Born Charles Hurt Murphy, Jr., 7 March 1922, Montgomery, Alabama Died 18 August 2001, Charleston, South Carolina
Chuck Murphy was a piano pounder who made two interesting records that you could call proto-rock n roll. Born in March 1922, he always celebrated his birthday on March 8, but, when he looked at his birth certificate years later, he found that he was actually born on March 7. Born in Montgomery, he grew up in Decatur, Alabama. His mother played piano and Chuck and his brother Huel both took up the instrument. Chuck loved Fats Waller and Louis Armstrong. His first gigs were in pop bands during the mid-1930s and by the 1940s he was making a living from music. Most of his work came from the lounges in and around Birmingham. Country music came into the picture in a minor way (he gigged with the Red Mountain Wranglers and was on their television show, and hung out with Hardrock Gunter), but pop music was his bread-and-butter. At one point, he was among the highest paid entertainers in Alabama.
In February 1951, Murphy had his first record released, “They Raided the Joint”/”Blue Ribbon Boogie” (Bama 301), accompanying himself on what sounded like an old barrelhouse piano.
The A-side was written by Louis Jordan and Dan Burley and recorded by Jordan in January 1945 as “They Raided the House“, though it was not released at the time. Bama Records was owned by Manley Pearson, who had released the original version of “Birmingham Bounce” by Hardrock Gunter. Decca had tried to buy the master, but after Pearson refused, Paul Cohen recorded his own version of “Birmingham Bounce” with Red Foley, which went to # 1 on the country charts, leaving Pearson with piles of unsold copies. Having learned from this experience, Pearson leased “They Raided the Joint” to Coral this time (a subsidiary of Decca!), after the disc showed good sales potential. Coral reissued Chuck’s single in April 1951 (Coral 64090). It sold well in the southern states, but was not a national hit. Chuck did further recordings for Coral with Pee Wee Erwin’s Dixieland Band. There was even a Dutch Coral pressing (61014) of Chuck’s song “2-D Gal In A 3-D Town“.
In 1951, Chuck had 4 times the honor of being reviewed by Billboard for his Coral records.
In late 1953, Murphy signed with Columbia Records, where his first record was “Hocus Pocus“/”Hard Headed” (21258). However, it was his second Columbia single, “Rhythm Hall” (Columbia 21305), for which he will be remembered most of all. Recorded at the Tulane Hotel in Nashville on March 21,1954, “Rhythm Hall“was produced by Don Law, with Hardrock Gunter and Huel Murphy on guitar, Ernie Newton on bass and Farris Coursey on drums. Chuck’s family says that Chuck himself played piano on the session, and that would certainly make sense, but Hardrock Gunter alleges that Huel played the piano. Like “They Raided the Joint“, “Rhythm Hall” is an infectious piano romp in country boogie style.
Chuck made two more singles for Columbia and a few for other labels (MGM), but since the early 1950s he had felt the call to the ministry. In 1957, he entered what is now Samford University in Birmingham (then Howard College) and finished a four-year degree in three years, all the while working the nightclubs. In 1960, he went to Virginia Theological Seminary and graduated in 1963. From that point, until his death in 2001, he was a full-time minister in the American branch of the Anglican church. Along the way, he wrote several books.
Biography taken from BlackCatRockabilly (Netherlands – come visit the site!)
Pictures from various sources.