Greg Poppleton

21 May - Hear 1940s Jazz Harpsichord on this week's Phantom Dancer LISTEN

27 April 2021

(Until 27 April)

Turk Murphy – Union Man Who Looked After His Musicians – Phantom Dancer 27 April 2021

Greg Poppleton's Phantom Dancer swing jazz radio show

Turk Murphy, San Francisco Great Revival trad trombonist, singer, composer, arranger, and band leader is this week’s Phantom Dancer feature artist.

The Phantom Dancer – your non-stop mix of swing and jazz from live 1920s-60s radio and TV hosted by me, Greg Poppleton.

Enjoy a whole library of Phantom Dancer mixes online now at

This show will be online after 2pm AEST, Tuesday 27 April at



Born Melvin Edward Alton Murphy, Turk Murphy’s first instrument was a short cornet which originally belonged to his father. Later, his father bought Turk his first trombone and he taught himself to play. After study with a local music teacher and graduating high school in 1933, Turk joined the Merle Howard Orchestra. He toured the US in 1935 and 1936 as a member of the Val Bender, Will Osborne, and Mal Hallett Orchestras.
Turk met many of the musicians he would later play with while on the road, including clarinettist Bob Helm.
He quit touring in 1937 and with Lu Watters and other like-minded musicians he began collecting records, studying music theory, and teaching themselves to play in the traditional New Orleans style. He joined the Yerba Buena Jazz Band with Lu Watters in 1940.
Just as the Yerba Buena Jazz Band was receiving national attention and steady audiences, World War II intervened. Turk enlisted in the Navy in 1942, working at Alameda Naval Air Base as a mechanic. Turk continued to play, performing with many jazz notables, including the legendary Bunk Johnson.
Turk formed his own band in 1949. They toured nationally with multiple residencies in New York City, making their San Francisco home base the Italian Village club (1952 – 1954), The Tin Angel (1955 – 57) and Easy Street (1957 – 59) from where this week’s Phantom Dancer broadcasts originate.
The Turk Murphy Jazz Band recorded extensively, and their records for the Columbia label increased the popularity of the band nationally, especially in the 1950s and early 1960s. Turk’s recordings were well received critically and frequently reviewed in jazz publications like DownBeat, The Record Changer, and others. Turk was often in the top of popular jazz related polls as well.
In 1960, Turk opened his San Francisco nightclub, Earthquake McGoon’s. It operated for sixteen years before moving to two other locations and closing in 1984.
McGoon’s was a San Francisco fixture with regular audiences who came to dance and listen, as well as being a must-visit stop for tourists and visitors. Turk designed the multi-level Clay Street location himself, and he worked tirelessly to maintain the club and promote it.
Turk was was a success at both music and business, and his band appeared regularly on local and national radio and television, including twice on the Ed Sullivan Show. Turk even had an endorsement with Conn trombones. Turk was a prolific composer and arranger, writing for popular programs such as Sesame Street, for the stage and screen, and for his own musicians. Turk’s music was true to the New Orleans idiom, but he had his own recognizable sound influenced by a wide range of music, especially the classical composer Kurt Weill. Turk’s arrangement of Weill’s “Mack the Knife” was recorded by both Lotte Leyna and Louis Armstrong, a huge hit for Armstrong.
During his more than 50 years performing, arranging and composing, Turk and his band were recognized both nationally and internationally. In the 1970s, the Turk Murphy Jazz Band travelled internationally to great acclaim, including two visits to Australia.


“In the late 1930s, two parallel movements resulted in the phenomenon known as The Great Revival. One branch of the movement involved record collectors and writers such as William Russell, Dave Stuart, Bill Colburn, Neshui Ertegun, and Lester Koenig. They wrote articles about early jazz records, published magazines aimed at devotees of vintage jazz, and eventually made contact with some legendary figures such as trumpeter Bunk Johnson (who claimed to have played in Buddy Bolden’s band) and trombonist Kid Ory (who made the first jazz record by an African-American band in 1922, and who played and recorded with King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, and Jelly Roll Morton).

The other branch of the Great Revival was centered in San Francisco, where young musicians like Lu Watters, Turk Murphy, and Bob Helm desired to play the music from the Golden Era of hot jazz rather than the swing style that was currently popular.” – Hal Smith



Turk employed a huge number of musicians in his band over the years, and he was a loyal supporter of the San Francisco Musician’s Union. Turk Murphy Jazz Band members played to a high standard and lost their jobs if they failed to perform to Turk’s satisfaction or were unreliable, but they were well taken care of financially. He always made sure he paid his musicians a living wage and would not play for people who wouldn’t pay him the best fees.
He wouldn’t work for people who would ask him to do things outside of union rules. Some of the long time Turk Murphy musicians you’ll hear on this week’s Phantom Dancer…


Bob Helm, clarinet and sax, was one of the most talented, imaginative, and gifted musician of the Great Revival. He played music professionally as a teenager as he listened to broadcasts of Louis Armstrong from Sebastian’s Cotton Club in Los Angeles, collected records, and attended concerts and show.

