April 2004
Click Here 
to Hear
Garrison Keillor Reading Willie Murphy's Biography
on Nation Public Radio's "A Prairie Home Companion" ...Real Audio


Born: Minneapolis, Mn, USA
Grew Up:
In traditional single parent working-class family, Irish Catholic, mother was a saint.
Piano lessons from age 4, first from mother, then nuns. Sang in choir at age 3.

juvenile delinquent while at St. Stephens School. Wore D.A., engineer boots, etc. by Fifth grade; charter member of Little Richard Fan Club (with jackets) in fifth grade.

To records by little Richard, Fats D., Screaming Jay H., Carl Perkins, Billie to Lillie, The Penguins, Monotones, Charts, Moonglows, Chantels, Coasters, etc.; J. L. Lewis, Young Jesse, Andre Williams, Shirley & Lee, La Verm Baker, Everly Brothers, Ruth Brown, Treniers, Eddie C., Teen Queens, Clyde McPhatter, Dinah Washington, Muddy Waters, Warren Smith, Wanda Jackson, Brenda Lee, etc.; Read a lot (Kerouac, etc.)

Started to Play Piano Like:
 Fats Domino, Huey "Piano" Smith, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, and later, Ray Charles; skipped school often to hang out, smoke, and "pound out a little beat", sang doo wop with friends on nighttime corners after sneaking out of the house.

Cruised Lake Street in hot cars, dragging, trying to pick up girls, listened to music, learned to play guitar; played in first bands (piano in "jazz trio", guitar in R & B bands), started listening to jazz. High school is grey, except for all the great musicians at Minneapolis Central High. Read more, wrote poems, started writing songs, hung out at coffee houses, wore beret.

After High School:
Got in South Minneapolis R & B band "The Versatiles". Played Mattie's Bar-Be-Que. (Pay $2-$10, depending) - Got in Val-Dons, (singing group with Choreo.) Got in Big Ms, later Nobles. These groups played Wilson Pickett, Ray Charles, the Impressions, Blue Moon by the ,Marcels, etc. Read a lot, smoked pot, drank, wrote songs, heard the Beatles, Motown. Played with Dave Brady and the Stars; Did Temps, Impressions, 4 Tops, etc.

Grew Hair:
Long, beard, pierced ears (3).

Hung Out:
With Art School crowd, took drugs, listened to Mose Allison, 'Trane, Cannoball,,  Messengers, Mingus, B.B. King, Ray Charles, Motown, Atlantic ... Drank, read a lot, dropped acid, stopped reading, played and sang and wrote songs, back porch, party, and band. Free love, change the world, drop out.

John Koerner, played folk circuit, wrote together, recorded for Elektra, toured the country, hung in New York, Berkeley, Chi, Boston, Toronto, etc. Got refused service in most restaurants in Atlanta. Shows with Airplane, J. Baez, J. Taylor, Taj M., etc. Played Newport 69 biggest ever. Hung and jammed with Sleepy John Esters, Phil Everly, Muddy, Carl Perkins, Son House, Mama Thomton, Van Moron, et al.

Decided to:
Make movies instead of band tours.

Decided to:
Start big R & B band, started reading again.

 Elektra Records:
Wanted another Koemer-Murphy album - didn't get it. Offered Murphy a job as house producer on strength of Murphy's de facto producing of the K/M album "Running, Jumping, Standing Still". One of Elektra founder Jac Holzman's faves

Turned down offer not wanting to live in N, Y. or L.A.
go back to ,Weapons and make records there" (anti-establishment  rebel, etc.)

In Koerner movie "The Secret of Sleep."

Willie and the Bees, big R & B band, played lots of originals, lots of R & B covers, soul, funky.  Dance your brains out forever..

First album by Bonnie Raitt (met in Boston) for Warner Brothers.

Kept On:
Playing with the Bees, touring old Greyhound bus, drinking, drugs, having a ball, shows with J. Brown, Muddy, B.B., Dr. John, Bonnie R., etc.  Arrogant of "Success".  Never tried to get a "deal".  Challenged Stones to pool tournament and battle of the bands.  Would have won.  They were scared.

Two albums with W. and the Bees - one a @ four track on Dave Ray's label SJL; the other an (at the time) state of the art 32 track digital on Sound 80, an audiophile label.  Neither record captured the live  throb of the Bees.

Out on drugs, drinking, insanity; quit the first two; a couple of years later quit doing W. and the Bees (after 14 years) realizing "this shit could go on forever, I want to try some other things.  "

Solo blues and rock piano (always a hobby); solo folky guitar gigs, sessions, etc.

Got Pegged Inaccurately AS:
 A "Bluesman".

Songs, songs, songs, some other stuff.

A record label, Atomic Theory, producing and issuing records by mostly local  Minneapolis people such as Becky Thompson, Boiled in Lead, The New International Trio, Four Brothers, Phil Hayseed, and W. Murphy.

Produced, &
Assorted movie scores, theater productions, video music, radio and TV commercials, etc.  Did some acting.

Life with Elka - 10 years and still wonderful.

Is Mostly:
Happy, but

Is Somewhat
Frustrated in
Midlife By:
Not getting his music to a wider audience; not yet becoming a director of films (a longtime desire from a longtime love); not having his immense talents utilized more by others; and the continuing ignorance of the local press everywhere.

Willie Loves:
Elka, his fantastic new band, his latest song, nearly all people, animals, plants, and the gift of life.

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