Roy Murray – OBX Music Legend
Roy Murray is a Renaissance man; in the world of music, his titles include: Wedding Music Specialist, private music instructor, and regular guest musician at churches and worship centers throughout the area. But what many folks do not know is that before he arrived for the quiet life on the Outer Banks, Roy Murray was in a rock band with four Billboard Top 20 Hits. “People on the Outer Banks pretty much know that I did something famous, but they’re not really sure what and I’m kind of vague about it.” Just ask to see the leather pants.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Murray attended the Combs School of Music “for average kids like me, not the prodigies.” Down the street was the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music, the “greatest music school in the world.” Fate would have it that Curtis teachers also guest-taught at Combs, allowing “Mr. ‘Not Prodigy’ student to be taught by the greatest music teachers in the world.” After graduation, Murray packed up and moved to San Francisco in the late 1960s to become a professional musician.
At a time fraught with tension over the Vietnam War and anti-establishment protests, Murray’s band, Naked Lunch, found itself in the heart of the action. “We were busy stopping the war in Vietnam. I was in bands of protests.” Naked Lunch participated in rallies with Creedence Clearwater Revival and the notorious activist Abbie Hoffman. Murray was even present at the Bastille Day People’s Park riot at University of California at Berkeley in 1969. “I miss dealing with the issues of the time. Back then, I was always involved in issues of national [importance].”
At the age of 23, Murray and several former Naked Lunch band members formed the Latin Rock sensation Malo, which included seven members of the iconic Santana family. “My dream was to be in a band, and have that band be something big,” states Murray. Malo “brought to the American public, Latin rhythms, lyrics and horns.” Suggestion: If you don’t own a Malo CD or album, search for the band’s hits, “Suavecito” and “Café,” sit back and let the sensational music, especially Murray’s trumpet and trombone solos, wash over you.
Murray toured with the band non-stop for the next fifteen years and recalls, “out of those 15 years, I performed in every state before I was 25.” During free time on tour stops, Murray visited every National Park within 200 miles. Murray said that seeing the geography of this nation from coast to coast was a thrill adding, “My thing wasn’t to smoke this dope and go back to the hotel room [like many musicians.]” For Roy Murray, touring was not about the drugs or living the fast life, rather it was all about enjoying the view from the window.
Those fifteen years with Malo meant Murray shared the stage with rock and roll legends like Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Fleetwood Mac, the Grateful Dead, and Jefferson Airplane. They played at the historic Fillmore West Club in San Francisco and the WhiskeyaGoGo in LA. After fifteen years, Roy left the band due to infighting and settled on the Outer Banks in 1990.
When asked what he misses about the old days, Roy answers, “going up on stage and giving it everything I had. Nobody was greater than the other when we were up [there]. Every member of the band came forward and played their hearts out. We put it all out on stage.” Murray adds, “with Malo, the band was the star, not a front man or a lead guitarist.”
Now in his mid-sixties, Murray splits his time between two businesses. As a Wedding Music Specialist, he coordinates a team of ten, local musicians for upwards of 80 weddings a year. As a private music instructor, Murray has provided over 30,000 music lessons over the past 20 years to students who want to perfect their skills, learn a new instrument, or go professional. With students whose ages range from three to eighty-three, he said he “eagerly awaits which students will eventually hit the top pop charts.”
Murray uses his own experiences in a successful rock band to teach his students about the joys and pitfalls of being a professional musician. One incident in particular still haunts him. In 1999, Sugar Ray had a massive worldwide hit with the single ‘Every Morning’ which sampled heavily from a Malo song. Lead singer Mark McGrath said in a 1999 interview with MTV News, “We referenced ‘Suavecito’ because growing up in California, you know, that was just like the low rider anthem. Any car show or swap meet you’d ever go by, you’d always hear that [song] and that just stuck in your mind.” Due to contractual loopholes, Murray and his fellow band members never saw a dime from their sampled work. Now, when former students are offered recording contracts, Roy advises them so they are rewarded for their hard work.
Most comforting for Murray these days is his faith. “I never touched a Bible until I came to the Outer Banks and now it’s the most important thing in my life,” Roy notes with conviction. In 2013, he recorded an album of Latin faith rock with former Malo member Martin Cantu and his band L-Rey. “This CD encapsulates what I am today – it’s faith-based. It’s all about the gospel.” Murray adds with a smile, “I’m a classically trained rock’n’roller who now plays in church.”
While Murray is a guest artist at several churches, he and his family attend the Church of the Outer Banks which matches his personal philosophy summed up by fellow Combs graduate John Coltrane: “Our music is the spiritual expression of what we are. Our faith, our knowledge and our beings.”♦