[Dixielandjazz] "MEET ME AT MC GOON'S" Book Review

Robert S. Ringwald robert at ringwald.com
Tue Nov 2 11:45:10 PST 2004

Floyd Levin asked me to post the following book review on DJML.  Enjoy.

--Bob Ringwald

           **********  A Book Review by Floyd Levin  **********
                          "MEET ME AT MC GOON'S"
301 PP, Over 800 illustrations, Indexed, Discography
ISBN 1- 4120-2773-X
Trafford Publishing Co. Book designed by Phil Crumley
                 @$28.00pp in U.S. - $31.00 overseas from:
 Carol Clute, 4719 Quail Lakes Dr., Suite G-#120, Stockton, CA. 75207
          "SCRAPBOOK." A book in which  pictures, clippings,
        souvenirs, etc. are pasted for preservation. A memory
                         Webster's New 20th Century Dictionary
     Assuming that scrap books are no longer in vogue, the above quote
from my old 40 pound dictionary is provided as a reminder.
     There was a time when we all had scrapbooks. Adolescents filled them
with data about school, sports, dates, romances, etc. Young couples saved
marriage certificates, off-springs' birth certificates, a child's first
curl, etc.
     Thumbing through an old scrapbook can often be a bleak exercise; the
luster of yesterdays' "gems" often fades after several decades.
     A JAZZ SCRAPBOOK, however, is another matter entirely! It preserves
fragments of our music's history that otherwise might have been lost in
the dust of passing years. This book, jammed with "treasured trivia" is,
as Mr. Webster said, "A Memory Book."
   "Meet Me at McGoon's" will certainly trigger tender memories in the
minds and hearts of West Coast Jazz fans.  Trombonist-bandleader Turk
Murphy is the central figure here.  Although his standing in the history
of jazz, and the revival period he helped launch, is a known factor, he
has yet to attain the true stature he rightfully deserves.
    In his foreword, co-author Pete Clute, pianist-partner with Turk
Murphy for many years, clearly sets the ground rules: "'Meet Me at
McGoon's is not just a book title, but a statement of the way it once
was. It is a book about some of the celebrities, special jazz fans, and
musicians who truly made McGoon's a place to be. It also reveals some of
the problems trying to be a musician and also run a night club."
    Pete Clute shared many memories about his life in music, and
particularly at their nightclub, Earthquake McGoon's. Unfortunately he
died unexpectedly before his extraordinary collaboration could appear in
    The 800 snippings and clippings were assiduously captioned and
arranged in chronological order by co-author Jim Goggin. He also wrote
"Turk Murphy, Just for the Record" published in 1982 by an organization he
founded, the San Francisco Traditional Jazz Society.
    Phil Crumley, leader of the Natural Gas Jazz Band, knew and respected
Turk Murphy for many years. His generous support made this book possible.
He also skillfully designed the easy-to-read format - double-spaced with
ample-sized fonts.
    During the eight brief chapters, the articulate text sets the scenes
for the Turk Murphy band's activity in various Bay Area clubs including
Hambone Kelly's, Italian Village, Club Hangover, Easy Street, Tin Angel,
Sail'N - and especially McGoon's.
   Hanging over the bar, was a large painting of "Stella," a very sensuous
reclining nude, that greeted us when we entered each successive Earthquake
McGoon location since 1960.
    The club's appropriate title was "borrowed" from a character in
cartoonist Al Capp's popular comic strip, "Lil' Abner." When Capp was
asked for permission, he said, "As long as you play good jazz and keep
your nose clean, you are welcome to the name." I am sure Turk complied
with Capp's mandate!
    Each revealing chapter is separated by scores of pages tightly filled
with a plethora of clippings, autographs, citations, and pictures,
including many alluring photos of young Pat Yankee, whose early career was
closely linked to the Murphy saga.  Preceding each chapter, a cartoon by
Ward Kimball, leader of the Firehouse 5 Plus 2, depicts Murphy in an
appropriately hilarious mode.
     By turning each page, I re-lived much of the Turk Murphy story - most
of which I personally observed. I am not meticulous enough to have created
such an elaborate  scrapbook, but I have many of the items illustrated
here - some in files, many in drawers, cartons, and folders waiting proper
sorting and indexing - someday!
    Until then, "Meet Me at McGoon's" will occupy a prominent position in
my jazz book case.

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