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STEPHEN MURPHY

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MISSUS HORAN, teacher at Bree national school in the seventies, certainly missed a trick when she decided that little Stephen Murphy was not suitable for her new children's choir. In the search for ' larks', she filed the lad from Dunanore instead under the heading 'crows' and left him happily free to kick ball and play hurling.

Missus Horan succeeded in overlooking a talent that has grown up to earn a good living from a voice which has matured from boyish crow to become a mellow instrument giving pleasure to many. His easy going tenor tones have also helped to raise hundreds of thousands of euro for a variety of good causes.

Stephen is the second youngest in a family of five boys and two girls raised by Simon and Mary Murphy amidst the prettiest of Wexford countryside in the Boro valley. His mother reminds him to this day that he had a lovely voice as a very young boy soprano – so never mind the failed try-out with Missus Horan.

He cut his teeth as a soloist on the altar at First Communion ceremonies and the like, the beginning of a musical association with the church that continues to this day. After slipping through the musical net at primary school, he graduated to Enniscorthy Vocational College – or the Technical School as it was referred to at the time.

And it was there in ' The Tech' that the initial steps along the road to show business success were taken, courtesy of science teacher Maurice McNamara. The enlightened staff member announced that he was willing to offer guitar lessons to fill the vacuum presented by a double free period on Wednesday afternoons.

A forest of young hands was raised in response but the initial intake of a dozen soon dwindled to more manageable numbers. Eventually there was no one left among the Bunsen burners and the Petri dishes of the science lab but Stephen and his friend Graham Walsh from Monageer, both strumming away with great enthusiasm.

'I got a passion for the guitar,' reminisces Murphy. 'I felt that I was going to be a rock star.' Then he re-considers his use of the word 'rock'. He knew from the start that he was no Rory Gallagher or Keith Richards. He was drawn instead to Christy Moore, Simon & Garfunkel and Cat Stevens at the gentler end of the pop spectrum.

Putting the notes to their songs was the challenge. The two lads would bolt down their chip buttie lunches, with added cheese, in order to be ready to go as soon as their tutor had finished his lunch. Whatever Maurice McNamara could not impart, finger picking specialist Eddie Crean filled in the gaps.

Eddie was the career guidance teacher at the school and his advice to the lads was to find themselves a proper job at the end of their secondary education. There were no obvious vacancies for soft rock stars. Graham went on to rise high in the ranks of the local Rayners aluminium firm while Stephen was taken on by the late Jack Kavanagh proprietor of the Peter Smyth hardware in Enniscorthy's Rafter Street.

It was a congenial place in which to labour, with characters (both now deceased) such as Larry Codd and Har Habernathy around to enliven the day. Stephen enjoyed the world of pick handles, keys for safes, and halters for bulls. He graduated to running the gardening section and then the lighting shop.

Jack Kavanagh's son Dermot appointed him shop manager and it seemed that his future lay in hardware. Then, ten years ago, at the age of 33, he decided to make a break and follow his star in music. It was a brave move for a father of four young children but, with the backing of wife Majella, he has made it pay. It was not at all a leap in the dark as he had been performing in public since he was 18.

The first gig remains clear in his memory. The venue was the Rafter Inn, just across the road from his place of work. He persuaded the licensee that he could be trusted not to put the patrons off their drink.

He recalls that it was obligatory at the time to attempt a rendition of ' Thank You Very Much Mister Eastwood', the Dermot Morgan skit on boxer Barry McGuigan. The experience did nothing to put him off the entertainment game and he soon linked up with fellow teenager Mattie Kinnaird who sang and played drums.

The duo, styling themselves Gipsy, were fortunate enough to secure a spot on the Strawberry Fair programme in Abbey Square. Their efforts prompted master of ceremonies the late Pat Taylor, clearly impressed, to predict: ' There's the future of music.' Unfortunately, Mattie quickly became past tense as he found it too difficult to juggle the night shift in Earle's bakery with a sideline as a musician.

Stephen was left to conjure with other line-ups and personnel as Gipsy was succeeded in turn by Alpine, Quest, Buckshot and Request. A combo called Bury the Hatchet had a short existence too. With the role of lead vocalist came the automatic job of being the front man, even in the early days when he was flanked by figures of much greater experience.

