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Turk Murphy's San Francisco Jazz Band

 

      Turk was more than an entertainer and musician. He was an inspiration to anyone who would be more than just another man. He was one of the most respected citizens of San Francisco. The city even declared a “Turk Murphy Day” in his honor.

      One of the reasons Sandy is advancing these memories now is to bring to light the work of Haile High, a school in Jamaica founded by him to teach computer skills to handicapped and economically disadvantaged children. This school is the result of the influence of people like Turk Murphy on Sandy.

 


Solemn portrait of a great soul.

 

Turk’s band playing for children at the Shriner's Hospital in SanFrancisco.


Captain Cloud

      Turk and the boys were always ready to help cheer those who were less fortunate. This is the Shriners Hospital in San Francisco during one of their visits: Pete Clute on piano, Turk, Carl Lunsford, Leon Oakley, Bill Carol, and Phil Howe. They enlisted Sandy to pitch-in as well. Sandy became “Captain Cloud” and made several visits to the hospital to play for the kids. The kids came from all over the world. One day Capt. Cloud talked to one of these kids, happy and full of hope. On his next visit there she lay, forlorn and sad – without legs. She was 7270 miles from home, alone without anyone but the little stuffed bear she grasped. Sandy had been to the Philippines and had learned Tagalog which she found comforting. It was a tough gig. Sandy will always thank Turk and Pete for getting him involved. It provided an early impetus that eventually led to his founding of a school for handicapped kids in Jamaica. If you’d like to help, click here.

      When Turk Murphy's San Francisco Jazz Band came to play with the CJGRJB in Concord, Turk insisted that they first go out to Fort Devens and entertained the wounded soldiers who were streaming in from Vietnam. Smokey Stover, Turk's drummer is cheering on vocalist Pat Yankee, with Turk seen on trombone. Turk, a sailor in WWII, never missed a chance to help those who were less fortunate than he.

Click on Pat Yankee to hear "Oh Daddy"


Easy Street 1958

      Turk became a hot item in the Bay Area when he got back from his duty in the USN after WW II. He was an Aviation Mechanic, First Class, and served his country well, in uniform, in Jazz, and in Class.

      Fresh back from service in the Pacific, Sandy drops in to Easy Street to blow some of the sand out of his Clarinet with Turk and the Band. Sandy is hiding behind the microphone on the right. Turk is on the right with Larry Conga in the middle. Sandy's biggest accomplishment during his Army career was receiving The Good Conduct Medal…A rarety in his family. We have yet to recognize the horn man in the middle, and we are always looking for help in adding material to this story if anyone would like to help.

      This is a shot of Turk Murphy’s San Francisco Jazz Band during a wild night at 130 Clay Street. Judith Durham from Australia is a true lark of a singer. The guy in the 2 tone saddle shoes playing the clarinet is Woody Allen. Turk rarely allowed anyone to sit-in with his band of infinitely skilled musicians. Woody was an exception that everyone enjoyed.

      Turk and Pete were always playing tricks. One night they introduced Sandy and as he stepped onto the stage they swapped his soprano sax with an old cornet that they dug out of the cellar. It hadn’t been played since its owner had departed for jazz heaven. After an eye watering tribute to its famous departed owner, Turk finished by saying Sandy was the only person worthy enough to blow this great man’s horn.

      The band struck-up one of their intricately arranged songs as Sandy put the horn to his lip and blew – only to dislodge a nest of spiders and totally distorted sound. Its former owner, Bunk Johnson, must have climbed out of his grave to hop the next freight to Memphis. That was a good laugh on Sandy – but he got even. Like the night when he had been demoted to running the yakitore machine (a Japanese invention that roasted chickens). It caught fire resulting in a total and hasty evacuation of Earthquake McGoon’s. Nothing serious, just a lot of smoke from 6 immolated fryers!. Ah, Clay Street! What an adventure. Turk thought the same of CJGRJB’s “6 Main Street” on this coast. But Main Street was small potatoes compared to that scene in Frisco.

      In order to operate Earthquake McGoon’s with a legal liquor license, Turk and Pete were obliged to run it as a restaurant, which they didn’t really cotton to. Therefore when a patron would order a hamburger, Turk would make a big production of putting down his trombone, leaving the bandstand, and going into the kitchen to cook it. Although the price of the burger could send you to the Mark Hopkins for a better deal, there was always some wise guy ready to watch the ruckus caused by Turk’s obligation to the law. Of course the hungry “wise guy” would have to suffer the scorn of patrons who had come to hear every note of Turk’s playing.

      Miraculously, during a tour of Japan, a restaurateur there named Hayashi, followed the band back to San Francisco and took over the kitchen. Hayashi taught Sandy how to cook several traditional entrees, and had him serve as his assistant ~ as well as his waiter. In order to make the already hilarious scenario more authentic, Sandy memorized the labels of some of the ingredients on the cans – like “a ji no moto” (MSG). When taking orders from the suckers out front, he uttered whole sentences of meaningless Japanese words at machine gun speed. This in order to prove authenticity, and to discourage the business of induced victual compliance: “What the hell is that guy saying? Doesn’t sound like I wanna eat it!” Sandy was liberated from that august role after the night the yakitore machine caught fire. Saturday Night Live had nothing on Earthquake McGoon’s!


Sandy and Woody back stage
"30 bucks for a lousy hamburger!?"


Woody fingers his Albert clarinet as
he hustles Diane Keaton in his movie, SLEEPER.


      A word here would be in order lauding Turk’s partner, Pete Clute. He was trained classically and knew from memory every nuance of the band’s music that Turk had scribed in his arrangements. Much gratitude to brother Pete Clute for urging Sandy to reveal some of the more interesting aspects of the coast to coast insanity. He called once and urged Sandy to help jazz historians and others who wanted more information on the band. Now, here it is ~ and there will be more. Pete and Turk ran the saloon. Turk’s wife, Harriet, was the hat check girl and Pete’s brother, Cedrick and Jan, ran the Magic Cellar beneath it all. What a great treasure these memories are. They were such a family. Nowadays Pete and Sandy’s buddy, Carl Lunsford, have since stooped to wearing “monkey suits” and are a revered part of the San Francisco fauna at their gig at the Top of the Mark on Knob Hill. Don’t miss the show if you happen to be in San Francisco. They are the real thing!


 

Down at the Clambake

Concord, Massachusetts, May 25th 1968

Pete Clute, piano

Click on Pete to hear "Joplin's New Rag"

 

Turk Murphy, trombone

Click on Turk to hear "Trombone Rag"

Bill Carroll, tuba

Smokey Stover, flugelhorn & drums

Shoeless Ed Johnson and Turk

Click on Ed to hear "Cornet Chop Suey"

Jack Crook, clarinet & bass saxophone

What is a bass saxophone? Click on Jack to hear.

Unless otherwise noted, all photographs and text are the property of Kali Creation and KROK Recordings © 2004.

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