Keith O'Conner Murphy
|Keith O’Conner Murphy|
Keith with guitar 2013
|Birth name||Keith Edward Murphy|
November 9, 1944|
Peru, Indiana, United States
|Genres||Rockabilly, rock and roll, country rock|
|Instruments||Vocals, guitar, tambourine|
|Labels||King, Polydor (UK), Stacy|
|Associated acts||The Torkays, The Daze|
Keith O'Conner Murphy (Keith Murphy) is an American songwriter, singer and recording artist. His contributions to the Rockabilly genre of Rock and Roll music were recognized in 2002 when he was honored as an inductee into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
Keith Edward Murphy was born November 9, 1944 in Peru, Indiana, to Edward William and Vivian Marcella (Martin) Murphy. He and his brother Brent, 20 years younger, were the only two siblings. At the time of his birth, his father was serving in the US Army Air Corps in World War II.
As a child, he sang in church and school choirs and always loved music. His primary family musical influence was his Grandmother Dora Collins Martin, who professionally played piano in local clubs, mostly honky tonk and popular music. His father Ed sometimes played harmonica for his own enjoyment, and his mother Marcella sang in school and church. Keith’s formative years were spent in the Indiana towns of Peru, Wabash and Sweetser, all in adjoining counties. He graduated from Oak Hill High School (Indiana), Marion College (now Indiana Wesleyan University) and Indiana University where he earned an MBA.
When Keith was in the 4th grade, his family moved to Wabash, Indiana. His first instrument was an Arthur Godfrey plastic ukulele that had a plastic box on the fretboard that allowed a chord to be played by pushing one button. Keith took it off and figured out which strings to push to play his own chords. When he was in Junior High at Chippewa school in 1958, he saved his newspaper money and bought a $25 tangerine and white Harmony Caribbean H-1005 flat top from the local music store. It had a strip of aluminum cabinet trim to divide the colors on the front and the strings were not the easiest to press down, but it was a start.
When he was a sophomore, the family moved to Sweetser, Indiana in Grant County, where his father worked at the local Fisher Body plant. He began to take guitar lessons at Butler’s music store from an old vaudeville performer Art Oliver, and later Sy Cantrell, a local barber by trade. Keith started playing rhythm guitar and was lead singer in a rock and roll band he helped form, and later used his guitar for song writing. Two of his earliest influences were Ritchie Valens and Buddy Holly, both of whom ironically died on February 3, 1959 in a plane crash. His first band was The Torkays, formed after he answered a newspaper ad placed by Jim Aguilar, looking for a guitarist, and met with him at Venable’s café in Sweetser, Indiana on Monday, January 30, 1961. Jim had a 1960 Gibson Les Paul Standard cherry sunburst guitar. Keith bought an identical one from Jim’s former guitarist, serial number 0-1485, these guitars years later were valued at around $250,000 each. Their first paying gig was Saturday, April 22, 1961 at the Van Buren, Indiana Conservation Club. They were hired by Bill Rock Sr. for $25 each to play at a party to celebrate the 15th birthday of his sister Brenda Rock, who Keith married six years later.
Jim and Keith wanted to be recording artists so they wrote some songs, recorded them on a small home tape recorder with one microphone, and took the demo tape around to several record companies. Their first trip was to Nashville and Memphis where they auditioned the songs with such companies as Decca, and the famous Sun Records, without success. Next they drove to Chicago toward the end of 1962, where they scored a contract with Stacy Records, after John Dolan heard their teen age tragedy song “Little Loved One”. The song describes a marriage and a car accident on the way home from the honeymoon, in which the bride dies. It was a small but well-funded label owned by Gaylord Products who made Gayla hair accessories and advertised on American Bandstand.” Their biggest artist was Al Casey (rock & roll guitarist) who had records on the charts and was a member of Duane Eddy and Lee Hazelwood groups. Since band members Keith and Jim’s brother Frank were under age, John Dolan came down from Chicago by train to Keith’s home. The parents met and signed contracts on January 17, 1963. There were several musicians who came into and out of the Torkays, but the three constant core members and who were on the record were Keith (O’Conner) Murphy on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, and the brothers Jim Aguilar – lead guitar and vocals, and Frank Aguilar on vocals.
The four Stacy songs were recorded in a three-hour session in the Sam Phillips studio in Nashville, from 2:00pm to 5:00pm on Saturday February 23, 1963. The other musicians on the record were the Nashville pros they called the “A” team:
- Cliff Parman – Arranger and conductor, with many credits including Roy Orbison, Connie Francis, Bobby Vinton, wrote “Pretend”.
