Tripti Joshi (Editor)

Walter Murphy

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
Years active

Walter Murphy


Walter Murphy A Fifth of Beethoven Walter Murphy and The Big Apple

Birth name
Walter Anthony Murphy, Jr.

December 19, 1952 (age 71) New York City (

Film scorebig bandclassicaldiscofunkjazzpopR&Bsoulsoft rockswing

Composerarrangerpianistmusiciansongwriterrecord producer

Pianoorgankeyboardbacking vocals

AmourMajorPrivate StockRSORepriseTKRCAMCAGeffen

Family Guy Presents: Seth & Alex's Almost Live Comedy Show

Music director
Ted, Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story, Foodfight!

Discosymphony, Family Guy: Live in Vegas, The Best of Walter Murphy, Trailer Tracks: Movie Tra, Phantom of the Opera

Walter murphy afternoon of a faun

Walter Anthony Murphy, Jr. (born December 19, 1952) is an American composer, arranger, pianist, musician, songwriter, and record producer. He is best known for the instrumental "A Fifth of Beethoven", a disco adaptation of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony which topped the charts in 1976 and was featured on the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. Further classicaldisco fusions followed, such as "Flight '76", "Rhapsody in Blue", "Toccata and Funk in 'D' Minor", "Bolero", and "Mostly Mozart", but were not as successful.


Walter Murphy Walter Murphy scores Seth MacFarlane39s Ted coming Dec 11

In a career spanning nearly five decades, Murphy has written music for numerous films and TV shows, including The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The Savage Bees, Stingray, Wiseguy, The Commish, Profit, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Looney Tunes, and How Murray Saved Christmas. He has had a long-running partnership with Seth MacFarlane, composing music for his films and TV shows such as Family Guy, The Cleveland Show, American Dad!, Ted, and Ted 2.

Walter Murphy wwwsuperseventiescom776gif

The walter murphy band a fifth of beethoven saturday night fever

Early life

Walter Murphy WALTER MURPHY A Fifth of Beethoven extended version

Murphy was born on December 19, 1952, in New York City, and grew up in Manhattan. At age four, he attended music lessons hosted by Rosa Rio, studying an array of instruments, including the organ and piano. Rio frequently opted for him to star in television advertisements for the Hammond organ.

Walter Murphy Walter Murphy A Fifth of Beethoven YouTube

Against the wishes of his father, who was a real estate agent and wished to pass down his business to his son, Murphy enrolled in the Manhattan School of Music in 1970; recalling his experiences with his father, Murphy stated "He wanted me to be a doctor or lawyer—or something you can depend on." There, Murphy studied jazz and classical piano; referring to his studies, he stated "There never was a time when I wasn't studying music." In 1972, he married Laurie Robertson, who worked in the plastics industry.

1970–76: Early years

In the early 1970s, Murphy was the leader of a band called WAM, which played R&B and soul covers. They gigged in the New York tri-state area, often at the New Rochelle club Pearly's.

In 1976, Murphy played piano on Peter Lemongello's second album Do I Love You.

1976–78: Private Stock years, breakthrough

In college, Murphy's interests included rock music, particularly that which was adapted from classical music, such as "Joy" by Apollo 100 and "A Lover's Concerto" by The Toys. Later, in 1976, he was writing a disco song for a commercial, when a producer gave him the idea of "updating classical music," which "nobody had done lately." He then recorded a demo tape of five songs—three were ordinary pop songs, while the fourth was a disco rendition of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony titled "A Fifth of Beethoven—and mailed it to various record labels in New York City. Response was generally unimpressive, but "Fifth" caught the interest of Private Stock Records owner Larry Uttal.

Murphy signed on to Private Stock and recorded the album A Fifth of Beethoven. The first single and title track, "A Fifth of Beethoven", was released on May 29, 1976. It was a hit, starting out at number 80 on the Billboard Hot 100 and eventually reaching number 1 within 19 weeks, where it stayed for one week. The single sold two million copies, while the album sold about 750,000 copies. The second single, a rendition of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee" titled "Flight '76", was less successful, reaching only number 44 on the Hot 100.

The record was credited to "Walter Murphy & The Big Apple Band" upon encouragement from Private Stock, who believed it would become a hit if credited to a group rather than an individual. However, two days following the record's release, Private Stock discovered the existence of another Big Apple Band (which promptly changed its name to Chic); the record was later re-released and credited to "The Walter Murphy Band", then just "Walter Murphy".

Following the success of "A Fifth of Beethoven", Murphy toured with his band and made guest appearances on shows such as Don Kirshner's Rock Concert, The Midnight Special, Dinah!, and American Bandstand. In addition, as a result of the single's success, Murphy and his wife were able to move out of their two-room apartment in Yonkers and into a rented ranch house in the same Westchester neighborhood. On the success of the single, he said: "It's really sad that the kids today can only relate to Beethoven via a rock version of his music." He hoped "that maybe if they've heard this much of his symphony, they'll go out and buy the original."

