Murphy's pubs. This caught on and pretty soon all the stout 
drinkers in County Cork, i.e. the entire male population of he county, 
were shareholders in the Murphy's Brewery. Over the decades these 
holdings built up and drinkers were able to buy pints of the stuff with 
their share dividends. At the same time, the much larger Guinness 
Brewers were unable to sell their stout anywhere in County Cork for, if 
you held shares in Murphys, why would you buy the competitor's beer?

Fast-forward to 1978 and the manager of Cork's Metrople Hotel, Jim 
Mountjoy, started a small jazz festival as a way of filling his hotel 
for a weekend in a slack period for trade. In County Cork that meant 
additional sales for Murphys, so it suited them too. The festival caught 
on and eventually someone in Guinness's Marketing Department had the 
bright idea of sponsoring the festival, with the quid pro quo that the 
only stout to be available in all festival venues had to be Guinness. 
With virtually all the pubs in Cork being tied to Murphy's products, 
this was a tough ask, but as ever, Irish cunning, flexibility and 
*persuasion* prevailed and with Guinness's money being thrown at it, the 
festival grew into a major event in the global world of jazz.

I only played it once, when I was with Fat Sam's Band, and had the 
chance to hear two of my drum heroes, Louis Hayes and Buddy Rich, with 
their bands. The scenes of carnage among the punters made me realise 
that the Scots, who've always had a reputation of being keen drinkers, 
were in fact minor league players compared with the Irish, the Finns, 
Russians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Poles etc. It's a measure of Guinness's 
generous patronage of the festival that they had set up a Musicians' Bar 
in which their stout was available for free to all with a musician's 
badge - had nobody warned them? - and I have very vague recollections of 
a conversation with that fine American tenor sax player Spike Robinson 
which lasted several hours before I had to grab some sleep. Fat Sam's 
Band had an 8am departure and I remember standing like a zombie in the 
lobby, ready to leave, when an elevator door opened and Spike staggered 
out with pint in hand and his tenor still slung round his neck to greet 
me with the words *..as I was saying....!*

Happy days!


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