- Gordon Stoker – Background vocalist, the leader of the Jordanaires who backed Elvis on record and in films for many years.
- Kelso Herston – Guitar, bass and banjo, on numerous records including Jerry Lee Lewis, and was musical director for the hit TV Show “Hee Haw”.
- Jerry Kennedy – Guitar. Four time Grammy winner. Also CMA Hall of Fame producer and record executive. He played the guitar licks on such classics as “Pretty Woman”, Harper Valley PTA”, “Stand By Your Man”, and was on Bob Dylan’s “Blonde On Blonde” album as well as Elvis and Ringo records.
- Hargus Pig Robbins – Organ and piano. Two time CMA instrumentalist of the year and Hall of Fame member, his credits include nearly every country music star, as well as Bob Dylan, Paul Anka, John Denver, Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Neil Young with whom he toured.
- Willie Ackerman – Drums, played on many Nashville recordings such as Willie Nelson, George Jones, also The Monkees, was the “Hee Haw” TV drummer.
- Priscilla Ann Hubbard – Background vocalist, on many records including Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley.
- Margie Singleton – Background vocalist and Keith’s duet partner on “I Don’t Like It”, she had hit records on her own and duets with George Jones and Faron Young.
The first two songs released on Stacy were “Little Loved One”, which originally landed the contract, and “Cindy Lou!” (Stacy 958). These were released in early March, 1963. The company decided to release the first record under Keith’s name and not the Torkays. For reasons never explained, they changed his name to Keith O’Conner. The Central US east of the Mississippi and the northeast was playing “Little Loved One”. In April 1963 it was in the top 10 on the WABY Albany, New York list, and number 16 on the WISH hit list in Indianapolis. Keith appeared on TV in several Indiana cities. Meanwhile the South was playing “Cindy Lou”. Jim Aguilar and Keith made a promotional tour to New Orleans where "Cindy Lou" was listed as "best of the new releases", and made an appearance on regional TV with The Champs who did "Tequila" and "Limbo Rock". Columbia Records took notice and offered to buy the contract from Stacy for around $20,000, but Stacy declined, sensing a hit and not needing the money. In 2002 Keith was inductee number 200  into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame on the strength of “Cindy Lou” which is collected worldwide and is considered one of the final original era of rockabilly songs issued, just before the British invasion. Jim and Frank Aguilar were also recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame for their contributions to the recordings.
The next two sides were “Karate” and “I Don’t Like It” (Stacy 960) by The Torkays, released late April, 1963. Stacy thought both records would hit and they wanted to own two acts. To make sure no one caught on they were the same performers, they even changed the songwriter credits on The Torkays record to Angus (Aguilar) and O’Neil (Murphy). “Karate”, was a novelty rocker and the first time ever in the US that a vocal had used martial arts as a theme.
After playing from 1961 through 1963, The Torkays amicably disbanded. Keith did some work at Jan Hutchins studio in Indianapolis for the next couple of years, and gave guidance to local Grant County groups. Keith’s next band was The Daze. The lineup never changed from 1965 to 1968 and consisted of the following members:
- Keith (O’Conner) Murphy, lead vocals, rhythm guitar, tambourine
- John Asher, lead guitar, harmonica and backup vocals
- Jerry Asher, bass guitar – John’s younger brother
- Phil Fosnough, organ and backup vocals
- Bill Shearer, Drums
The Daze played at many venues throughout Indiana and surrounding states, and was one of the more popular groups in the area. They performed in the greater Detroit area a lot, including The Roostertail, as their manager Ray Skop lived there. In 1967 they landed a contract with the iconic King Records out of Cincinnati”. ”. known mostly for Rhythm and Blues acts such as James Brown, Hank Ballard, Bill Doggett, Wynonie Harris, and Little Willie John. In May of 1968 they recorded two of Keith’s songs, which were released on the King label September 19, 1968 (King 45-6171).”. ” The songs were “Slightly Reminiscent of Her” and the flip side “Dirty Ol’ Sam”. The band members were the only musicians on the record. Around this time period the owner of King Records (United States), Syd Nathan, died and promotion efforts were in chaos. The King Records headquarters and studio was designated in 2009 with a marker as the second Rock and Roll Hall of Fame historical landmark site.
The record later became a valuable record to collector’s, priced up to $1,000  in record books. Again, as in the case of Stacy Records, King decided to release it with Keith headlining as “Keith Murphy and The Daze”. In England Polydor Records released the recordings (Polydor 56542) with a slightly longer end on “Slightly Reminiscent of Her” and designated the “A” side as “Dirty Ol’ Sam”.
