Elliott Murphy was born on Long Island, grew up in Garden City, and has roots on the East End, so his appearance next week at the Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett, when he will perform in a duet with guitarist Olivier Durand on Friday, December 12, is a homecoming from all sorts of angles.
With his parents in show business, music was part of Mr. Murphy’s makeup from an early age. He first struck gold with his 1973 album “Aquashow,” named after his father’s 1950s entertainment extravaganza that included the Duke Ellington Orchestra at the former site of the World’s Fair in Queens.
His next three albums, “Lost Generation,” “Night Lights” and “Just A Story in America,” released in succession between 1975 and 1977, were as successful as the debut, and a decade after winning the New York State Battle of the Bands as a teenager with his group, The Rapscallions, Mr. Murphy had become a star.
But like many musicians who were poured in the mold of Bob Dylan and who came of age on the streets during New York City’s downtown folk and rock revolution, Mr. Murphy was driven to Europe after the face of mainstream American music changed with the rise of disco and the emergence of hard rock bands like Led Zeppelin in the late 1960s and early ’70s, followed by the R&B and pop explosion of the 1980s.
As a result, Mr. Murphy toured Europe constantly in the ’80s, playing on the streets and in bars from the northern port of Amsterdam to the southern tip of Spain. He finally moved with his wife and son to Paris in 1989, and today his performances sell out concert halls around Europe on a regular basis.
“I came to Europe at a very young age to sing on the streets, and that experience really changed my life,” Mr. Murphy said during a recent phone interview from France. “What’s most interesting about Europe is how much attention they pay to the lyrics. I always say that literature is my religion and rock-and-roll is my addiction, and they appreciate both.”
Mr. Murphy, who is also an accomplished author of novels, poetry and short stories, returns to Long Island often, and has family living in Amagansett and Wainscott. But he has not been on an official American tour since 2000. The release of his 30th studio album, titled “Notes from the Underground,” coincided with his son Gaspar’s departure for college at the State Univer-
sity of New York at Purchase this year, so Mr. Murphy found the stars lined up right for an American tour, which will span venues from New York to California.
“I love America and my roots are there so I’m very moved each time I get back,” Mr. Murphy said. “I really am very enthusiastic about playing for Americans again.”
What Mr. Murphy and Mr. Durand’s audiences will hear are two masters of the guitar playing some tunes that date back 40 years, and others that are fresh from the new album. The two began playing together 12 years ago, after a record producer told Mr. Murphy that he needed to “find his Keith Richards,” referring to the iconic guitarist of the Rolling Stones.
“And I found him in Olivier,” Mr. Murphy said.
“Notes from the Underground”—which, like the 25 albums he recorded after his early successes, was released independent of a major record label—is a mix of Mr. Murphy’s trademark ballads, songs that are sung from the heart and based on his own personal experience, and more upbeat, rock-and-roll tracks that have also been the basis of his signature style ever since he was a teenager.
“I’ve always been a rock-and-roll musician,” Mr. Murphy said. “It’s been a good 10 years since I played the Talkhouse, and I played there back in the ’70s before it was the Talkhouse we know today. And I really do love playing there. What’s so important to me, especially with this tour, is that feeling of intimacy.”
While Mr. Murphy enjoys the closeness of a venue like the Talkhouse, he is no stranger to larger audiences. Last June, he and Gaspard, who is also an accomplished guitarist, performed live with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band before 50,000 fans in Paris, joining the band for its institutional hit and the state song of New Jersey, “Born to Run.”
Mr. Murphy said that playing with Mr. Springsteen, which he does on a regular basis when the E Street Band tours Europe, is like “getting on a roller coaster that’s passing you by at a hundred miles an hour.”
“The thrill of being on stage with Bruce and his incredible musicians is incomparable,” Mr. Murphy said. “They always treat me like one of the band.”
Back on Long Island next week, Mr. Murphy will be welcomed home by friends and family, and the guitarist who now makes his home abroad is looking forward to some of America’s more simple pleasures.
“I always miss the cheeseburgers and the ice cream,” he said. And then he was reminded that the food, drink and music he has enjoyed in France over the past 20 years has been pretty good as well.
“Yeah, I do have it pretty good over here,” he said with a laugh.
Elliott Murphy will perform at the Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett on Friday, December 12. Opening the show at 7:30 p.m. will be multicultural singer-songwriter Jann Klose, with Mr. Murphy and Olivier Durand taking the stage immediately following. Tickets are $20, and include both performances; for reservations or more information, call 267-3117.