Sunday, April 24, 2011

Grandpa! Grandpa! or Oh, Earl!

The Earl of Murphy
Last night, Janice and I attended a "wake" to celebrate the life of Earl Murphy. Earl was 93. It proved  that there must be life everlasting...something that we celebrate on this Easter Sunday. I have never been in the presence of so many people having so much fun in memory of a man that was truly a force of nature.

Andy Carlson, Earl's grandson, did a masterful job of organizing a musical/verbal tribute to his grandfather. There were the Murphy in laws, outlaws, and kinlin' from everywhere. One of Earl's great-grand daughters took the stage, read a poem she had written, and made the point that Earl's dying was like losing a library. One of the granddaughters sang a waltz that she remembered Earl playing with Andy on fiddle. I loved it. Hope I can go with as much dignity and love as Earl received from his family and friends.

Andy Carlson learned to play fiddle with  Grandpa Earl, and carried it on to a Doctorate in Violin. He played Earl's fiddle for this occasion, with a set of strings he found in the mailbox after Earl died. Earl, like most fiddlers, never found a set of strings he liked. The Murphy clan all seem to play, sing, write or tell great stories about the antics of  Grandpa.

One of the highlights of the night was Andy's putting together all the bands he and Grandpa had played with in the past 20 years. I saw people I hadn't seen in a while. The music selections were those that Earl had played, or caused to be played, in his years of "stage managing". Earl WAS the show.

Charlie Hartness recounted the story of Earl's mantra's. Here are two of many... What the Hell and I Don't Give a Damn. Charlie and Nancy went to play with Earl one afternoon...and were a bit late. He was waiting, fiddle already out and tuned...and lying on the couch. They tuned up and asked Earl what he wanted to play. His words were whatthehell,Idon'tgiveadamn, as he ripped into a fiddle tune. Typical Earl...long as he was playing the really didn't give a damn, that's how deeply the music was embedded in his soul.

Andy played a version of Oshogan's Farewell, at his Mom's request, that would bring tears to the eyes of a cigar store Indian. David Blackmon and his wife Nowell, played a waltz inspired by Earl. Andy and his brother played one of my favorites, Marmaduke's Hornpipe, a tune I heard in West Virginia, but never as Earl played it! The music went on and on last night. I even played a tune in his memory.

The fiddle tunes, stories, antics and giggles Earl Murphy brought to the people of Athens embodied some 150 years of music from his Dad and Grandad he had learned in Missouri and elsewhere. Earl did the right thing with the gift...he past it on. Earl Murphy was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award at Merle Fest last year...icing on the cake for a lifetime of fiddling.

Earl, you were a blessing to your family and to those lucky enough to share in your music. We'll drink a toast to your memory when we get together for a session. Jack Daniel's or Bushmill's only. You taught us well!

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