The band was together about 1965 through 1968. The Viet Nam war was heating up and Keith enrolled in the local Marion College, now called Indiana Wesleyan University. He later received an MBA from Indiana University. In later years he wrote and recorded the theme song for a television series “Outdoor USA” in 1999. In 2008 he wrote the song “Tiddlywink” featured on the "Rock In Threes!" album by the noted German rockabilly group Black Raven. At least three of Keith's recordings have been re-released on US and European compilation albums. In June 2012 he recorded and released a CD and digital album “The Class of 1962” as Keith O'Conner Murphy, including the new song of the same name which he wrote and sang, and his 60's songs. ”.
He married Brenda Rock, the girl whose 15th birthday party was his first paying gig. They have two daughters, Michelle and Monica.
- 1963 (US) "Little Loved One/Cindy Lou!", Keith O'Conner, Stacy 958
- 1963 (US) "Karate/I Don't Like It", The Torkays with Keith O'Conner, Stacy 960
- 1968 (US) "Slightly Reminiscent of Her/Dirty Ol' Sam", Keith Murphy and The Daze, King 6171
- 1968 (England) "Dirty Ol' Sam/Slightly Reminiscent of Her",Keith Murphy and The Daze, Polydor 56542
- The British version of "Dirty Ol' Sam" had a slightly longer ending than the US version
- 2012 (US) CD "The Class of 1962", Keith O'Conner Murphy, King 45 Label
- 1998 (US) CD and Vinyl "Chop Suey Rock Vol. 2", Hot and Sour Records LP and CD HS-002
- The song "Karate" by The Torkays with Keith O'Conner is featured on this album
- 2004 (US) CD "Teen Town USA Vol. 5" Yeaah! Records Y-505
- The song "Cindy Lou!" by Keith O'Conner is featured on this album
- 2007 (England) CD "The Electric Coffee House", Psychic Circle Records PCCD 7011
- The song "Slightly Reminiscent of Her" by Keith Murphy and The Daze is featured on this album
- 2008 (Germany) CD and Vinyl "Rock In Threes!" by Black Raven, Part Records CD 673-001 and LP 373-002
- The song "Tiddlywink" written by Keith Murphy is featured on this album
- 2000 (US) Theme song "Outdoor USA" written and performed by Keith O'Conner Murphy for nationally syndicated program "Bill Rock's Outdoor USA" on Outdoor and Sportsman channels
- "Keith O'Connor Murphy". Rockabillyhall.com. Retrieved 2013-04-30.
- Osborne,Jerry (2012).Rockin' Records. Port Townsend, Washington, USA: Osborne Enterprises p.1045.ISBN 0-932117-65-1
- Kreiter, Jeff A. (2007)."Teen Collectors Record Guide"(2nd ed.)Bridgeport, Ohio,USA.p331.
- Murphy, Keith.(1995).Liner notes from CD "Jivin' Around" by Al Casey. Ace Records (UK) CDCHD 612.
- "RHOF Inductees with Certificates". Rockabillyhall.com. Retrieved 2013-04-30.
- Neely,Tim (2000).American Records (2nd ed.) Iola, Wisconsin, USA: Krause Pub. p.794.ISBN 0-87341-934-0
- Popoff,Martin (2009) Goldmine Price Guide to 45rpm Records(7th ed.)Iola,Wisconsin,USA p.473. ISBN 978-0-89689-958-2
- "1960s Garage Bands". 60sgaragebands.com. Retrieved 2013-04-30.
- McNutt, Randy(2009) King Records of Cincinnati Charleston,SC,USA. Arcadia Pub. p.7-8. ISBN 978-0-7385-6079-3.
- Fox, John Hartley(2009) King of the Queen City Chicago,IL, USA. University of Illinois Press. p.xi-xiii. ISBN 978-0-252-03468-8.
- Ruppli,Michel(1985) The King Labels Volume One Westport,CT, USA. Greenwood Press. p.399. ISBN 0313-24771-4.
- Wickham,Barry G. and Richman,Geoffrey M.(2008) Garage Records USA p.24. ISBN 978-0-615-26021-1
- "Landmark Series :: Outside the Classroom | The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum". Rockhall.com. Retrieved 2013-04-30.
- Marion,Indiana Chronicle Tribune Newspaper, June 27, 2012, Front Page.
- Peru Daily Tribune Newspaper, June 30, 2012, Front Page.
- Wabash Plain Dealer Newspaper, August 2, Front Page.
- Interview with Keith O'Conner Murphy About Later Career
- Rockabilly Hall of Fame Biography of Early Career
- Keith O'Conner Murphy Site