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Brian Murphy


Of all the great musical talents in our community, Brian Murphy is without a doubt one of the truly gifted. He grew up surrounded by music as both parents were quite talented.Phyllis Hicks Murphy, Brian's mother, played piano, and every day she sat and played before lunch and sometimes after dinner. She was an excellent sight reader and could play many different popular pieces, which Brian learned while listening to her. Phyllis grew up listening to music herself, as her mother played piano as well.Phyllis' father was George Hicks who was the first school teacher in this town, as well as paymaster at the mill and the only non-security person permitted to carry a gun.Both Brian's Grandfathers were men of great valor who fought in WW1.George Hicks was awarded the Military Cross, and James Murphy was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal.Mike Murphy, Brian's father, played alto saxophone, piano, Eb horn and French horn.

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Of all the great musical talents in our community, Brian Murphy is without a doubt one of the truly gifted.

He grew up surrounded by music as both parents were quite talented.Phyllis Hicks Murphy, Brian's mother, played piano, and every day she sat and played before lunch and sometimes after dinner. She was an excellent sight reader and could play many different popular pieces, which Brian learned while listening to her. Phyllis grew up listening to music herself, as her mother played piano as well.Phyllis' father was George Hicks who was the first school teacher in this town, as well as paymaster at the mill and the only non-security person permitted to carry a gun.Both Brian's Grandfathers were men of great valor who fought in WW1.George Hicks was awarded the Military Cross, and James Murphy was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal.Mike Murphy, Brian's father, played alto saxophone, piano, Eb horn and French horn.

Together his parents played in their orchestra called The Modernaires, which also included James Molloy (saxophone), Art Byrd (accordion), Buster Winslow (drums), and Dorothy Anthony (vocals). There was always music at the Murphy house. Mike and Phyllis loved the Swing Era and had recordings of Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey and other big band stars along with the Boston Pops, Henry Mancini (who was a big influence on Brian) and other popular music of the time.All of his siblings were musical as well. Philip played trumpet in high school, Rick played drums and still plays piano today, and Steve played piano, saxophone and still plays drums today.Brian recalls as a child, dancing around to one particular song when the record played. The song was a very old jazz tune by Kid Ory called The Muskrat Ramble, and he was just two years old.

Between the ages of five to 10, Brian became obsessed with music. He knew at this early an age that this would be his life calling.He took piano lessons from the Presentation Sisters, who were very strict in their approach and didn't hesitate to let you know with a crack of a yardstick across your knuckles.Brian was already improvising at an early age and the Sisters did not encourage or inspire him, and referred to his style of playing (improvisation) as evil. However he says, he did at least learn some technique from them.What he enjoyed most was being in a group with other piano students.At the time there were only two boys taking lessons, but the prettiest and smartest girls in his class made up the rest of the students and already Brian was becoming an incurable romantic!

While at Notre Dame Academy, Brian played in the regular Christmas and spring concerts as well as piano recitals, but the Kiwanis Music Festival of 1965 stands out in his mind. He played a piano piece that was also played by 38 other children and he was the first competitor. The judges asked several of the kids to play it again and the final result was Brian tied for first place with Ardyth Morgan (Pam's sister) who remains a friend of his to this day.There was one music teacher who influenced Brian.Ray Alyward was conducting the St. Mike's band, and when Brian joined, the first instrument he learned to play was the tuba. He played it for about a week before switching to clarinet and bass clarinet.From Ray Brian had his first instruction in jazz, being introduced to Dave Brubeck, Bill Evans and others.He says he was very grateful to Ray for not only his musicianship but his open mind, his intelligence, his experience, and the pleasant way he had with his students.

The first band Brian was in was a short-lived group called The Dymonds.They rehearsed for two weeks and played mostly country music and some rock and roll. He remembers they played once for a wedding at the Orange Lodge (Beaumont Manor). The group consisted of Tony Wall (vocal), Dan Devine (lead guitar), Cyril Devine (rhythm guitar), Warren Way (drums), and Brian playing electric bass.The bass guitar he played was a copy of a Fender Precision.This was 1967 and Brian was 14-years-old.During this year, he also bought his first portable organ from an Italian company called Teisco, the model was a Teischord C.It was around this time that Brian found himself frequently visiting Ralph Gaulton after school. At the time, Ralph had two locations - one in the Ryan's Cash Store building and the other in what used to be Garland Morrissey's drugstore. They would spend hours jamming old standard songs and popular hits and he says Ralph gave him an insight into guitar styles and just music in general. Ralph Gaulton, with his wisdom of music, loved to share his knowledge with talented people and Brian was not the only one Ralph musically befriended from this town.

Brian had two different Hammond organs. The first one was arranged for purchase through Ralph Gaulton and Brian's Dad went to considerable trouble helping him make it more portable. The second one, he bought from Adrian Beaumont. He doesn't remember what happened to the first one, but the second one he sold to Rick Hollett when Rick started playing keys for the band Choice.The next band for Brian was the Growing Concern which consisted of Race Hanlon (vocals), Bruce Moss (guitar), Ted Lane (bass guitar), Butch Pinsent (drums) and Brian on the keys.He remembers Ted Lane being a fun guy to be around as he was always cracking jokes.He was 15 now and this band was together from 1967-68.

The years 1969-70 saw the formation of the band The Rock Pile. In this group were; Bruce Moss/Kevin Hoddinott-guitar, Ed Cater-bass guitar, Ewen Newhook-vocals, Cyril Gallant/Dave Hillier-drums, and Brian on keys.Then in 1970, Brian's next band was Kite. It consisted of Kevin Hoddinott and Ewen Newhook, with Mack Furlong on the drums and Brian again on keys.Rockpile and Kite were active traveling bands and Brian saw quite a bit of roadwork in places like the Old Mill and other nightspots in St. John's.Not bad for a 16-year-old.Brian also collaborated on many different projects with his life long friend - bassist Terry Burke.One of these projects was the Brian Murphy Trio with Paul Hennessey on the drums. They did a series of recordings that were broadcast on the local CBC network. He was always interpreting music in his own way but in this trio he got to experiment with jazz tunes by such artists as Dave Brubeck and Oscar Peterson.Around this time, Brian was offered a gig at the Holiday Inn in Corner Brook, where he played for several years in a popular duo, with well-known west coast drummer Denny Solo. He did most of the singing back then - something which he has phased out in later years opting to concentrate more on the keyboards. He was also playing a Hammond organ and pedals, as well as a Rhodes piano.Brian and Denny are still in touch and remain good friends to this day.

Brian played and recorded from 1975-77 with the Newfoundland band TNT.TNT was a well known and popular rock/blues band consisting of musicians Denis Parker (guitar/harmonica/vocals), Neil Bishop (guitar), Claude Caines (bass guitar/vocals) and Teddy McNeil (drums).In 1976 he decided to broaden his horizons musically and jumped at the chance when he was offered a band gig in Halifax.

See Monday'sAdvertiser for the second of two columns profiling Brian Murphy.

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