The Charles N. Huggins Project: The World’s Largest Online Collection of San Francisco Jazz

Ellis horne Yerba Buena Jazz Band
Ellis Horne with Lu Watters Yerba Buena Jazz Band, San Francisco in the 1940s. L to R: Bob Scobey, Lu Watters, Clancy Hayes (front), Turk Murphy, Ellis Horne. Photo from the San Francisco Traditional Jazz Foundation.

In the late 1970s, Bay Area banker Jim Goggin, a longtime friend and fan of Turk Murphy, envisioned a “Turk Murphy Jazz Foundation” – a jazz museum which would include photos, recordings, posters and other memorabilia from Murphy’s career.  As Goggin acquired more items from other sources, he expanded the scope to include other Bay Area jazzmen. Thus, the actual title of the organization became the San Francisco Traditional Jazz Foundation (SFTJF). The Foundation was established in 1981, and Goggin’s book Turk Murphy: Just for the Record was published by the SFTJF in 1982.  Eventually, Goggin’s ever-growing collection outstripped the available storage space in his home so he transported everything to a rented garage in Oakland.

In the 1990s, the San Francisco Traditional Jazz Foundation got a new chairman – William Carter – and an archivist – John Gill.  Gill oversaw the relocation of Goggin’s collection to a larger storage facility in Oakland. By that time Turk Murphy’s widow Harriet had donated Murphy’s personal collection of recordings, photos, band arrangements, scrapbooks and musical instruments.  The Foundation also acquired Clancy Hayes’ collection. The aggregated collections were so extensive that it required four separate storage rooms to hold all of it. Gill successfully took on the Herculean task of separating the material by type (photo, tape, music, musical instrument) and at the same time worked with Michael Cogan of Bay Records to transfer many of the rapidly-deteriorating tapes to compact disc.  In addition, Gill supervised CD issues of previously-unreleased material by Lu Watters and Turk Murphy on the San Francisco Traditional Jazz Foundation’s own label.

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One of the SFTJF board members during this time was the late Charles N. (Chuck) Huggins, President and CEO of See’s Candies. Huggins and wife Donna were invaluable to the Foundation as enthusiastic supporters of live music. See’s sponsored regular live broadcasts featuring Turk Murphy’s Jazz Band from Earthquake McGoon’s at Pier 39 (and, later, the New Orleans Room of the Fairmont Hotel).  He also sponsored Riverwalk Jazz with the Jim Cullum Jazz Band, from The Landing in San Antonio. In addition, Huggins engaged the Murphy and Cullum bands to perform at openings of See’s retail stores and sponsored the Cullum band as instructors for a youth jazz camp at Stanford University.  Before Donna married Chuck, she published a collaboration between Jim Goggin and Turk Murphy’s former pianist Pete Clute titled The Great Jazz Revival — an outstanding book – full of rare photos, posters and more — about the San Francisco Jazz Revival.  With former Firehouse Five Plus Two pianist KO Eckland, she also published Jazz West II; a directory of musicians, bands, venues and festivals associated with West Coast jazz.

Chuck Huggins with Turk
Chuck Huggins with Turk Murphy

While Gill spent long hours toiling in the storage unit and the recording studio, the Foundation also launched a monthly publication: The Frisco Cricket.  Initially, the newsletter was edited by Bay Area bassist/pianist Marty Eggers with articles written by William Carter, Gill, and this writer, among others.  The CD production continued with Carter in charge of a disc featuring the largely unknown pianist Russ Gilman, and jazz writer/radio host Dave Radlauer overseeing the production of a CD featuring rare recordings by Clancy Hayes.  The Foundation also presented concerts featuring former Turk Murphy vocalist Pat Yankee, vocalist Carol Leigh, New Orleans Jazz by the Magnolia Jazz Band and Lu Watters-style music by the Bay City Stompers (organized by Gill). During this period, cornetist/bandleader Jim Cullum joined the SFTJF Board of Directors.

McGoons_dancers_1973
Dancers at Earthquake McGoon’s, 1973. (San Francisco Traditional Jazz Foundation).

When John Gill left the Bay Area to return to New York, this writer was tapped to replace him as archivist.  Before he moved away, Gill helped to move the Foundation’s collections to a large room in a downtown San Francisco office building.  When the last box arrived safely in the new location, I went to work cataloging everything and placing it on shelves and in drawers and cabinets.  The facility was quite roomy, and afforded ample space to peruse publications, listen to music and conduct various kinds of research. The plan was to entice jazz fans to visit the archive so that they could learn more about the San Francisco style.