Among those with whom he has played over the years, in approximate chronological order, have been Jimmy 'Number 7' Murphy (bass); James Mahon (drums); Ivan Levingstone (on everything from steel guitar to harmonica); Harry Donohoe (bass); primary school friend John Hogan (drums); from Oylegate Tony Ryan (guitar); and the versatile Eugene Kenny (guitar and fiddle).

The Murphy persona has altered with fashion. When Garth Brooks was in his pomp, the ten gallon hat was an obvious accessory. These days smart, dark jackets seem to be in vogue. The approach is that the singer and his accomplices are happy to give the customers what they want. The band is in demand on the wedding reception front, while the solo singer is available for funeral and any other function that needs a dependable performer.

He certainly has an aversion to being idle and much of his energy is devoted to a range of good causes. He started with the 'pound socials' in the lounge of Murphy-Flood's hotel and has gone on to help raise hundreds of thousands of euro. The philanthropy has gone hand in hand with his recording career before blossoming most recently in the form of the hugely popular 'Celebrity Wannabe' charity event.

Back in 1988, Ivan Levingstone was keen to branch out from playing into having his own studio at home in John Street, Enniscorthy. Leslie Dunne was called in as producer to oversee a short album released on cassette called 'Quest from the Heart', featuring a cover of Randy Travis's 'Forever and Aver Amen'. Levingstone and Dunne have collaborated on almost all subsequent recording ventures.

'We did it for the hell of it,' remembers Stephen Murphy of the

initial effort and he soon found himself embarking on a series of projects that may yet earn him his place in heaven. They followed after he was prevailed upon by Fathers John Sweetman and John Carroll to sing at 12.30 Mass in St. Aidan's Cathedral. The first time he graced the altar was every bit as nerve-racking as his debut in the Rafter Inn. His first charity release was based around a song he wrote called 'Chernobyl Child' and the money (over €2,000) raised went to assist youngsters affected by the nuclear accident at in Ukraine. He then refined an approach to fundraising that has proven immensely successful working from the base the cathedral.

The 'HOPE with Stephen' CD was inspired by the foundation of the HOPE cancer support centre. The album prompted a six month tour of parishes around the diocese of Ferns that yielded €40,000 from sales of the music and concluded with a memorable concert in the Riverside Park hotel.

Murphy had the bug now. The same formula was adopted in support of the cancer care unit at Wexford General Hospital. This time the album created in John Street was entitled 'Care with Stephen'.

'I've been in more churches that the bishop,' boasts the singer with a laugh. Other causes that have taken benefit have included hospice home care and Crumlin Children's Hospital.

The latest and most extravagant fundraiser is the celebrity wannabe, devised around the principle that charities can make more of an impact if they club together to entertain. Stephen confesses that he took note of the success of Bernie O'Neill's version of 'Jigs 'n Reels' in coming up with a concept that also draws on 'X-Factor', ' The Eurovision Song Contest' and 'Stars in Their Eyes'.

He fleshed out the plan together after talking to Liam Dwyer of South East Radio and a committee was put together comprising Willie Plummer, Father David Murphy, Trish Boyce and Padraig Doyle. The initial venture last year pulled in a quarter million as Siobhán Busher and Ron O'Rourke took top spot for Console playing June Carter and Johnny Cash. Though the second edition currently under way may suffer a slight decline in takings, it is still providing a great show with its full quota of aspiring Danas and Elvises.

He says that his own wannabes include John Denver, Christy Moore, Doctor Hook and, yes, Garth Brooks – even if the man with the hat is not quite as popular as he used to be. Stephen Murphy is blessed with an ability to absorb the lyrics of all his heroes and retain the words of countless pop standards.

He continues to live in his home parish of Bree. He and wife Majella – a Glenbrien woman – have the four G's to their credit – Gemma (16), Gillian (16), Gary (13) and Gina (11). The song writing has been allowed to lapse in all the excitement of family life but he takes heart from Charlie Landsborough on whom fame came knocking late, when he was over 50. In the mean time, Stephen notes that he has been 25 years in the music business and plans for a celebrity concert to celebrate the milestone are beginning to form in his mind. In the mean time, he is happy performing for audiences at functions all over the South East corner of Ireland. ' There's still a living to be made in live music if you are prepared to work. I am making a good wage,' he says, 'and I get a kick out of entertaining people.' MISSUS HORAN, teacher at Bree national school in the seventies, certainly missed a trick when she decided that little Stephen Murphy was not suitable for her new children's choir. In the search for ' larks', she filed the lad from Dunanore instead under the heading 'crows' and left him happily free to kick ball and play hurling.

