The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts this week named West Bank bluesman Willie Murphy as 2010 Sally Ordway Irvine Awards honoree for the category of life time commitment. A soul, R&B, blues and rock legend, Murphy is a charter member of the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame, he has performed with everyone from Jefferson Airplane and Joan Baez to Muddy Waters and Carl Perkins.
Born in Minneapolis, Murphy started playing the piano at age four and soon developed a passion for rhythm and blues. It was while hanging around the West Bank music scene that he met folk musician “Spider” John Koerner. Together they began to write songs and tour the club and festival circuit, eventually producing the iconic Elektra release “Running, Jumping, Standing Still” and landing a top spot at the 1969 Newport Folk Festival. But Murphy was eager to return to his R&B roots, and formed a new band, Willie and the Bees, that went on to become underground legends. The Bees were also featured on Bonnie Raitt’s first Warner Bros. album that Willie produced in 1971. After the Bees’ final gig in 1984, Murphy started playing solo blues and rock piano, and launched his own label, Atomic Theory, which produced great local musicians like Becky Thompson, Boiled in Lead and The New International Trio. Now, Murphy surprises his fans once again with his new genre-bending release on Red House Records, “A Shot of Love in a Time of Need,” featuring soul, jazz, funk, rock and folk.