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Bill Napier Dies

Bill Napier, a clarinetist who played in San Francisco jazz bands of the 1940s and ’50s, died April 30 in his sister’s home in Hayward, Calif. Napier had been fighting cancer. He was 76.

Born in 1926 in Asheville, N.C., Napier began learning clarinet in a Jesuit boarding school at age 12 and discovered jazz a year later. In the 1940s Napier moved to San Francisco and helped popularize the Dixieland sound in the area. He played in the bands of trombonist Turk Murphy and trumpeter Bob Scobey and can be heard on many of their recordings, as well as on albums like the Dixieland Rhythm Kings’ 1958 Riverside release Jazz In Retrospect.

In 1961 Napier toured Europe with the Harlem Globetrotters basketball road show, who had hired Scobey’s Frisco Band to entertain the audience at halftime. In later years Napier had been playing with the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Magnolia Jazz Band, having replaced clarinetist Bill Carter.

Napier is survived by a sister and two stepdaughters. His wife of 29 years, Kathleen, died in January.

Originally Published