Home: Wallaceburg Ontario
Ralph Murphy (Raised in Wallaceburg)
The duo began in 1964 as folk singers who also play the acoustic guitar & banjo. Murphy, who was raised in Wallaceburg, left the community in 1965 to pursue a career in the music business and quite a career it’s been. He has earned a number of gold records for songwriting and producing and become one of the best-known people on the inside of the music industry.
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A little history about the duo. full story here. Read below for highlights.
If any aspiring songwriter begins the process of breaking into the Nashville circuit, it doesn’t take long for the name of Ralph Murphy to pop up. He is the ASCAP
Vice President International & Domestic Membership Group and is regularly involved in the ASCAP seminars. He is the continuing author of an often-cited ASCAP column
called “Murphy’s Law”, an active campaigner for songwriter rights in legistlative issues, and a frequent instructor in the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI)
Song Camps. His name is heard regularly in any discussion with aspiring songwriters about who to see in Nashville.
Ralph Murphy was born in Saffron, Walden, southeast of London, England, in 1944. In 1950, he moved with his mother to Salt Spring Island on the west coast of Canada; they then worked back across the prairies and ended up in Ontario. When he was eleven, Murphy formed his first band. By age fourteen, he was
playing the Hawaiian steel guitar and performing songs then playing on the radio –
At the start of the sixties, Murphy went to L.A., staying in Manhattan Beach and playing the coffeehouses down by the lighthouse.
“Living in Wallaceburg, just down from Windsor, we had all the Motown stuff coming up. It was amazing! The great thing about the Motown stuff was, because the songs were fairly short, the depth of cut, the groove on the record was very deep and when you heard a Motown record, it jumped out of the speakers at you. Well, the Beatles stuff was like two and a half, three minutes max, and it jumped out of the speakers at you! I just loved it, it was so alive! The harmonies were so cool because they didn’t fill in the blanks on the upper harmony, which kind of invited you in. They did the under-harmony, and it left open the top harmony. As a harmony singer, it was like, yahoo, I know my part! So I just had to go to Liverpool.”
Murphy and his musical partner, Jack Klaeysen (a good guitarist from another school-days band) bought one-way tickets from New York and arrived in Liverpool on February 14, 1965. While on ship, they began playing in steerage. Word spread, and they were invited to first class. An agent named Collins heard them and gave them a referral to his brother, Joe Collins – an agent who initially managed the career of his daughter, Joan Collins – with a big agency in London. Murphy didn’t quite believe him – “I said, ‘Yeah, sure, pal,’ and stuck the card in my sock and kept playing for free drinks and carrying on with the actresses on board.”
When they arrived in Liverpool, they looked for places to play and ended up at a club called the Birdcage. The Liverpool scene was actually “pretty bleak.” Although Herman and the Hermits and some other bands would eventually emerge from Liverpool, by that time the area had been pretty tapped out for musical talent. One night, Gerry and
the Pacemakers were present and one of the band members began to talk to them. “They said, ‘Hey, man, you guys are really good! What are you doing in Liverpool?’ We said, ‘Hey, this is where it’s at!’ ‘No, it’s not! There’s nothing here! You need to go to London!’”
They didn’t have any money, but the equipment van was leaving for London at four in the morning and they were offered a ride.
Murphy muses, “How naïve I was! What an idiot! We each had one suitcase and
Murphy and Klaeysen were a novelty in London because, while the British acts were going to the United States, they were Canadians coming to England. They were
playing at the New Theatre Oxford, opening for the Ivy Leagues, the Pretty Things, the Byrds, Martha and the Vandellas, the Bachelors – “everything that was moving out of
England.” Within four months of arriving in London, they had a record deal brokered by Joe Collins, the agent who, it turned out, really was the brother of the agent they met on the ship. Their deal was with Tony Hatch, the already legendary producer and writer for Petula Clark, under his label Pye Records. While they were auditioning for Tony Hatch, “Roger Cook stumbled in and heard us playing and said, ‘You’re gonna sign them, right?’” That encounter was the start of a long and productive relationship between
Murphy and Cook.
Their first album, a folk effort, was as the Guardsmen. Their second album was pop, and they were renamed the Slade Brothers. They cut a couple of their own songs,and also cut a Roger Greenway/Roger Cook song called “What a Crazy Life” that became a hit in early 1966, when they first heard themselves on the radio on Radio
However, another important milestone occurred a year before that. Tony Hatch couldn’t write for them and had been encouraging them to write. In the fall of 1965, they
signed a publishing deal with Mills Music, later Belwin Mills Publishing. Later that year, a song penned by Murphy and Klaeysen – “Call My Name” – was recorded by James Royal and became a hit. “It was earth-shaking, it was everything I wanted it to be. I was
addicted,” recalls Murphy. “All I ever wanted to be was a stand-alone writer. I wanted to have everyone record my songs and I could sit and listen to them on the radio. I was
ready – bring it on!” The recording of that song also became the introduction for Murphy to another musical career – record producer.
At that point, Murphy began getting work as a producer throughout town, including CBS, Decca, and Phillips. He had a lot of hits, but he wasn’t making a lot of
money – “We didn’t need a lot of money. I was playing a lot of gigs, including gigs for the mob – the Kray twins – and they took care of me. Although they were rough, Charlie – their older brother – was cruel but fair.”
During this period in 1972, Murphy wrote a song called “Good Enough to Be Your Wife” and played it for his girlfriend in his New York office. A producer there heard it, said “That’s a hit!” and cut it with Janet Lawson, a jazz singer. It was released as a single but wasn’t a hit – Murphy had bet the producer it wouldn’t be – but two or
three months later, he heard from Shelby Singleton saying, “Hey, man, I just cut your song, it’s gonna be a smash!” Murphy was “stunned” when Jeanie C. Riley’s recording
became his first country hit. The song was actually banned at the time on some stations because it was thought that he was promoting couples living together, even though it was actually making the opposite case.
Murphy did start another publishing company, Kersha Music, with scattered success – “Crime of the Century” with Shania Twain in the movie Red Rock West, “Seeds” with Kathy Mattea, “I’m Still Here, You’re Still Gone” with Randy Travis, and the title song of the movie The Thing Called Love – but in the Murphy tradition, publishing was
something he’d already done successfully; it was time for the next big thing. In 1994, Murphy was offered the position of Vice President with ASCAP – and turned it down. He later took it on.
Read More about Ralph here or his own page here.