Clifford Murphy and Joan Russell Honored by Street Naming

Sojourner’s Truth Staff

“It was a stellar location for Jazz,” said Toledo Councilwoman Vanice Williams as she opened the dedication ceremony honoring musician Clifford Murphy and his life partner of 38 years, Joan Russell. The ceremony featured the renaming of the corner of Summit Street and Jefferson Ave to, appropriately enough, “Murphy’s Place.”

The Murphys, a band comprising Clifford Murphy on bass, Claude Black on piano and, for many of those years, Wendell Robinson on drum, were the house band at Murphy’s Place. Russell was the business manager of the club and, unfortunately, it was her death that brought about the end of Murphy’s Place in May 2011.

On Saturday, dozens of jazz fans and friends of the musicians joined the Murphy and Russell families to remember those good old days and to ensure that the good old days of Murphy’s Place will be remembered for generations to come.

Deborah Murphy, Clifford’s daughter, thanked the organizers, Williams and Doni Miller, CEO of the Neighborhood Health Association, for their contributions to making the event happen and “for recognizing and honoring our culture,” said Deborah Murphy. “I want to thank everyone who worked with Clifford and Joan throughout the years, especially Claude Black who played with Clifford for 60 years. I was in utter amazement of how they worked together and the awesome chemistry they had.”

“Jazz was the music on the African American people,” said Williams on Saturday as Murphy and Russell’s families joined hands to unveil the street sign that will memorialize the place that brought so much pleasure to so many Toledoans and visitors over the years.