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Tom Coakley
and the Palace Hotel Orchestra
Born:  March 30, 1905
Died:  May 19, 1995
WSM Grand Ole Opry
KGO San Francisco, CA
KPO San Francisco, CA

About The Artist

In the summer of 1934, WSM seemed to forgo the traditional music heard on the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday nights. Radio logs published indicate the Opry program was on WSM from 8:00pm to 12:00pm (midnight).

On June 2, 1934, from 11:30pm to midnight, WSM aired the Palce Hotel Orchestra. This orchestra would appear on the radio logs every Saturday night at that time up to September 29, 1934. Of the orchestras that were on WSM during 1934 in the Opry time slots, the Palace Hotel Orchestra appeared the most often in the radio logs. This may be in part due to their reputation as a good dance orchestra. While this act may not have fit the Opry's 'rural image', it did fit an aspect that was a part of the Opry - dancing and entertainment.

WSM Radio Log - June 2, 1934 - Palace Hotel Orchestra - Grand Ole Opry
WSM Radio Log - September 29, 1934 - Palace Hotel Orchestra - Grand Ole Opry

Promo Ad - Palace Hotel - Rose Bowl Room - San Francisco, CA - Tom Coakley - Palace Hotel Orchestra - January 1934
Promo Ad - Hotel St. Francis - Mural Room - Tom Coakley - January 1936

Promo Ad - Seasons Greetings - San Francisco - Tom Coakley - Palace Hotel Orchestra - December 25, 1934

The Palace Hotel is located in downtown San Francisco on New Montgomery Street near Market Street.

The leader of their orchestra in 1934 was Tom Coakley. His popularity started slow, doing one radio broadcast a day to doing multiple broadcasts. He was born in Oakland, California in 1905.

Tom Coakley and the Palace Hotel Orchestra made their first appearance over radio station KPO on Tuesday night January 23, 1934 with a special 60 minute program that would start at 6:30pm. One feature of that broadcast would be a talented piano player - arranger, Glenn Hurlbut, who was blind.

Postcard - Palace Hotel Palm Court - San Francisco, CA
Postcard - Palace Hotel - Main Dining Room - San Francisco, CA

Three months later, he began a series of Monday night half-hour broadcasts over KGO at 11:00pm with his Palace Hotel Orchestra. Virginia Haig and Carl Ravazza were the featured vocalists with the orchestra.

He retired from the music business in 1936 to pursue his dream of becoming a lawyer. He felt the life of a traveling musician did not make for a good family life. He became a specialist in industrial relations and was a founder in the firm of Littler, Coakley and Lauritzen.

He served as California Deputy Attorney General from 1939 to 1942.

He campaigned for Governor Earl Warren. In 1953, Governor Warren appointed him judge of the Mariposa County Superior Court. He was appointed associate justice of the California Court of Appeals by Governor Ronald Reagan and served from 1969 through 1972.

During the time he was a lawyer in San Francisco, he served in a variety of roles. He was president of the Pacific Coast and California Associations of Port Authorities, a director of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, the San Francisco Bay Area Council, Junior Achievement, the United Crusade and the University of California Alumni Council.

He retired in 1972 from his legal position and became a developer and philantropist. He donated time, effort and land to build a library and museum in the town of Mariposa.

Mr. Coakley passed away at the age of 90 in 1995. His obituary indicated his work as a musician helped him work his way through the Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California.

He was survived by his wife of 61 years, Katharine as well as sons Peter and Joseph and daughters Jaennette and Molly.

Credits & Sources

  • Behind The Mike; Neal Howard; May 23, 1934; Stockton Independent; Stockton, CA
  • Bands, In Various Parts Of Nation, Will Contribute To Unique Program; Oscar H. Fernbach; January 23, 1934; The San Francisco Examiner; San Francisco, CA
  • Hungarian Actor Will Play Tonight In 'A Marriage Has Been Arranged'; April 9, 1934; The San Francisco Examiner; San Francisco, CA
  • Thomas Coakley, 90, was judge, musician; May 26, 1995; Oakland Tribune; Oakland, CA
  • Obituary: Thomas Coakley; May 20, 1995; The San Francisco Examiner; San Francisco, CA

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