Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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April 16, 2012

Landau Murphy Jr. sets sights on history-making concert

BLUEFIELD — There weren’t many television stations available to Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. when he was growing up in Logan County, but one of the shows he connected with was “Gilligan’s Island.”

During a telephone interview last week, Murphy, 37, said that “Gilligan’s Island” had been one of his favorite television shows. “Big time,” he said. “It was on TV and I watched it. We didn’t really get a lot of television stations, and shows like ‘The Rifleman,’ ‘Gilligan’s Island’ and ‘Tom & Jerry’ were about all we had to watch.

“I really liked Gilligan though,” Murphy said. “He was always trying so hard to get off of the island, and even though he wasn’t successful, I still rooted for him. I always root for the underdog.”

Murphy said that he didn’t know that the late Bob Denver — the comedic great who played the title character in “Gilligan’s Island” — had settled in southern West Virginia in the early 1990s, but when he performed in Princeton at the Chuck Mathena Center, he met Bob’s widow, Dreama Denver, and started learning about the Denver Foundation and the work the foundation does to help autistic children and their families.

“Autism can be so difficult, especially the parents of an autistic child,” Murphy said. “I’m trying to help the foundation with this show.” Murphy is the reigning “America’s Got Talent” winner, and a Columbia recording artist.

The Denver Foundation and the Bill Cole Automall will present Murphy in concert at 8 p.m. on April 27, in the Bluefield City Auditorium on Stadium drive. Murphy will be appearing with the 18-piece Sweet Lipzz Big Band, and performing songs from his first CD, “That’s Life,” as well as songs including “Mustang Sally,” “Ain’t to Proud to Beg,” and “My Girl.”

Murphy will join a long list of performers who have appeared on the Bluefield city auditorium stage. The late James Brown appeared at the auditorium several times. Soul and country acts from the 1950s and ’60s appeared there and even the great Edward “Duke” Ellington and his orchestra appeared to a packed house at the city auditorium on Dec. 12, 1966. Ellington performed in Bluefield to coincide with his joining the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity at Bluefield State College.

As an added attraction, Dreama Denver and Charlie Thomas, her co-host on the “Sunny Side Up” morning radio show on Little Buddy Radio, (WGAG 93.1 FM) will be working with Murphy to set a world’s record for the number of people gathered in one place singing the “Gilligan’s Island” theme song.

Murphy has been swept up in a veritable title wave of popularity since winning the talent competition on Sept. 14, 2011, but in spite of his success, he remains a humble person. “I try to walk by faith and not by sight,” he said, making reference to the passage in 2nd Corinthians 5:7; a passage that speaks to a commitment to faith ... to God. Verse 6: “Therefore, we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord.”

“I’m not a perfect person,” Murphy said. “I believe you should respect your elders and do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I think the youth has kind of lost sight of that.”

Murphy did the interview while he was driving to Buckhanan to play in a celebrity basketball game with Randy Moss, Pat White and others.

In addition to his spiritual side, Murphy has a playful side. He said that after winning America’s Got Talent, he expected to be well received in his home state, “but going to New York, and getting that kind of response ... I didn’t think about that.”

But just like other singers, he sometimes encounters a mental block. “I still do that even with songs I have sung over and over and over again a thousand times,” he said. “Usually, I’ll just let the band keep playing along until I remember the words, and sometimes, I have sung a verse out of order.

“Sometimes, I’ll make up my own lyrics and sing about someone in the audience ... what they’re wearing, or something like that,” he said. “I’ll always point it out to the audience when I do something like that. It’s part of the show.”

Although he performs at large venues, Murphy manages to maintain an intimate rapport with his audiences, as evidenced by his successful concerts at the Chuck Mathena Center.

“He’s such a great representative of the state,” Dreama Denver said. “Nobody is more worthy of the place he has found himself in.”

Tickets for the concert are $25 in advance and $30 at the door, and are available locally at the Bill Cole Automall, on U.S. Route 460 in Green Valley, National College in Princeton, the Princeton/Mercer County Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Bluefield Chamber of Commerce, Manicures and More on Bland Street in Bluefield, King’s Tire in Bluewell, at (http://www.tickets.com/events/284876.html) or call 304-425-8660.

— Contact Bill Archer at barcher@bdtonline.com

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