[Dixielandjazz] Turk Murphy in _Common Soldiers_

Dan Augustine ds.augustine@mail.utexas.edu
Wed, 28 Aug 2002 16:07:11 -0500

p. 246: [c. 1946 or later:] "For a month or so we enjoyed the 
butterfly's romance of friendship with Turk Murphy and his beautiful 
blonde Finnish wife Grace, and we spent the intermissions with them, 
and with any other of the musicians who were wandering around."

p. 247: "Turk Murphy was in his youth so merry, energetic and 
physically powerful he was like an irresistible force.  He stammered. 
He had blazing, fierce blue Irish eyes, with frowning, heavy 
eyebrows, and fine, light brown boyish hair.  Women fell under his 
enchantment like dazed rabbits entranced by a beautiful snake.  They 
came and went, an endless chain of pretty girls, who flourished for a 
few dazzled weeks and then vanished forever, probably to this day 
wondering what had happened to them.
     "But at that time he was married to Grace, and she enchanted him, 
for a change.  Turk was mad for cars, and for taking them on trips 
into the country.  Every Sunday he, Grace, Charles and I would start 
at noon, and Turk would drive us in his current car out into the 
country.  Turk grew up in a small town in central California, and 
usually we went eastward, into the farming valleys, picking 
occasional apples from roadside trees.  The apples filled the car 
with fragrance.  Turk was one of those expert drivers who can drive 
very fast but so adroitly that you aren't aware of how fast you are 
going, and all the time he was telling stories about eccentrics he 
had known in the jazz world, where oddities flourish and are 
cherished by everybody because their harmless crotchets provide a 
focus for affection and entertainment that can unify a group of 
musicians into a strong whole.  In the Watters band this role was 
filled by Dick Lammi, but in truth everybody in the Watters band 
could have qualified.
     "All Turk asked of life and time was that he should find wildly 
funny people or circumstances in the former, and be able to use the 
latter in laughing.
     "When he could not laugh, he became very grim.  It was terrible 
to be with him when he was like that.  His frowning eyebrows lowered 
still further over his wild eyes, which would seem to dim and 
concentrate themselves, with an effect as petrifying as if he had 
drawn a sword.  He was not a violent man, in spite of his enormous 
strength which, in fact, was so apparent no one but a stomped-down 
idiot would dream of tangling with him.
     "But his laughter and his storms, though, were only the outside 
of a very complex character.  In the first place, he was a complete 
musician with a superb gift, and right there quite beyond me.  He 
didn't understand me, either, and it was a blessing that we were 
sympathetic to each other, because fondness had to substitute for all 
other kinds of communication.  It was probably our Gaelic inheritance 
that made our unlikely friendship successful.
     "Turk has always been a ruler, and to be in his favor implies 
inevitably that you will sooner or later be out of favor.  But while 
the sun shines on you, it is a fine feeling."

**  Dan Augustine     Austin, Texas     ds.augustine@mail.utexas.edu  **
**    "I am sitting in the smallest room in the house.  I have your   **
**     review in front of me.  Soon it will be behind me."            **
**       -- Max Reger (1873-1916) to a music critic                   **