At 81, Toledo jazz legend Cliff Murphy keeps on playing

February 13, 2013 in Lifestyle, Lifestyles, News, Top Stories


Journal Managing Editor

Toledo jazz legend and bassist Clifford Murphy celebrated his 81st birthday performing at the Grand Plaza Hotel. His niece Karen Cox and great niece Davae Powell join him.

Toledo jazz legend Cliff Murphy celebrated his 81st birthday as he does a lot of days: entertaining crowds with his bass.

Murphy jammed with friends Wednesday, Feb. 6, at the Grand Plaza Hotel, 44 S. Summit. He played the first set and then took a seat and enjoyed the rest of his party during a segment of Jazz on the Maumee.

“I feel like I’m 39 years old,” Murphy said. “The best part of this is I quit drinking 35 years ago. So i won;t get drunk and act like an idiot.”

Murphy, who has played the bass since 1948, recalls playing his first gig at the old M&L club when it was on Indiana across from Stanley’s before it moved to Dorr Street.

“Back then, everything was jazz,” he said. “We called it music.”

Murphy remembers as a child his father was a minister for the Church of the Living God and didn’t want his son playing or earning a living playing jazz. However, Murphy said he had an aunt who went behind his father’s back and took him around to play gigs.

“It’s been history every since,” he said. “I can’t ever think of giving this up. I wouldn’t give it up for nothing in the world.”

Murphy grew up in the 500 block of Woodland, around the corner from where jazz great pianist Art Tatum, who lived on City Park. Murphy said he went to school with Tatum’s nieces and nephews when they attended Washington Elementary, Robinson Junior High and Scott High schools.

Murphy also has played the current German manufactured bass for 40 years. The string instrument is 145 years old.

“I haven’t played it that long,” he said while laughing.

Before acquiring the bass, a Detroit Symphony member used the bass for performances, Murphy said.

The Art Tatum Jazz Society and the Grand Plaza Hotel presented the event, which also featured artists Glenda Biddlestone, Scott Kretzer and Josh Silver.

Clifford Murphy during 81st birthday party at the Grand Plaza Hotel.