Walter Anthony Murphy, Jr. (Also Known as Uncle Louie) (born 19 December 1952) is a pianist, composer, and arranger who had a massive hit with the instrumental, "A Fifth of Beethoven", a disco adaptation of some passages of the first movement of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, in 1976, when disco was at the height of its popularity.
Murphy was born in 1952, in New York City, New York, USA and grew up in Manhattan. He attended the Manhattan School of Music there, where he studied jazz and classical piano. After finishing school, Murphy served as an arranger for Doc Severinsen and the Tonight Show Band, before becoming a jingle writer. Murphy was the leader of a band called WAM in the early 1970s that played the NYC tristate area. The band was a poor man's Tower of Power and played R&B and Soul cover music. They frequently played a club in New Rochelle named Pearly's. Another group which played this local circuit was the Billy Vera band. In the early 1970s, Murphy became interested in adapting classical music into disco songs and coming out with hits, after seeing two songs of different genres based on composer Johann Sebastian Bach's music, "Joy" by Apollo 100, and "A Lover's Concerto" by the Toys, become popular. To try to attain this feat, Murphy made a demo tape with disco adaptations of several classical and neo-classical works in it, and mailed it to every record label in New York City. The response was unimpressive, and only a rendition of Ludwig Beethoven's "Symphony No. 5 In 'C' Minor" generated any interest amongst the various labels. This interest led to the owner of Private Stock Records, Larry Uttal, giving Murphy the chance to record the rendition, which was creatively dubbed "A Fifth of Beethoven".
Even though Murphy played nearly every instrument on the instrumental, his record company cautioned that the record would stand a better chance if credited to a group rather than an individual. To Walter's annoyance, they came up with the name Walter Murphy and The Big Apple Band, only to discover two days after its release that there was already a Big Apple Band. The name on the label was changed to The Walter Murphy Band and then simply to Walter Murphy.
The song when released entered the Hot 100 at number 80 on May 29, 1976, and took 19 weeks to reach number 1, where it stayed for one week. Early in 1977, it was licensed to RSO Records for inclusion on the soundtrack to the movie, Saturday Night Fever. The second single from the album, "Flight '76", based on Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee", didn't fare as well however, only reaching 44 on the Hot 100.
His next release was a 12" single, "Rhapsody in Blue", which featured "A Fifth of Beethoven" on the b-side that sold somewhat well, possibly due to the b-side. The song narrowly missed the top 100, but received significant play on "easy-listening" stations, according to Billboard. A second 12" single of "Gentle Explosion", failed to make the club or radio charts in 1978. A move to RCA in 1979 produced one more 12" single, "Mostly Mozart", which proved that Murphy had taken this concept as far as it could go. Murphy was also creator of the Uncle Louie album Uncle Louie's Here which explored a more funk angle (Marlin LP via TK Records, 1979) His last chart entry was in 1982 with a medley of "Themes From E.T. (The Extra-Terrestrial)" which climbed to number 47 on the Hot 100.
Since then, Murphy has gone back to jingle writing, and has written music for numerous cartoons and TV shows, including Channel Umptee-3, Family Guy, its recent offshoot album, Family Guy: Live in Vegas, the main title music for The Cleveland Show and the main title music for American Dad!. The song "You've Got A Lot To See", composed for the Family Guy episode "Brian Wallows and Peter's Swallows" won the award for Outstanding Music and Lyrics at the 2002 Emmy Awards.
* A Fifth of Beethoven - Private Stock 2015 (1976)
* Rhapsody In Blue - Private Stock 2028 (1977)
* Phantom Of The Opera - Private Stock 7010 (1978)
* Walter Murphy's Discosymphony - N.Y. Intl./RCA 3506 (1979)
* Uncle Louie's Here (as Uncle Louie) - Marlin LP via TK (1979)
* Themes From E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial AND MORE - MCA 6114 (1982)
* Family Guy: Live in Vegas (2005)
* "A Fifth of Beethoven" (1976)
* "Flight '76" (1976)
* "Rhapsody In Blue" (1977)
* "A Night At The Opera" (1978)
* "Gentle Explosion" (1978)
* "Bolero" (1979)
* "Full-Tilt Boogie" (as Uncle Louie - 1979)
* "I Like Funky Music" (as Uncle Louie - 1979)
* "Themes From E.T." (1982)
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