Foster, Pops (actually, George Murphy)

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Foster, Pops (actually, George Murphy)

Foster, Pops (actually, George Murphy),

pioneering jazz bassist; b. on a plantation in McCall, La., May 18, 1892; d. San Francisco, Oct. 30, 1969. His family moved to New Orleans when ’Tops’7 was 10; he played cello for three years, then switched to string bass. From 1906-the teens, played with local brass bands, and various dance bands, including those led by Kid Ory and King Oliver. Foster worked briefly with Fate Marable in 1917, and then joined him regularly on river-boats in summer 1918, playing both tuba and bass, remaining with him until 1921. After a stint in St. Louis, Foster went to Los Angeles to join Kid Ory (1923), remaining there until 1925. After another period in St. Louis, he came to N.Y. in 1928, and joined Luis Russell a year later, working with Luis Russell and Louis Armstrong throughout the 1930s (with a brief absence from the band in late 1937). Foster left Louis Armstrong in spring 1940 due to illness, and was hospitalized until that September. Next he worked briefly with Teddy Wilson and Happy Caldwell before forming a duo with guitarist Norman “Isadore” Langlois in 1941. From 1942–15, Foster worked in the N.Y. subways, but continued to do regular gigs. After playing with Sidney Bechet (1945) and Art Hodes (1945–46), Foster went to Europe in February 1948, played at Nice Jazz Festival with Mezz Mezzrow’s Band, and did a brief tour of France with Mezzrow. He returned to play in Bob Wilber’s Band in Boston, which subsequently became Jimmy Archey’s Band (1950). Foster toured Europe with Archey in late 1952. After working in N.Y. and New Orleans briefly, Forster returned to Europe with Sam Price’s Bluesicians (December 1955 to May 1956), then moved to San Francisco. He was with Earl Hines’s Small Band during the late 1950s and early 1960s, and then freelanced from 1962. He toured Europe as a member of the New Orleans All Stars (early 1966). He remained based in Calif., but did widespread touring in the U.S. and Canada through the late 1960s. He recovered from serious illness in 1968 and briefly resumed playing before his death. His brother, Willie (William; b. McCall, La., Dec. 27, 1888; d. Baton Rouge, La., Aug. 1969), was a violinist, banjo player, and guitarist.


With Tom Stoddard, Pops Foster: The Autobiography of a New Orleans Jazzman (Berkeley, Calif., 1971, 1973).

—John Chilton, Who’s Who of Jazz/Lewis Porter