Matt “Guitar” Murphy, best known as one of the stalwarts of the Blues Brothers Band and a renowned sideman with Howlin’ Wolf, Memphis Slim, Muddy Waters, James Cotton and many others, has died. He was 88 and his death was confirmed by his nephew, Floyd Murphy Jr., on Facebook.
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Murphy gained his biggest audience as a member of the band in the Blues Brothers movies, appearing as the beleagured husband of cafe owner Aretha Franklin, insisting that he was “the man” when Franklin objected to him re-joining the band.
Murphy appeared in the 1980 film and its follow-up, Blues Brothers 2000 (1998), both directed by John Landis. He also played in the Blues Brothers Band with John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd when the group played its eventual top 20 pop hit “Soul Man” on Saturday Night Live in 1978. He would perform with the band until the early 2000s, when he was slowed by a stroke.
Murphy was born in Sunflower, MS., in December 1929, moving to Memphis with his family when he was a toddler. Murphy and his brother, Floyd, became a fixture on the Memphis blues scene when they were in their teens, and Matt moved on to pick up a legendary résumé as a sideman for some of the greatest blues musicians ever. In the 1970s, he was best known as a sideman with harpist James Cotton before joining in the Blues Brothers.
Murphy fronted his own band starting in 1982 and toured up until recently. He played a reunion show with Cotton in 2010, and appeared at the April 2013 Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival at Madison Square Garden in New York.