At the Grand Old BBQ with Michelle Myrdal and Linda Turman

Mar 3, 2024

Today was such a fun gig at the Grand Ole BBQ in North Park, San Diego! It was drizzling rain as I arrived, and I was worried they might cancel. But I wound up having a really good show, and the weather was perfect by the time I finished playing.

I had quite a few friends come by, including my friend Bob Stoltenberg who sold me the 1947 Fender Woody Pro Amp a couple years ago. His dad was “Smokey” Stoltenberg, a great Western swing electric tenor guitar player from Northern California. It’s always good to see Bob and his wife, Cheryl.

What made this gig really memorable, however, was a visit by no less than two remarkable women. If you have a minute, both of these are good stories.

There’s a fellow named Johnny Johnson down here in San Diego who plays in a swing band. He’s mentioned his mother to me before, but today was the first time he could get her down to a show. Her name is Judy Johnson, and she was a professional singer back in the day. Johnny and his mom were telling me that she used to work USO tours as a singer, and even sang duets with Bob Hope, Nat King Cole, and Bobby “Blue” Bland (among many others, she said). Now my interest was piqued! She said her stage name back in the old days was “Michelle Myrdal.” She was super cool! I saw her in the audience singing along to most of the songs, and it seemed like she knew the words to almost every one, no matter what the genre.

We had a nice visit and we got a nice photo together. After they left, Johnny sent me photos of his mom back in the day. Holy smokes! Judy aka Michelle Myrdal was a total knockout superbabe, to say the least! I want to get together with her again, because you know if she’s throwing around names like Bobby “Blue” Bland, there have to be more amazing stories!

If that wasn’t enough—and that was quite enough already—as I was packing up I got a visit from Linda Turman, widow of Tommy Turman. Back in the day, Tommy was the hottest country guitar player in San Diego. He began his career playing with a later 1950s version of Tex Williams and the Western Caravan, and also played guitar in the house band at the Bostonia Ballroom in El Cajon, where he backed up many famous country music stars of the day. Tommy was also legendary for being a “tester” for Leo Fender, Paul Bigsby, Standel amplifiers, etc. I’ve been trying to meet up with Linda for a while now so I can write a nice article about Tommy and his history. Hopefully that will happen!

But then Linda started telling me her own amazing stories, including sneaking out to see Willie Nelson at his first appearance in San Diego in 1959, when she was only sixteen (!!). She had amazing, funny, incredible stories about tons of country music stars coming through San Diego back in the 1950s and 1960s and 1970s and beyond, and even stays active in the Western swing society to this day, years after Tommy passed. As you can see from the photo we took together, Linda is also an incredibly attractive woman, and I’m certain she had her fair share of famous country musicians and singers hitting on over the decades. Who could blame them?

At one point, she asked me if I knew Tommy Duncan (legendary singer of Bob Wills and the Texas playboys). I told her that Tommy Duncan died in 1967, and I wasn’t born yet then. She then mentioned that Tommy died in a room at the Lafayette Hotel, just down the street from the Grand Ole Barbecue where I was playing. I did not know that bit of country music trivia!

After Linda and I parted ways, of course I had to drive down the street and see the hotel where Tommy Duncan died. What an amazing restored historic hotel! It is incredible, I have to say; I wasn’t prepared for how nice it was.

Anyway, getting to meet Judy and Linda today was really quite special. Both of these ladies are really remarkable women with incredible stories to tell. In my own particular world, today was a damn good day! Oh, and I’m scarfing some take-home barbecue as I write this; thanks again to Mike And all the folks at the Grand Ole BBQ for always taking care of me!

See the original Facebook post for more photos!