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McPherson’s Shining Star : Loren McMurray Shines Again with Recent Album Release

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By Brenna Eller

 

Loren Dallas McMurray, of McPherson, Kan., rose to fame in the early 1920s, but died suddenly at the age of 25 before he got to witness just how much his music impacted the jazz industry, and especially saxophone musicians.

Owners and producers of Archeophone Records Richard Martin and Meagan Hennessey, Colin Hancock of Semper Phonograph Company and a co-author, Mark Berresford from the UK all worked on a project paying tribute to McMurray “Mac” with an album release of his very own.

ARCH_CD Release
Archeophone Records, a reissue label dedicated to rescuing, preserving and contextualizing the world’s oldest music (1890s through 1925) recently produced this 50 track double feature CD with an 80-page booklet about Loren McMurray, jazz pioneer.

The album, The Moaninest Moan of Them All: The Jazz Saxophone of Loren McMurray, (1920-1922) was released on July 14, 2023. The double CD booklet features 50 tracks (one of which is a tribute from his friends after his death) and an 80-page booklet of notes sharing details of McMurray’s life.

Hancock, a co-producer of the album also did a lot of research on McMurray for the project. He even wrote a blog post about McMurray’s jazz influence and style and called McMurray a pioneer of jazz. 

“He was the most famous out of Kansas City,” Hancock said. “His was the name that kept popping up.”

In his blog of praise, Hancock suggests that listeners take in the first six tracks of the album with an open mind and understand that music back then was in a period of transition. He notes how well McMurray kept up with the changes back then.

Loren Dallas McMurray 1918
Loren Dallas McMurray in 1918. (Courtesy Photo)

“His [Mac’s] weaving, sinuous, slapping, and moaning saxophone defines these records and made such an impression on listeners that it wasn’t long before he was in the big leagues,” Hancock said. “Listen for his brilliance, listen for the band’s charm, and listen to the beginning of one of the most important trajectories in modern music.”

Will Friedwall of The New York Sun, reviewed McMurray’s style as well.

“His playing is bubbly, he blows rings all around whatever melody is at the center, but he has that very strong drive that was already a part of jazz well before musicians discovered 4/4 swingtime,” Friedwall said.

Mark Berresford, from England did extensive research on McMurray and wrote a heavily detailed article in Vintage Jazz Mart about McMurray’s life from his upbringing and beginnings with saxophone playing with the McMurray Family Saxophone band to his tragic and sudden death in October of 1922. 

McMurray’s father, Leon McMurray was McPherson’s Postmaster and led the McMurray Saxophone Band, which had eight to ten members. In 1917, McMurray left McPherson to pursue his music career in Kansas City.

McPherson Tigers 1916
The McPherson “Tigers” baseball team in 1916. Loren McMurray is on the far right. (McPherson Museum & Arts Foundation)

He started with a concert band on the Redpath-Horner Chautauqua circuit. Emil Chaquette, a violinist and leader of a society orchestra picked him up and his career really took off because then McMurray joined Chaquette’s seven-piece band that Chaquette formed with a pianist and bandleader Eddie Kuhn and the name of their band became the Kuhn-Chaquette Orchestra. 

Berresford noted that the orchestra was widely popular in the Midwest and even made it to New York where they recorded a few songs such as, Don’t Take Away Those Blues (#1 on the album). In this particular melody, McMurray is the lead and the ‘hot’ man, taking both a slap tongue verse and a lot of sinuous breaks.

McMurray married Mary Opal Bayly and the two later got an apartment in New York so that McMurray could find work in a bigger setting than in the Midwest. Some bands he recorded with during 1921 included Bailey’s Lucky Seven, Lanin’s Southern Serenaders and another popular band was Paul Whiteman’s Saxophone Sextette.

In October of 1922, McMurray was studying the clarinet and bass clarinet according to Berresford and had lined up to record further out with his own band, the California Thumpers. It was also mentioned that he was going to have a meeting with Eddie King (Victor’s Artist and Repertoire Manager) to discuss the possibility of McMurray’s ‘band within a band’ recording for the most prestigious record company in the US. 

mcmurray
McMurray’s Saxophone Band at Fair c. 1912 (Courtesy Photo)

It was at that point that McMurray became sick from an infection in his nose and according to Hancock, if he had gone to a regular doctor instead of the chiropractor like he had done, he might have been treated early enough.  Unfortunately, McMurray got blood poisoning and died on Oct. 29, 1922.

“He recorded right up to the day he got sick,” Hancock said. 

McMurray’s death was a shock to everyone. There was a huge tribute for him in Kansas City while his body was coming through on the train ride home to McPherson.

“A 150-member band played when his body came through,” Hancock said.

mcmurray
McMurray Saxophone Band c. 1912. McPherson, Kan. 4th from left, Mary G. McMurray (Loren’s mother); 1st on the right, Leon Dallas McMurray (Loren’s father); 3rd from right, Loren Dallas McMurray; 2nd from right, Clarence Hapgood. (McPherson Museum & Arts Foundation)

In McPherson, they also paid tribute to McMurray in the McPherson Weekly Republican with the article titled, “Greatest of Them All Dies.”

“It was a huge deal,” Hancock said. “He was their shining star.”

At McMurray’s funeral, a group of local musicians and friends played My Buddy at the graveside service according to Berresford. 

The McPherson Museum & Arts Foundation is currently raising funds for a music exhibit. While this particular exhibit will mainly honor McPherson rock and roll band King Midas and the Muflers, McPherson Museum Director Tyler Glidden said with enough money raised, they will be featuring more artists from McPherson.

“We have enough to definitely include him,” Glidden said, when asked if the exhibit might include McMurray specifically.

loren dallas mcmurray c. 1920
Loren Dallas McMurray C. 1920 (McPherson Museum & Arts Foundation)

The museum has some photos of McMurray already that were contributed to the project for the album release. 

Glidden said he would have to officially ok it with the Museum Board, but since McMurray grew up in McPherson, he will most likely be featured in the exhibit along with other “notable” musicians of McPherson.

If you would like to purchase the recently released CD, or find out more about Loren McMurray and his jazz influence, visit Archeophonerecords.com.

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