Landau Eugene Murphy Jr.
In November 2010, Landau Eugene Murphy and his wife Jennifer left their hometown of Logan, WV for New York City, where they stood for over twelve hours outside the Jacob Javits Convention Center in Manhattan. They were among the thousands of people – young and old, singers, dancers, jugglers, mimes, and more -- lined up to audition for NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.” It would take several more hours for Landau to finally get inside and sing a few bars, and his day grew even longer as he sang for one producer after another. Soon, he was the last one sitting in a huge rehearsal hall. “I knew that was a good sign,” remembers Jennifer.
The rest as they say is history. After receiving standing ovations from judges Sharon Osbourne, Piers Morgan and Howie Mandel, singing a sizzling duet with the iconic Patti LaBelle, and crooning a rousing rendition of “My Way,” Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. was named the winner of AGT’s sixth season on Sept. 14, 2011. Just in time for Christmas 2011, Syco/Columbia Records released Landau’s first album, "That’s Life" and it debuted at number one on the Billboard jazz charts and the top 40 overall. Not only did his unique singing style make him stand out from all of his competition, Landau’s humility, charm and confidence endeared him to the AGT judges, viewers and audiences at his sold-out concert tour that launched in December 2011 and is still going strong.
Many have compared Landau’s smooth vocals and phrasing to that of Frank Sinatra, a singer he’s always admired. That’s why many of the tracks from “That’s Life” are Sinatra standards, but Landau does them his way. “I put my own voice and my own soul into this album. For a lot of music fans, especially older people, I can bring back some happy memories. And hopefully I can create new memories for generations to come. I think I think my album encompasses all of that. I want to give back as much as possible and stay true to the people who supported me,” he says.
Landau worked side by side with legendary record producer and GRAMMY Award winner, Steve Tyrell, himself an aficionado of Sinatra’s music on "That's Life". During his storied 40-year music career, Tyrell has scored movies (That Thing You Do, Father of the Bride), produced albums for dozens of top artists (most recently, Rod Stewart’s #1 album, Stardust: The Great American Songbook Volume III, Diana Ross, Ray Charles, Smokey Robinson, Linda Ronstadt, Mary J Blige, Chris Botti, Bonnie Raitt, Bette Midler and Stevie Wonder among them) and recorded his own albums.
“I loved working with him” says Landau. “He’s so cool. We got along so well – he totally understood me and he brought out the best in me.” The vocals for the album were recorded in Houston and then in LA at the legendary Capitol studio “B” with a full orchestra on the same hallowed ground where Sinatra, Dean Martin, Judy Garland, Nat King Cole and others have recorded so many classics. Tyrell and Landau have since performed together in New York, Los Angeles and Baltimore to audiences enthralled by the two vocal pros.
As part of his AGT prize, Landau realized a lifelong dream and headlined a show at the Colosseum Theater at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas – the legendary playground for Sinatra and his iconic Rat Pack. Other tour stops include the legendary Apollo Theatre, the DTE Energy Center in Detroit with Motown's legendary Temptations, headlining appearances at the West Virginia and California State Fair, a Superbowl appearance, a televised performance at The Hollywood Christmas Parade and a string of sold out headlining shows across the USA (many supporting local charities). Major media appearances have included The Today Show, Anderson Cooper, The View, The Talk, The Wendy Williams Show, Fox and Friends, CNN, The Tom Joyner Show, Scott and Todd on WPLJ, Good Day LA, and many more. He's also honored his country by singing the National Anthem at Madison Square Garden, WVU's Mountaineer Field, prior to a Marshall University/LSU matchup and at several other public events.
This sudden rise to fame has been in keeping with Landau’s roller-coaster ride of a life. As a young man, he was once reduced to homelessness, sleeping in his car; he worked as a car washer during the months leading up to his TV performances -- and was down to his last pair of pants and jacket when he arrived to sing at his America's Got Talent audition. “We didn’t discuss this during the show because we didn’t want people feeling sorry for us. But my wife and I had been away taking care of her mother, who had just been hospitalized, and someone broke into our house and cleaned us out. They robbed us blind. And we were so heartbroken. Thank goodness we were able to move in with my mother-in-law. We had no place else to go.” After they got over the initial shock of their situation, Landau said he began to take stock of what they had left, physically and emotionally. “I remember lying on the bed, looking at the ceiling. Jennifer was so down. I was talking to God and I heard him say, ‘You need to get on a bigger stage – and hold your head up.’ That’s when I knew I had to try out for ‘America’s Got Talent’.”
“My father was a coal miner and he really loves music; my mother is from a musical family, too. After my parents split up when I was 8, I moved with my mother and two brothers and two sisters to Detroit,” Landau explains. “It was completely different from Logan; I had to get used to the streets. My focus wasn’t on school” and he dropped out in the 11th grade to put his energy into looking out for the safety of himself and his family. “Church and basketball were the only things that got me out of the house and kept me going. I played for a church league, which kept me off the streets and they would take us to events where we could eat. Basketball was my first love and I grew up playing basketball with some great ballplayers like NBA star Chris Webber. There were times when I’d make a shot or dunk on someone and I’d run back down the court with a smile on my face singing ‘Fly Me To The Moon’, everyone got a big kick out of it.”
After moving back home to Logan in the late 1990's, Landau renewed a friendship with a childhood friend, Jennifer Carter. “We started working together at a restaurant” where she was a manager and they finally married in 2005. The proud husband and father of five says “I love my kids and my wife with all my heart, more than anything, I want to make sure that they don’t have the same struggles I have had. I want them to have more opportunities. I want them to be able to do what they want to do.”
Despite having gone from wash rags to riches, “I’m still happiest when I’m with my family. I like it when there is no stress and I’m doing what I want to do – which is to sing.” - landaumurphyjr.com