Willie Murphy (musician)

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Willie Murphy
Born(1943-11-17)November 17, 1943
Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
DiedJanuary 13, 2019(2019-01-13) (aged 75)
Occupation(s)Musician, producer, songwriter
InstrumentsVocals, piano, bass, guitar
Years active1963 – 2019
LabelsElektra, Red House, Atomic Theory
Associated actsJohn Koerner

Willie Murphy (November 17, 1943 – January 13, 2019) was an American pianist, singer, producer, and songwriter. He is best known as a singer and pianist for the blues band Willie and the Bees. He is also known for his work with Bonnie Raitt and John Koerner.


Murphy was born and grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States, in an Irish Catholic working-class family. He began piano lessons at the age of 4. His early musical influences were Little Richard, Fats Domino, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Ray Charles.

Murphy played on the folk circuit with John Koerner, and the duo recorded Running, Jumping, Standing Still in 1969. The album received positive reviews, Crawdaddy! calling it "one of the most unique and underrated albums of the folk boom, perhaps the only psychedelic ragtime blues album ever made."[1] The duo eventually split up, and Koerner pursued an unsuccessful career in filmmaking, temporarily retiring from the music business and moving to Copenhagen, Denmark.[2] Murphy was offered a full-time job with Elektra Records as an in-house producer but declined, choosing to remain in the Minneapolis area.[3]

He produced Bonnie Raitt's 1971 debut album for Warner Bros. Records. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Murphy led the R&B, blues and rock group Willie and the Bees.[3]

Murphy performed on piano, bass, guitar and other instruments as a session musician for Raitt, Koerner, Greg Brown, Prudence Johnson, Little Milton, and many others. He formed the Atomic Theory Records label in 1985 and released albums by himself, Phil Heywood, Boiled in Lead, Larry Long, and various world music artists.[4]

The Minnesota Music Hall of Fame inducted Murphy along with Bob Dylan and Prince in its charter class in 1990.[3] In 2008, Murphy was inducted into the Minnesota Blues Hall of Fame.[5]

In 2010, St. Paul, Minnesota, mayor Chris Coleman declared July 2 "Willie Murphy Day".[6]

Murphy's double-CD release A Shot of Love in a Time of Need/Autobiographical Notes reached number 14 in Billboard's Top Blues Albums chart in 2010.

On January 13, 2019, Murphy died of pneumonia, brought on by numerous health problems, at the age of 75.[7]


  • with "Spider" John Koerner:
  • Solo:
    • Willie Murphy Hits Piano/Piano Hits Willie Murphy (1985, Atomic Theory)
    • Mr. Mature (1988, Atomic Theory)
    • Monkey in the Zoo (1997)
    • Hustlin' Man Blues (1998)
    • I Got a Secret (2003)
    • A Shot of Love in a Time of Need/Autobiographical Notes (2009, Red House)[8]


  1. ^ Poet, J. "Running, Jumping, Standing Still > Review". Crawdaddy!. Retrieved May 21, 2010.
  2. ^ Blues, Rags and Hollers: The Koerner, Ray & Glover Story. 1995. Latch Lake (Video documentary)
  3. ^ a b c Mason, Rick (February 3, 2010). "Veteran performer Willie Murphy reflects on his 40-year career". City Pages. Retrieved October 8, 2010.
  4. ^ "About Atomic Theory Records". Tt.net. Retrieved 2015-10-20.
  5. ^ "Minnesota Blues Hall of Fame 2008". Gtcbms.org. 2012-07-10. Retrieved 2015-10-20.
  6. ^ Swensson, Andrea (July 2, 2010). "Willie Murphy Day declared by St. Paul Mayor". City Pages. Retrieved October 8, 2010.
  7. ^ "'Heart and soul of Minneapolis music scene' Willie Murphy dies at 75". Star Tribune. Retrieved January 13, 2019.
  8. ^ "Willie Murphy Discography". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2015-10-20.