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During my tenure as archivist, I doubled as Special Projects Consultant — supervising CD issues of previously-unreleased material by Bob Scobey’s Frisco Band, the Firehouse Five Plus Two and the (Southern California) El Dorado Jazz Band – jointly produced by the Foundation and the GHB Jazz Foundation in New Orleans.  Around this time, Former Earthquake McGoon’s intermission banjoist Scott Anthony took over as editor of the Frisco Cricket.  The Foundation continued to present concerts, increasingly featuring New Orleans style jazz, rather than the San Francisco variety.

Turk Murphy and Lu Watters
Turk Murphy and Lu Watters c. 1940-42 (San Francisco Traditional Jazz Foundation Collection).

Next, due to a series of scheduling conflicts with musical engagements, I resigned as archivist.  Fortunately, Clint Baker was available to replace me and he continued the work of overseeing the various collections and setting aside any items needed for the various SFTJF projects.  However, sales of the CDs and books were lagging, so the Special Projects branch of the Foundation was discontinued. The Frisco Cricket also switched to an online-only format.

Though Charles Huggins had passed away in 2012, Cullum worked with his widow Donna Ewald Huggins to establish the Charles N. Huggins Project and to secure additional funding for the work of processing the entire SFTJF collection and digitizing over 2,000 items in the archive.  Clint Baker (the current archivist) and this writer selected a number of rare recordings, photos, posters and fliers for digitization, and to identify unlisted musicians, dates, venues, etc. The expert staff from Stanford Libraries did preservation work, managed digitization and handled project and database management.

Among the treasures in the archive: the tape collections of Turk Murphy, Bob Helm and Clancy Hayes; Turk Murphy’s personal scrapbooks and the invaluable scores from Turk Murphy’s San Francisco Jazz Band. Many of the latter are downloadable, and were published for the first time in the online exhibit.

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When plans were made to put together The Great Jazz Revival online exhibit, a production crew was organized to design and build a website with broad appeal to a diverse audience. To accomplish its goals, the team developed a narrative, which runs throughout the exhibit and created seven original films and four slide shows with streaming audio to tell the story of the mid-century revival of Traditional Jazz in San Francisco.

The Charles N. Huggins Project: The World’s Largest Online Collection of San Francisco Jazz
SFTJF Board- William Toole – John R. Browne III – Donna Ewald Huggins – William Carter – Margaret Moos Pick – Jim Cullum – Ruth Zamist- John F. Matthews

The team consisted of: Margaret Pick (Executive Producer); Laura Batistich (Producer, Director, Editor); Anna Newman (Director, Editor, Producer); Joy Risk (Production Assistant); Anjali Chawla (Content Architect); Martha Allen (Feature Page Editor); Ruth Zamist (Financial Manager); Jerry McBride (Head Librarian – Library and Archive of Recorded Sound at Stanford); Cathy Aster (Project Manager, Digital Library Systems and Services); Mike Keller (University Librarian, Publisher of Stanford University Press); Geoff Willard (Media Production Coordinator, Stanford Media Preservation Lab); and Frank Ferko (Sound Archives Librarian, Archive of Recorded Sound). The producers tapped the late Jim Cullum, Clint Baker and myself as experts, with deep knowledge of the era, to appear in videos covering various aspects of San Francisco Style Jazz which were incorporated into films in the Great Jazz Revival online exhibit.

Big Bear Inn
Yerba Buena Jazz Band at the Big Bear Tavern with Wally Rose, Clancy Hayes, Turk Murphy, Lu Watters, Bill Dart, Bob Scobey and Ellis Horne. (San Francisco Traditional Jazz Foundation Archive).

With the launch of the website in January of 2019, the Charles N. Huggins Project has brought the world’s largest collection of San Francisco Traditional Jazz records, photos and memorabilia onto the computer screens of jazz fans, educators and students around the globe.  Recently, project manager Cathy Aster wrote: “The SFTJF exhibit definitely ranks in the top 10 exhibits of the 96 we have currently published.  The statistics are comparable to the Andy Warhol exhibit, which has been hugely popular and a great international success as well.”

Visit the website at: https://exhibits.stanford.edu/sftjf.  The Stanford Libraries also host two channels which constantly stream programs from the Jim Cullum Riverwalk Jazz Collection: http://riverwalkjazz.stanford.edu/.

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Thanks to Margaret Moos Pick, John Gill and Clint Baker for their assistance with collecting information and confirming the timeline for this article.

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