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Jimmy Murphy
Born:  October 11, 1925
Died:  June 1, 1981
WIVK Knoxville, TN
WNOX Knoxville, TN
WROL Knoxville, TN


About The Artist

Various writers have described Jimmy Murphy as an "off-brand" and a "maverick." One thing for certain, he was unusual and unique. In his time he did sessions for both RCA Victor and Columbia as well as several numbers on obscure record labels.

Murphy hailed from the mining region of Alabama, not far from Birmingham. His father liked both blues and early day country music, and both influenced young Jimmy. He grew up working with his father who left mine work to open a small construction firm. After World War II, Jimmy went to Knoxville where he found a radio job at WROL on Archie Campbell's Dinner Bell program. There he met Chet Atkins. Although not yet a major power in the record business, Atkins, working through Mel Foree at Acuff-Rose, managed to secure Murphy a contract with RCA Victor. Although all eight songs were memorable, none were commercially successful. His gospel technology song "Electricity" and his blaming parents for the rise in juvenile delinquency in "Mother, Where Is Your Daughter Tonight" became minor classics.

In 1955, he signed with Columbia with similar results. The sessions showed more of a rockabilly influence such as "Baboon Boogie" and "Sixteen Tons Rock and Roll." Murphy often showed up in different places and continued to record on small labels. Eight numbers were recorded but only six released until later years. He and his wife Flo had children along the line.

Perhaps in fitting with his reputation, he almost became a politician in Knoxville in 1955. On October 6, 1955, news accounts show that James W. (Jimmy) Murphy ("a guitarist - singer on a Cas Walker radio show") was one of five candidates that had qualified to be on the primary ballot for Mayor. The others were George Dempster, the incumbent, Jack Dance, Tim Lawson, Bob Broome, J. W. Parrott and D. A. Cooper. Cas himself announced he would run for re-election as councilman as he saw no one he felt could replace him. But on October 11, the mayor's race was whittled down to just four candidates. Jimmy Murphy ("a Cas Walker hillbilly entertainer") was qualified to be on the ballot, but did not accept the opportunity along with three other mayoral candidates. Cas Walker was going to be on the ballot on November 3 for Councilman of the Third District.

In August 1956, Billboard reported that Jimmy was being heard over WIVK in Knoxville as well as doing a weekly show over WATE-TV and WTVK-TV in Knoxville as well.

Promo Ad - Billboard - Jimmy Murphy - April 1951 Murphy became a minor legend in his time. Two tales I picked up concerning him, one comes from Renfro Valley's John Lair via Reuben Powell. Lair auditioned him for his Barn Dance, but he never returned. The second was told by Knoxville mandolin wizard Red Rector about how Murphy showed up at his front door and the two reminisced for a while when Murphy suddenly asked what time it was. After that he said that his kids were out selling Bibles door-to-door and that he was late picking them up.

In the meantime, Jimmy recorded for Rem (who sold their unissued masters to Starday), Midnight, and Ark. Long after his death most of these appeared in a compact disc on the British label, Ace. One contained a song titled "Hub Cap" with the memorable line: "Just because your head looks like a hub-cap/doesn't mean that you're a big wheel." His earlier sides were reissued on Bear Family.

In 1978, Murphy was rediscovered and scheduled to appear at the National Folk Festival. He recorded an album on Sugar Hill with band support from Ricky Skaggs and other new traditional figures. It met with positive reactions and might have led to renewed interest. However, it did not happen.

Murphy died three years later, much admired by a few but remaining virtually unknown to the masses.

Jimmy Murphy — Record Reviews From The Billboard and Cash Box
Date Label Rec No. Review
5/4/1956 (CB) Columbia 21486 I'm Looking For A Mustard Patch — Jimmy Murphy should look forward to a bright wax future if this platter is an indication of things to come. This end is a sparkling, self-penned cutie that Murphy decks out in most refreshing manner. (Rating: B+)

Here Kitty, Kitty — Flip is another Murphy novelty that the artist flies over in top drawer fashion. Terrific harmononica and string backdrop on both ends. (Rating: B)
7/21/1956 (BB) Columbia 21534 My Gal Dottie — Murphy sings with fervor on a briskly paced deep-South-styled ditty with a strong, insistent beat and effective harmonica backing. (Rating: 73)

