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The San Francisco Traditional Jazz Foundation Collection The Charles N. Huggins Project

Pete Clute

Publicity photograph of Peter Clute at piano
Turk Murphy Jazz Band at the Frolic Inn 9/55 with Bill Carter, clarinet
Lawless, Ed
Turk Murphy Jazz Band publicity photo: Bob Helm, Pete Clute, Bob Neighbor, Thad Vandon, Turk Murphy and Squire Girsback

Remembering Pete Clute

b.Ross, CA 1933 d. San Jose, CA 5/26/2001

Peter Clute, or Pete, was about my age when we met as Stanford undergraduates in the mid-1950s.

There was a lot of traditional jazz on and around college campuses in those days, especially near San Francisco, and our budding friendship centered on this shared interest.

I was a New Orleans purist clarinet player, and Pete was a schooled ragtime pianist, studying with the versatile pro, Wally Rose.

Wally, a ragtime expert, had played with Lu Watters and was appearing nightly with Turk Murphy. When Wally left Turk, Pete got the job.

He and Turk developed a close musical and business relationship, which lasted most of their long lives.

When Turk’s clarinetist, Bob Helm, was unable to go on a nationwide tour, including recording sessions with Columbia Records, Pete introduced me to Turk, and I got the job.I left college for a semester to tour, broadcast and record nationally.

Pete Clute and Turk Murphy posed publicity photo

Traditional Jazz Champion

In Chicago, it was Pete who introduced me to that pioneer of jazz writing, recording and collecting, William Russell.

Just before that Christmas of 1955 (and my 21st birthday), I had to quit and get back in Stanford lest I lose my draft deferment.

Ragtime and traditional jazz remained Pete’s life. Respected internationally as a jazz and ragtime pianist, he played piano in Turk’s band and was his business partner for 26 years.

Years later, Pete and Turk drove to Stanford’s music department library, then purely devoted to classical music and on the Knoll, to introduce themselves and hopefully spark interest in a collaborative sharing of Turk’s and Pete’s extensive jazz collections and experiences.

While that effort seemed to get nowhere, it resurfaced years later.

Eubie Blake and Pete Clute
Lawless, Ed

After Turk died, and Pete’s health was worsening, both their collections passed to the non-profit San Francisco Traditional Jazz Foundation, formed earlier by the omnivorous collector Jim Goggin.

Eventually I was asked to pilot the foundation, which I did for nearly twenty years. The music department and music library at Stanford had, independently, acquired an interest in jazz.

While we discussed transferring the SFTJF collections to Stanford Library, Pete Clute paid me a quiet visit to cheer us on in that endeavor.

I had not seen Pete in years; indeed he looked unwell and passed away not long thereafter, thus ending one special, half-century relationship with my friend, and reinforcing another with Stanford Library.

Personal Life

Turk Murphy and Pete Clute in the Magic Cellar
Leon Oakley, Jim Maihack and Pete Clute

Pete Clute graduated from Stanford University in 1956 with a degree in business and history.

Shortly after graduation, he joined the Turk Murphy Jazz Band.

In 1960 Turk Murphy and Pete Clute opened the first Earthquake McGoon’s nightclub on lower Broadway and in 1962 moved to the famed Clay Street location, where for sixteen years it was the world’s best known traditional jazz club.

Pete Clute performed on more than 20 LPs and composed numerous piano pieces and band scores.

After leaving the Turk Murphy Jazz Band in 1983, he performed with the Natural Gas Jazz Band and other ensembles throughout the 1980-90s.

Pete Clute and his wife Carol had three children: daughters Aphra and Amy, and a son, Eric.

Pete’s older brother Cedric shared his enthusiasm for traditional jazz.