In 1977, "A Fifth of Beethoven" was licensed to RSO Records for inclusion on the soundtrack to the film Saturday Night Fever, giving it a new lease on life. Also that year, Murphy recorded the album Rhapsody in Blue, which contained a similar mix of classical-disco fusion and self-penned pop songs. Two singles were released: a disco treatment of George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue", and the self-penned instrumental "Uptown Serenade." The former narrowly missed the top 100, but received significant play on easy-listening stations, according to Billboard.

In 1978, Murphy recorded the album Phantom of the Opera, a concept album telling the story of The Phantom of the Opera, featuring Gene Pistilli as Erik/The Phantom, B.G. Gibson as Raoul, and Renée Geyer as Christine. The album spawned three singles: "Dance Your Face Off"/"Gentle Explosion" (a double A-side), "Toccata and Funk in 'D' Minor", and "The Music Will Not End". The latter was a Top 40 hit, but the former failed to make the club or radio charts.

1979–82: Move to RCA, Uncle Louie, move to MCA

Murphy signed on to RCA in 1979, and released the album Walter Murphy's Discosymphony. The album spawned the singles "Bolero" and "Mostly Mozart"; the latter failed to chart, indicating that Murphy had taken the "classical disco" concept as far as it could go.

Also in 1979, Murphy joined with brothers Eddie and Frank Dillard, forming the band Uncle Louie. They signed on to TK Records and released one album, Uncle Louie's Here, which explored a more aggressive, funk-based angle than Murphy's solo albums. The album spawned three singles: "Full-Tilt Boogie", which reached number 19 on the Billboard R&B chart, "I Like Funky Music", and "Sky High".

In 1982, Murphy signed on to MCA Records and recorded Themes from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and More. The album contained disco and pop-tinged arrangements of themes to popular movies of the time, such as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Indiana Jones, and Poltergeist. The album spawned one single, a medley of "Themes from ET (The Extra-Terrestrial)", which climbed to number 47 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Film and television career

During an appointment with Bobby Rosengarden, bandleader of the Dick Cavett Show orchestra, Murphy convinced the group to play some of his arrangements when he found Rosengarden to be absent. Looking back on the situation, he stated "I still can't believe I did it. I'm not a very forward person." Since the band "wasn't very busy," they performed his arrangements live and enjoyed them, convincing Murphy to write more.

In April 1972, a fellow student from the Manhattan School of Music introduced Murphy to Doc Severinsen, musical director of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Murphy presented his arrangements to Severinsen, who liked them enough to have The Tonight Show Band play them live. However, The Tonight Show moved production to Burbank, California a month later, and a final year of college prevented Murphy from joining them.

In 1974, Murphy joined Thomas J. Valentino's company Valentino, Inc., composing much of their library music for film and television over the years.

From 1970 to 1980, Murphy worked as a Manhattan Avenue jingle writer, writing for such clients as Lady Arrow shirts, Revlon, Woolworth's, Viasa Airlines, and Korvette's, as well as arrangements for the popular television series Big Blue Marble.

In 1985, Murphy collaborated with Rick James, Issac Hayes, and Mike Post on scoring music for The A-Team episode "The Heart of Rock 'N Roll".

Since 1999, Murphy has served as one of the two main composers for the animated series Family Guy, the other being Ron Jones. He has described his scores for Family Guy as "a combination of [big-band swing and action-orchestral]." The song "You've Got a Lot to See", composed for the episode "Brian Wallows and Peter's Swallows", won the award for Outstanding Music and Lyrics at the 2002 Emmy Awards. In 2005, Murphy scored music for the offshoot album Family Guy: Live in Vegas.

Since 2005, Murphy is one of the composers for MacFarlane's American Dad!, the other two being Joel McNeely and Ron Jones, as well as composing the series' theme song "Good Morning USA".

From 2009 to 2013, Murphy composed music for MacFarlane's short-lived series The Cleveland Show, including the main title theme.

In 2012, Murphy scored MacFarlane's film Ted, and received an Academy Award for Best Original Song nomination for co-writing "Everybody Needs a Best Friend" with MacFarlane.

Guest appearances

  • Don Kirshner's Rock Concert (1976)
  • The Midnight Special (1976–77)
  • American Bandstand (1976)
  • The Mike Douglas Show (1976–77; 1979)
  • The Merv Griffin Show (1976–77)
  • Dinah! (1976–77)
  • Dick Clark's Live Wednesday (1978)
  • 21st Annual Grammy Awards (1979)
  • Score! The Music of 'Family Guy' (2005)
  • Family Guy: Creating the Chaos (2009)
  • Seth & Alex's Almost Live Comedy Show (2009)
  • 85th Academy Awards (2013)
  • Orchestrator

  • Teacher's Pet (2004)
  • Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas (2004)
  • References

    Walter Murphy Wikipedia