Sixteen Tons Rock and Roll — A sprightly vocal treatment of a pleasant rhythm item with a happy beat. (Rating: 70)
11/17/1956 (CB) Columbia 21569 Baboon Boogie — Jimmy Murphy hands in a refreshing reading on a cute little rock ’n roller that bounces along in flavorful fashion. It’s about a new type of dance that’s “running everybody wild”. (Rating: B)

Grandpaw's A Cat — On this end, another houserockin’ delighter Murphy tells that even the old guy has hopped on the rock and roll bandwagon. Dandy instrumental background on two swingin’ decks tailor-made for the dancing teensters. (Rating: C+)
12/16/1965 (CB) Rem 3782 Take This Message To Mother — Jimmy Murphy could grab up a good piece of sales action with this lonesome, singie-talkie story of a feller fighting over in Viet Nam. (Rating: B+)

Half A Loaf Of Bread — The flip is a bouncing, selfpenned about a man who doesn’t need much to exist. (Rating: B+)

Credits & Sources

  • Hillbilly-Music.com would like to express its thanks to Ivan M. Tribe, author of Mountaineer Jamboree — Country Music in West Virginia and other books that can be found on Amazon.com and numerous articles in other publications for providing us with information about this artist.
  • Lineup Set For Primary Next Month; October 6, 1955; The Knoxville Journal; Knoxville, TN
  • City Primary; October 9, 1955; The Chattanooga Daily Times; Chattanooga, TN
  • Mayor's Race Narrowed To 4, Council to 18; October 11, 1955; The Knoxville News-Sentinel; Knoxville, TN
  • Folk Talent and Tunes; August 25, 1956; The Billboard; Cincinnati, OH

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Recordings (78rpm/45rpm)

 
Ark
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  259 A I Long To Hear Hank Sing The Blues
  259 A I Love to Hear Hank Sing the Blues
  259 B Swing Steel Blues (By Paul Smith)
  259 B (not Murphy by Paul Smith).
  260 A Wake Me up, Sweet Jesus
  260 A My Feet's on Solid Ground
  260 B My Feet's On Solid Ground
  260 B Wake Me Up Sweet Jesus
 
Columbia
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  21486 A I'm Looking For A Mustard Patch
  21486 A Here Kitty Kitty
  21486 B Here Kitty Kitty
  21486 B I'm Looking for a Mustard Patch
  21534 A My Gal Dottie
  21534 A Sixteen Ton Rock and Roll
  21534 B Sixteen Tons Rock And Roll
  21534 B My Gal Dottie
  21569 A Grandpaw's Cat
  21569 B Baboon Boogie
  21589 A Baboon Boogie
  21589 B Grandpaw's a Cat
 
Loyal
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  EP 186 A He's Always the Same
  EP 186 A Holy Ghost Millionaire
  EP 186 A He's Always the Same
  EP 186 A Holy Ghost Millionaire
  EP 186 A Gonna Throw My Suitcase Away
  EP 186 A Gonna Throw My Suitcase Away
  EP 186 B Little David (Play on Your Harp)
  EP 186 B Little David (Play on Your Harp)
  EP 186 B You May Have a Million
  EP 186 B Jesus Is Coming to Reign
  EP 186 B You May Have a Million
  EP 186 B Jesus Is Coming to Reign
 
Midnite
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  12541 A There?s No Use in Me Loving You
  12541 A There's No Use in Me Loving You
  12541 B One Block from Home
  12541 B One Block from Home
 
RCA Victor
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  21-0474 A Big Mama Blues
  21-0474 B We Live A Long, Long Time
  47-4394 A Educated Fool
  47-4394 A Educated Fool
  47-4394 B Ramblin? Heart
  47-4394 B Ramblin' Heart
  47-4609 A That First Guitar of Mine
  47-4609 A That First Guitar of Mine
  47-4609 B Love that Satisfies
  47-4609 B Love that Satisfies
  48-0447 A Electricity
  48-0447 A Electricity
  48-0447 B Mother, Where is Your Daughter Tonight
  48-0447 B Mother, Where is Your Daughter Tonight
  48-0474 A Big Mama Blues
  48-0474 A Big Mama Blues
  48-0474 B We Live A Long Time to Get Old
  48-0474 B We Live A Long Time to Get Old
 
Rem
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  340 A My Feet?s on Solid Ground
  340 A My Feet's on Solid Ground
  340 B Wake Me Up Sweet Jesus
  340 B Wake Me Up Sweet Jesus
  368 A Half a Loaf of Bread
  368 A Half a Loaf of Bread
  368 B Take this Message to My Mother
  368 B Take this Message to My Mother


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