James Lincoln Collier's strange account of Don Murray's death

James Lincoln Collier's strange account of Don Murray's death

David Tenner
David Tenner

September 12th, 2017, 6:54 am #1

Talking about the gang control of nightclubs and cabarets in Chicago in the 1920's, and the hazards it posed for jazz musicians in the city, James Lincoln Collier writes in *Louis Armstrong: An American Genius,* p. 152

"A white clarinet player named Don Murray, considered one of the best clarinetists of his time, was casually beaten to death by gangsters for a relationship he was having with a mobster's girl friend." https://books.google.com/books?id=7iznCwAAQBAJ&pg=PA152

Leaving aside the fact that Murray died in Los Angeles, not Chicago, the generally accepted story is that he died falling off the running board of an automobile. Were there some rumors that the real reason Murray was found unconscious was because of a beating by gangsters rather than an (alcohol-induced, in all likelihood) accident?
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

September 12th, 2017, 3:04 pm #2

.... the dozens of postings about Murray's cause of death.

http://www.network54.com/Forum/27140/se ... sort=match

Albert
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Debbie White
Debbie White

September 12th, 2017, 4:55 pm #3

Talking about the gang control of nightclubs and cabarets in Chicago in the 1920's, and the hazards it posed for jazz musicians in the city, James Lincoln Collier writes in *Louis Armstrong: An American Genius,* p. 152

"A white clarinet player named Don Murray, considered one of the best clarinetists of his time, was casually beaten to death by gangsters for a relationship he was having with a mobster's girl friend." https://books.google.com/books?id=7iznCwAAQBAJ&pg=PA152

Leaving aside the fact that Murray died in Los Angeles, not Chicago, the generally accepted story is that he died falling off the running board of an automobile. Were there some rumors that the real reason Murray was found unconscious was because of a beating by gangsters rather than an (alcohol-induced, in all likelihood) accident?
...about Bix at one time ? I can't remember if the girl in question was perhaps Ruby Keeler or someone else, but seems I remember reading about him being threatened by mobsters if he didn't "lay off" the girl, so to speak. Of course, this could be a total fabrication - both the relationship and the story.
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Coscannon
Coscannon

September 14th, 2017, 4:52 pm #4

Talking about the gang control of nightclubs and cabarets in Chicago in the 1920's, and the hazards it posed for jazz musicians in the city, James Lincoln Collier writes in *Louis Armstrong: An American Genius,* p. 152

"A white clarinet player named Don Murray, considered one of the best clarinetists of his time, was casually beaten to death by gangsters for a relationship he was having with a mobster's girl friend." https://books.google.com/books?id=7iznCwAAQBAJ&pg=PA152

Leaving aside the fact that Murray died in Los Angeles, not Chicago, the generally accepted story is that he died falling off the running board of an automobile. Were there some rumors that the real reason Murray was found unconscious was because of a beating by gangsters rather than an (alcohol-induced, in all likelihood) accident?
No gangster, no running board, no witnesses, no resolution.
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David Tenner
David Tenner

September 15th, 2017, 6:26 am #5

And all the other explanations (running board, gangsters, etc.) were made up because that seemed too simple?
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Coscannon
Coscannon

September 15th, 2017, 9:25 am #6

There is nothing to contradict it. Simply put, Murray was found in the street near his home by a pair of cops on duty who'd either been summoned by a phone call or discovered him on their rounds at about 10 pm. He had a skull fracture/ brain injury and was totally or near totally unconscious. They also decided he was intoxicated. From what we know of Murray's habits, that doesn't seem implausible. But we should bear in mind that the behavior of a man unconscious from alcohol and a man unconscious from a brain injury are apt to be similar. At that date there was no chemical test for intoxication in a living human being.

Murray was alone. None of the neighbors questioned then or later had been aware of a disturbance. It's a quiet street but a radio or two might have obscured sound from outside. Had there been any winesses, much less witnesses who were friends, one would expect then to provide an explanation. Nothing like that appeared in newspaper reports or at the inquest where the cause of the skull and brain injury remained a mystery. There was no indication he had been robbed. He retained his watch and the $100 he'd had in his possession when he'd left his home.

Murray was taken first to an emergency hospital that was the cops' first port of call in such situations. He was later transferred to a longer care facility, whether for convenience or superior treatment or amenities, I cannot say. Even in those days, they sometimes opened the skull to relieve pressure on the brain. Since I don't know what part of the skull had been subject to blows, it's impossible to say if surgery would have helped. He died a few days later.

There was no autopsy of the kind we might expect now. Such autopsies were sometimes performed when the physical cause of death was a mystery, but Murray had been under a doctor' s care for three + days. It was common then not to open the skull and check other body parts when the cause seemed clear, just to gain a greater degree of precision. His death was ruled accidental at the inquest. His body was moved to a mortuary from which his family retrieved it and brought him home to Illinois for funeral & burial.



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