Photo of turk with Bob Helm and Bill Thorpe in the 1940s|
Melvin Edward Alton “Turk” Murphy was born in Palermo, California, December 16, 1915, and began playing in San Francisco dance bands as early as 1930. He played with the Will Osborne and Mal Hallet orchestras during the middle 1930’s, and in 1939 teamed with the legendary Lu Watters. He joined Waters’ Yerba Buena Jazz Band which began a steady engagement at the Dawn Club in the basement of the Monadnock Building on Market between Third and Annie streets. The Watters band also included pianist Wally Rose.
Murphy served in the Navy during World War II, but did play some engagements, including his San Francisco recordings with Bunk Johnson and Watters on December 19, 1941. Another set was recorded with Johnson, again in San Francisco, during the spring of 1944.
The Yerba Buena Jazz Band broke up in 1950, and Murphy jobbed around with various orchestras until January 1952, when he opened with his own band at the Italian Village at Columbus and Lombard, in San Francisco’s North Beach.
Later, in 1960, he opened his first “Earthquake McGoon’s” on Broadway, named for the then-popular Al Capp cartoon character. McGoon’s was, at one time, located in the William Tell Hotel on Clay Street, above Montgomery. It then moved to the Embarcadero below Mission, and finally, to Pier 39 where it closed in 1984. From 1984, until his death, Turk and his band played in the New Orleans Room of the Fairmont Hotel. Churchill Street, a narrow lane that runs between Broadway and Vallejo, was renamed, by the Board of Supervisors, "Turk Murphy Lane" after his death.
Article and image from San Francisco Traditional Jazz Foundation www.sftradjazz.org/