He played in Territory bands across the western United States, ranging from Wingy Manone’s Orchestra to Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys.

Bob Helm settled in the Bay Area in the late ‘30s. Interested in early forms of jazz, he was an enthusiastic participant in small-band sessions. He joined Lu Watters’ Orchestra at Sweet’s Ballroom in Oakland, and doubled on clarinet and tenor sax. He also took part in after hours sessions with Watters, Turk MurphyBob Scobey, and others who would eventually form the Yerba Buena Jazz Band.

In 1943, Helm joined the U.S. Army. He served with the 18th Infantry Division, as a paratrooper, combat infantryman, and later with General George S. Patton’s 3rd Army. He also enjoyed a brief respite from the battlefield, playing tenor sax in a band backing Marlene Dietrich on a USO tour.

Helm was invited by Lu Watters’ to rejoin the YBJB in 1946. The band drew large crowds of both dancers and listeners throughout 1946. They recorded numerous sides for the West Coast label and were heard on station KGO’s live broadcasts from the club. His sound was a combination of the blues-drenched passion of Johnny Dodds with the eccentricity and creativity of Pee Wee Russell. Still, some writers and fans criticized his tone, and found problems with his intonation as well. The criticism continued throughout Helm’s career.

In a conversation nearly 40 years after the YBJB played at the Dawn Club, a fan asked Lu Watters whether Helm played flat. Lu instantly, and somewhat angrily, replied, “No! No! He plays wild and reckless!”



Pete Clute graduated from Stanford University in 1956 with a degree in business and history. Shortly after graduation, he joined the Turk Murphy Jazz Band. In 1960 Turk Murphy and Pete Clute opened the first Earthquake McGoon’s nightclub on lower Broadway and in 1962 moved to the famed Clay Street location, where for sixteen years it was the world’s best known traditional jazz club.

Pete Clute performed on more than 20 LPs and composed numerous piano pieces and band scores. After leaving the Turk Murphy Jazz Band in 1983, he performed with the Natural Gas Jazz Band and other ensembles throughout the 1980-90s.


Bob Short was probably the most influential tubaist of the Revival, though on this week’s Phantom Dancer you’ll hear him playing cornet with the Turk Murphy band.

Short was playing tuba professionally by 1928 and also managed to learn string bass, banjo, and several other instruments by the time he wound up in Portland, Oregon in the mid-’40s.

He played cornet and valve trombone with the Rose City Stompers, a group which became the nucleus of the Castle Jazz Band. When the CJB was organized, Short switched to tuba and began to establish his reputation as one of the best of the San Francisco style. In the early ’50s, Short moved to the Bay Area to play tuba and cornet with Turk Murphy’s Jazz Band. He had the ability to switch embouchures from cornet to tuba without missing a beat.

During the ’50s, Short recorded several sessions with Murphy, with Bob Scobey and also the reunited Castle Jazz Band, and continued to work frequently with Murphy. In 1963, Short made the Blues Over Bodega session with Lu Watters and the associated concerts with Turk Murphy. Short left the Murphy band permanently in 1964 to concentrate on flying.




Play List – The Phantom Dancer
107.3 2SER-FM Sydney LISTEN ONLINE Community Radio Network Show CRN #487

107.3 2SER Tuesday 27 April 2021 12:04 – 2:00pm (+10 hours GMT) and Saturdays 5 – 5:55pm National Program 5GTR Mt Gambier Monday 2:30 – 3:30am 3MBR Murrayville Monday 3 – 4am 4NAG Keppel FM Monday 3 – 4am 2SEA Eden Monday 3 – 4am 2MIA Griffith Monday 3 – 4am 2BAR Edge FM Bega Monday 3 – 4am 2BRW Braidwood Monday 3 – 4am 3VKV Alpine Radio Monday 6 – 7pm 7MID Oatlands Tuesday 8 – 9pm 1ART ArtsoundFM Canberra Friday 10 – 11am 2ARM Armidale Friday 12 – 1pm 5LCM Lofty FM Adelaide Friday 1 – 2pm 4RPH Brisbane Sunday 3 – 4am 7LTN Launceston Sunday 5 – 6am 3MGB Mallacoota Sunday 5 – 6am 6GME Radio Goolarri Broome Sunday 5 – 6am 3BBR West Gippsland Sunday 5 – 6pm

