The bluegrass scene along the US gulf coast lost one of their biggest champions last week when Pat Murphy died at his home in Mobile, AL. He was 67 years of age, and passed after an exhaustive battle with a colon cancer that was diagnosed early in 2018.
An active musician on banjo, Pat and his wife, Benita, had performed in and around Mobile most of their life together, which had run for 43 years. Pat died at home in hospice care on September 27, and had his family with him at the end.
In addition to performing on banjo, Pat was a serious student of bluegrass fiddle, and an avid studio engineer. In earlier days he also ran a successful live audio company that specialized in bluegrass and acoustic music. Pat and Benita’s band, Delta Reign, was very popular in Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi, and he made friends everywhere they played with his unmissable humor and wide and easy smile. They were just starting to make inroads to touring nationally, his lifelong dream, when the illness shut him down. They made two albums for Mountain Fever Records, Delta Reign and Nothing But Sky.
I am personally indebted to him for the kindness and friendship he showed to me during the 4 years I lived in Mobile. Having arrived knowing no one in town, Pat introduced me to the bluegrass community in the region, and our families became close as he lived near our home. I played many shows with the Murphys during that time, and followed them and their musical exploits ever since. While I follow the baseball playoffs this year I will think of him, as his beloved Atlanta Braves pursue championship dreams.
Though born and raised in Mobile, Pat and Benita lived for a few years in the Washington, DC area, moving there in the 1970s when it was the beacon of the bluegrass world. Their goal was to find work in the field, but they moved back home when their son, Sean, arrived.
Throughout his life, nothing mattered more than bluegrass, other than Benita and Sean. He would call when he found a new lick on the banjo, or had figured out how to execute something on his fiddle. It is unlikely that anyone in bluegrass from New Orleans to Pensacola failed to meet and remember Pat Murphy, either from seeing him with Delta Reign, earlier with The Marshall Family, or at a show where he did the live sound.
Pat worked as a paperhanger, and was as exacting in that field as he was with music, often traveling several states away to do a remodel for one of the major hotel chains. When his cancer was first discovered, he was able to continue working around the treatments, and he retained an upbeat attitude throughout, telling anyone who would listen that he would beat this. Sadly, that was not to be.
But it is as a member of the bluegrass community that he leaves his strongest legacy, one that will last at least through the living memories of his many friends.
R.I.P., Pat Murphy – good friend, and loyal bluegrass trooper.
A celebration of Life is scheduled for this Saturday, October 5th, at Christ United Methodist Church in Mobile. Visitation will be from 10:00-11:00 a.m., with the service to follow. Benita says that visitors should wear casual attire. “Pat would wear jeans.”