Missus Horan succeeded in overlooking a talent that has grown up to earn a good living from a voice which has matured from boyish crow to become a mellow instrument giving pleasure to many. His easy going tenor tones have also helped to raise hundreds of thousands of euro for a variety of good causes.

Stephen is the second youngest in a family of five boys and two girls raised by Simon and Mary Murphy amidst the prettiest of Wexford countryside in the Boro valley. His mother reminds him to this day that he had a lovely voice as a very young boy soprano – so never mind the failed try-out with Missus Horan.

He cut his teeth as a soloist on the altar at First Communion ceremonies and the like, the beginning of a musical association with the church that continues to this day. After slipping through the musical net at primary school, he graduated to Enniscorthy Vocational College – or the Technical School as it was referred to at the time.

And it was there in ' The Tech' that the initial steps along the road to show business success were taken, courtesy of science teacher Maurice McNamara. The enlightened staff member announced that he was willing to offer guitar lessons to fill the vacuum presented by a double free period on Wednesday afternoons.

A forest of young hands was raised in response but the initial intake of a dozen soon dwindled to more manageable numbers. Eventually there was no one left among the Bunsen burners and the Petri dishes of the science lab but Stephen and his friend Graham Walsh from Monageer, both strumming away with great enthusiasm.

'I got a passion for the guitar,' reminisces Murphy. 'I felt that I was going to be a rock star.' Then he re-considers his use of the word 'rock'. He knew from the start that he was no Rory Gallagher or Keith Richards. He was drawn instead to Christy Moore, Simon & Garfunkel and Cat Stevens at the gentler end of the pop spectrum.

Putting the notes to their songs was the challenge. The two lads would bolt down their chip buttie lunches, with added cheese, in order to be ready to go as soon as their tutor had finished his lunch. Whatever Maurice McNamara could not impart, finger picking specialist Eddie Crean filled in the gaps.

Eddie was the career guidance teacher at the school and his advice to the lads was to find themselves a proper job at the end of their secondary education. There were no obvious vacancies for soft rock stars. Graham went on to rise high in the ranks of the local Rayners aluminium firm while Stephen was taken on by the late Jack Kavanagh proprietor of the Peter Smyth hardware in Enniscorthy's Rafter Street.

It was a congenial place in which to labour, with characters (both now deceased) such as Larry Codd and Har Habernathy around to enliven the day. Stephen enjoyed the world of pick handles, keys for safes, and halters for bulls. He graduated to running the gardening section and then the lighting shop.

Jack Kavanagh's son Dermot appointed him shop manager and it seemed that his future lay in hardware. Then, ten years ago, at the age of 33, he decided to make a break and follow his star in music. It was a brave move for a father of four young children but, with the backing of wife Majella, he has made it pay. It was not at all a leap in the dark as he had been performing in public since he was 18.

The first gig remains clear in his memory. The venue was the Rafter Inn, just across the road from his place of work. He persuaded the licensee that he could be trusted not to put the patrons off their drink.

He recalls that it was obligatory at the time to attempt a rendition of ' Thank You Very Much Mister Eastwood', the Dermot Morgan skit on boxer Barry McGuigan. The experience did nothing to put him off the entertainment game and he soon linked up with fellow teenager Mattie Kinnaird who sang and played drums.

The duo, styling themselves Gipsy, were fortunate enough to secure a spot on the Strawberry Fair programme in Abbey Square. Their efforts prompted master of ceremonies the late Pat Taylor, clearly impressed, to predict: ' There's the future of music.' Unfortunately, Mattie quickly became past tense as he found it too difficult to juggle the night shift in Earle's bakery with a sideline as a musician.

Stephen was left to conjure with other line-ups and personnel as Gipsy was succeeded in turn by Alpine, Quest, Buckshot and Request. A combo called Bury the Hatchet had a short existence too. With the role of lead vocalist came the automatic job of being the front man, even in the early days when he was flanked by figures of much greater experience.

