From just a few months ago, when this amazing performer was still washing cars in Logan , WV , until next month, when he will be knocking the audience dead at Harlem ‘s legendary Apollo Theatre, the story of Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr. is more than a Cinderella tale. Having won the first place title in America ’s Got Talent, a show I admittedly had never seen until watching the finale from a bar with an raucous group of Laudau enthusiasts, this 30-something performer was the consummate entertainer. I was hooked!
The evening was a joy to behold. Landau segued seamlessly from one Sinatra standard to another, performing most of the cuts from his new CD, “That’s Life”. His between-song banter was charming and witty, as he proved himself to be a naturally superlative performer, self-effacing and humble, completely at ease on the stage. His underlying message of “Dream big!” was emanating through as he spoke lovingly (and hilariously) of his growing up in West Virginia . He was as charismatic as any performer I’ve seen anywhere, gracious to his audience and his band, giving everyone a chance to shine. I would occasionally look back at the faces of those listening, and could not find anyone who wasn’t smiling with pride at their beloved home-state fellow making good in the big world in- and outside of the mountain state. My favorite tune of the night, to no one’s surprise, was “Witchcraft”, during which he worked his spell on the ladies in the audience, for sure. And they melted, melted, what a world., what a world…!
Landau brought his lovely wife Jennifer to the stage to join him in a pretty sweet duet of “Unforgettable”. I couldn’t help but wonder what changes they have gone through in lifestyle and emotion since jumping aboard this roller-coaster ride of the last few months. She reappeared to sing back-up vocals on a few tunes with the great Jane Powell (a special guest vocalist who hails originally from Roanoke , Virginia ) on some flawless Motown classics such as “Mustang Sally” and “My Girl”. The genre gave us a taste of both Landau’s musical roots and his musical diversity. And Miss Jane astonished us with her incredible range on a tune of her own, backed up by the Sweet Lips Orchestra from Charleston . Her duet with Landau was humorous improvisational, but tight and perfectly rendered.
Of one thing I’m certain: Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr. is the real deal, and there is no doubt that he will never forget his fellow West Virginians who helped to put him at the top. This is evident by his willingness to do so many appearances in his home state, including a CD signing that afternoon at the local Walmart, where he easily fielded questions, patiently signed autographs, and calmly posed for photographs. I heard one lady say, “What a dreamboat!” Other upcoming West Virginia performances include the Summersville Arena on April 21, Charleston ’s FestivAll on June 20, Clarksburg Amphitheatre on July 14, the State Fair on August 12, and also Davis and Elkins College and The Keith Albee Performing Arts Center in Huntington in the fall. For ticket information and a full schedule, you can go to his website at www.landaumurphyjr.com. I would strongly suggest seeing him. As it says in one of his songs, “I’m getting a kick out of life!” And he absolutely is. Dreaming big is working for him.