The longest running jazz club is a stone's throw away

Deer Head Inn bring music to PA

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  • Photo provided Exterior of Deer Head Inn.

  • Photo by Bud Nealy Phil Woods Quintet taken inside during a performance.Pictured are Phil Woods on saxophone, Bill Charlap on piano, Steve Gilmore on bass, Brian Lynch on trumpet and Bill Goodwin on drums.

The world of jazz has always been a sub culture of the avant guard, intellectual and non mainstream persona. One naturally thinks of city lights, dark smoky clubs and in the old days, “speakeasies." This is what makes it interesting when some of the most talented people in jazz show up to play in Milford.

Deer Head Inn

5 Main Street
Delaware Water Gap, Pa.
570-424-2000 or

“Our area is a sort of 'Bermuda Triangle' for jazz,” says Dennis Carrig, one of the current owners of the Deer Head Inn, longest running jazz club in the country. “Some young player would come and play and all the people would suddenly show up and play with him.”

According to Dennis, Bob Lehr and his wife Fay purchased the Deer Head Inn in 1953 at the end of WWII and out of his own love for jazz, maintained the jazz venue. It was Lehr who enticed John Coates Jr. to play piano for him and this brought many famous people to come out to play with him. After 30 years as the house pianist, he still performs there.

Some of the jazz greats who came to play with John include saxophonists Al Cohn and Zoot Sims, two of the Four Brothers. Stan Getz, Phil Woods, a composer who was a protege of Charlie Parker, George Young, Nelson Hill and pianist Keith Jarrett. Trombonist Urbie Green often stopped by as well as guitarist Harry Leahey, bassist Steve Gilmore and drummer Bill Goodwin.

Others include saxophonist Dave Liebman, who is connected with Miles Davis, pianist/songwriter Bob Dorough and more. Some live recordings were produced at the Deer Head Inn with John Coates, Jr., Phil Woods and followed by Keith Jarret, Dave Tofani, Jesse Green, Jerry Harris, Nancy Reed and others.

Bob Durough, famous for the Schoolhouse Rock series celebrated his 90th birthday at the Deer Head Inn. In 1992 Bob and Fay's daughter Dona and her husband Chris Solliday took over the club and brought in even more musicians, such as Bill Mays, Fred Hersch, David “Fathead” Newman, Pat Metheny, Mark Murphy and Bill Charlap.

“Things happen here,” says Dennis, who sometimes sings at the club and has lived in New York City but loves the area he has called home most of his life.

With a background in the arts, some theater and visual arts, he says he knows enough about what is good. With his co-owners Bob and Jay Mancuso and his sister Mary, who purchased the business from the Sollidays in 2005, they continue to promote jazz shows and presenting a calendar of events on their web site.

He attributes at least some of the success of the club to performers who wanted to get out of the city and were able to find work in the 70's and 80's at the local resorts such as Mt. Airy in the Poconos, Tamiment, etc. but there is not enough to sustain them today.

Another successful ongoing venue that was born at the Deer Head is COTA, the Celebration of the Arts Festival which is in its 37th year in the Delaware Water Gap and while it started as a celebration of the jazz performing arts has expanded to include other musical venues and visual arts as well, from Friday to Sunday. The festival has been sustained through grant writing etc. It was developed by Phil Woods with Rick Chamberlain, Eddie Jobert and Bob Lehr.

The current owners have restored the mansard roof and box gutters as well as the third and fourth floors to accommodate overnight guests. The Inn provides a full dinner and bar menu as well as a full service bar in a non-smoking atmosphere.

The Inn is on the corner of Main St. (Pa. 611) and Mountain Road, five minutes from Route 80 and the Delaware River. It is a four-story hotel with eight tastefully decorated rooms and two suites, each with a private bath. Lodging is available seven days a week and live music takes place Thursday through Sunday. The Big Band takes place the last Monday of every month and Breakfast at the Morning Cure at the Deer Head is served every Sat. and Sunday morning.

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