Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. performs Christmas concert in Charleston

Dec. 10, 2015


CHARLESTON — Landau Eugene Murphy Jr.’s penchant for Frank Sinatra has become familiar to audiences worldwide but fans might not realize that as Christmas draws near, another crooner serves as his inspiration.
“As a kid, I grew up listening to Bing Crosby,” Murphy said during a telephone interview from a bus in Delaware on his way to a Philadelphia concert. “I wanted to do something like that.”
Of course, as many know, the Logan native eventually did, but only after detours in which he was briefly homeless and then worked as a car detailer before winning the 11th season of the NBC reality competition show “America’s Got Talent” in 2011, which launched his singing and recording career.
Murphy, who followed up his 2011 album debut “That’s Life” with a 2013 CD of holiday songs called “Christmas Made for Two,” will perform a seasonal concert at 8 p.m. Friday at the Culture Center Theater in Charleston.
During the concert, Murphy’s repertoire will include songs from “That’s Life” and “Christmas Made for Two” as well as his upcoming, completed but unreleased and untitled album, which he hopes will be out in the spring.
“It’s a crooner’s album, but I mixed it up and got some other types of songs, like Bruce Hornsby’s ‘The Way It Is,'” Murphy said. “It’s a combination of everything and shows my variety and the different genres that I love. I do Billie Holiday and Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes. I did a whole different thing but I also stayed true to the Great American Songbook.”
Those 20th-century standards are important to Murphy, who first started dancing to Michael Jackson tunes as a child, which later turned to singing on the basketball court with his friends. He noticed his vocal similarity to Sinatra as a teenager and honed it at open mic nights and karaoke bars.
Murphy’s appearance, complete with long hair that he keeps in cornrows, often provided a surprised reaction when he opened his mouth and began belting out “My Way” or “Fly Me to the Moon.”
In fact, that’s just what happened in 2010 when Murphy auditioned for “America’s Got Talent” judges Howie Mandel, Sharon Osbourne and Piers Morgan, the latter of whom asked Murphy to remove the gum he was chewing before he started to sing.
“I had to hurry up and start singing,” Murphy said. “I thought Piers Morgan was going to ‘X’ me before I even started singing.”
His audition — as well as his winning performance several months later of “My Way” — can be viewed on YouTube. Murphy nailed “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and Mandel told him, “Your life is never going to be the same. You just changed your whole life.”
Since his win, Murphy has remained busy, recording and touring, but when he’s done he likes to return home to Logan.
When he’s there, “Most of the time, I go to Walmart and the corner gas station,” he said. “Everybody knows me there. That’s why I never want to leave. I know where I’m from and I have learned to appreciate my surroundings. Being on the road, it’s always ‘No place like home.'”
Still, Murphy continues to add concerts to his Christmas season. After Charleston, he heads to the Bethesda Blues & Jazz Supper Club in Maryland, a familiar venue where he just recorded a live concert that will be released as a DVD to tide his fans over until his new CD comes out. And then he will perform in Gilbert and Madison on Dec. 18 and 19 before he gets a 10-day break.
“I’ll be home for Christmas,” he said. “But I won’t be home for New Year’s Eve. I’ll be at a casino in Minnesota.”
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