Among those with whom he has played over the years, in approximate chronological order, have been Jimmy 'Number 7' Murphy (bass); James Mahon (drums); Ivan Levingstone (on everything from steel guitar to harmonica); Harry Donohoe (bass); primary school friend John Hogan (drums); from Oylegate Tony Ryan (guitar); and the versatile Eugene Kenny (guitar and fiddle).

The Murphy persona has altered with fashion. When Garth Brooks was in his pomp, the ten gallon hat was an obvious accessory. These days smart, dark jackets seem to be in vogue. The approach is that the singer and his accomplices are happy to give the customers what they want. The band is in demand on the wedding reception front, while the solo singer is available for funeral and any other function that needs a dependable performer.

He certainly has an aversion to being idle and much of his energy is devoted to a range of good causes. He started with the 'pound socials' in the lounge of Murphy-Flood's hotel and has gone on to help raise hundreds of thousands of euro. The philanthropy has gone hand in hand with his recording career before blossoming most recently in the form of the hugely popular 'Celebrity Wannabe' charity event.

Back in 1988, Ivan Levingstone was keen to branch out from playing into having his own studio at home in John Street, Enniscorthy. Leslie Dunne was called in as producer to oversee a short album released on cassette called 'Quest from the Heart', featuring a cover of Randy Travis's 'Forever and Aver Amen'. Levingstone and Dunne have collaborated on almost all subsequent recording ventures.

'We did it for the hell of it,' remembers Stephen Murphy of the

initial effort and he soon found himself embarking on a series of projects that may yet earn him his place in heaven. They followed after he was prevailed upon by Fathers John Sweetman and John Carroll to sing at 12.30 Mass in St. Aidan's Cathedral. The first time he graced the altar was every bit as nerve-racking as his debut in the Rafter Inn. His first charity release was based around a song he wrote called 'Chernobyl Child' and the money (over €2,000) raised went to assist youngsters affected by the nuclear accident at in Ukraine. He then refined an approach to fundraising that has proven immensely successful working from the base the cathedral.

The 'HOPE with Stephen' CD was inspired by the foundation of the HOPE cancer support centre. The album prompted a six month tour of parishes around the diocese of Ferns that yielded €40,000 from sales of the music and concluded with a memorable concert in the Riverside Park hotel.

Murphy had the bug now. The same formula was adopted in support of the cancer care unit at Wexford General Hospital. This time the album created in John Street was entitled 'Care with Stephen'.

'I've been in more churches that the bishop,' boasts the singer with a laugh. Other causes that have taken benefit have included hospice home care and Crumlin Children's Hospital.

The latest and most extravagant fundraiser is the celebrity wannabe, devised around the principle that charities can make more of an impact if they club together to entertain. Stephen confesses that he took note of the success of Bernie O'Neill's version of 'Jigs 'n Reels' in coming up with a concept that also draws on 'X-Factor', ' The Eurovision Song Contest' and 'Stars in Their Eyes'.

He fleshed out the plan together after talking to Liam Dwyer of South East Radio and a committee was put together comprising Willie Plummer, Father David Murphy, Trish Boyce and Padraig Doyle. The initial venture last year pulled in a quarter million as Siobhán Busher and Ron O'Rourke took top spot for Console playing June Carter and Johnny Cash. Though the second edition currently under way may suffer a slight decline in takings, it is still providing a great show with its full quota of aspiring Danas and Elvises.

He says that his own wannabes include John Denver, Christy Moore, Doctor Hook and, yes, Garth Brooks – even if the man with the hat is not quite as popular as he used to be. Stephen Murphy is blessed with an ability to absorb the lyrics of all his heroes and retain the words of countless pop standards.

He continues to live in his home parish of Bree. He and wife Majella – a Glenbrien woman – have the four G's to their credit – Gemma (16), Gillian (16), Gary (13) and Gina (11). The song writing has been allowed to lapse in all the excitement of family life but he takes heart from Charlie Landsborough on whom fame came knocking late, when he was over 50. In the mean time, Stephen notes that he has been 25 years in the music business and plans for a celebrity concert to celebrate the milestone are beginning to form in his mind. In the mean time, he is happy performing for audiences at functions all over the South East corner of Ireland. ' There's still a living to be made in live music if you are prepared to work. I am making a good wage,' he says, 'and I get a kick out of entertaining people.'


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