Set 1
Swing Bands 1944 Radio 
Racing With The Moon (Theme) + Harvard Square
Vaughan Monroe Orchestra (voc) Vaughan Monroe
‘One Night Stand’ Hotel Commodore NYC AFRS Re-broadcast 8 Feb 1945
Full Moon and Empty Arms
Buddy Morrow Orchestra (voc) Carl Denny
‘One Night Stand’ Roseland Ballroom NYC AFRS Re-broadcast 1 Mar 1946
Swanee River + Close
Jan Garber Orchestra
‘One Night Stand’ Trianon Ballroom Southgate Ca AFRS Re-broadcast 31 Mar 1945
Set 2
Vincent Valsanti (Ted Fio Rito) 
To Beautiful For Words
Vincent Valsanti Orchestra (voc) Howard Sisters and Jack Howard
Cocoanut Radio Transcription TRANSCO Los Angeles 1934
The Object of My Affection
Vincent Valsanti Orchestra (voc) Jack Howard and Candy
Cocoanut Radio Transcription TRANSCO Los Angeles 1934
Dancing in the Dark + Water Under The Bridge + Close
Vincent Valsanti Orchestra (voc) Bill Thomas
Cocoanut Radio Transcription TRANSCO Los Angeles 1934
Set 3
Pop Medley Radio 
Cole Porter Medley
Norman Clothier Orchestra
‘Paris By Night’ Radiodiffusion PTT Paris and WJZ NBC Blue NY 21 Mar 1939
The Girlfriend Medley
Royal Air Force Entertainment Unit
‘Seranade to the Stars’ British Forces Radio 1948
Medley: Bewitched + Sentimental Journey +  Close (Daydreams Come True at Night)
Dick Jurgens Orchestra
Aragon Ballroom WGN Mutual Chicago Aug 1950
Set 4
Turk Murphy 
Bay City (theme) + New Orleans Shuffle
Turk Murphy’s San Francisco Jazz Band
Easy Street KCBS San Francisco 7 Nov 1958
Tishomingo Blues
Turk Murphy’s San Francisco Jazz Band
Easy Street KCBS San Francisco 2 Dec 1958
Melancholy Blues
Turk Murphy’s San Francisco Jazz Band
Easy Street KCBS San Francisco 14 Nov 1958
Memphis Blues + Bay City (theme)
Turk Murphy’s San Francisco Jazz Band
Easy Street KCBS San Francisco 9 Dec 1958
Set 5
John Coltrane 
Afro Blue
John Coltrane Quartet
‘Portraits in Jazz’ The Half Note WABC-FM NYC 26 Mar 1965
Set 6
1930s Radio Transcriptions 
Troublesome Trumpet
Red Nichols Orchestra (voc) The Songcopators
Radio Transcription New York 30 Nov 1936
You’re The Top
Hal Kemp Orchestra (voc) Skinnay Ennis
Radio Transcription New York 14 Dec 1934
You’ve Got That Something
Red Nichols Orchestra (voc) The Songcopators
Radio Transcription New York 30 Nov 1936
I Don’t Want To Be President
Hal Kemp Orchestra (voc) Skinnay Ennis
Radio Transcription New York 14 Dec 1934
Set 7
1940s Big Bands 
Mabel Mabel
Woody Herman Orchestra (voc) Woody Herman
‘Woody Herman Show’ ABC Jun 1946
Hey, Lawdy Mama
Andy Kirk Orchestra (voc) June Richmond
Aircheck 1946
Old Fashioned Love
Eddy Howard Orchestra (voc) Eddy Howard
Aragon Ballroom WGN Mutual Chicago 5 Dec 1945
At the Balalaika + Close
Ted Weems Orchestra (voc) Perry Como
‘Beat the Band’ WMAQ NBC Red Chicago 1941
Set 8
1950s Jazz TV 
Duke Ellington
‘Stage Show’ CBS TV NY 1 Jan 1955
Basin Street Blues + Jeepers Creepers
Jack Teagarden (tp & voc) Louis Armstrong
‘Timex All-Star Jazz Show’ CBS TV NY 30 April 1958
Night Walk
Gerry Mulligan
‘Timex All-Star Jazz Show’ CBS TV NY 30 April 1958
St Louis Blues
‘Timex All-Star Jazz Show’ CBS TV NY 30 April 1958
All Gigs
12:04 pm - 2:00 pm
2SER 107.3 Sydney

Available now! Get your copy


Keep in touch with the monthly newsletter