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About Jeff Murphy

Best known as guitarist and singer with the seminal power pop band Shoes, Jeff Murphy was born and raised in Zion, Illinois and developed a passion for both music and recording technology at a young age, obtaining a record player and a 45 of "Rock Around the Clock" in 1961. Murphy was influenced by the Beatles and the many great British Invasion acts that came in their wake, as well as formative smart pop acts such as Badfinger and Big Star, and in 1973 Jeff began forming a band with his brother John Murphy and their friend Gary Klebe. With Jeff and Gary on guitars, John on bass, and Skip Meyer on drums (who met Gary when he was going out with his sister), the four adopted the name Shoes, and rather than playing live shows, they concentrated on writing songs and recording, using a makeshift studio setup centered on Jeff's TEAC four-track reel-to-reel machine. While the group recorded a pair of albums in 1975 (One in Versailles and Bazooka), they were only distributed among friends, and Shoes' proper debut came with 1977's Black Vinyl Shoes. Originally released on Shoes' own Black Vinyl Records label, the album became a massive critical success and was reissued by the well-established independent label PVC/Jem Records. The success of Black Vinyl Shoes attracted the attention of Elektra Records, who signed the band and shipped them off to England to record 1979's Present Tense at a lavish 24-track facility. While Present Tense and its 1981 follow-up, Tongue Twister, received positive press and sold reasonably well, Shoes were reluctant to tour, which prevented them from scoring a breakthrough hit, and after 1982's Boomerang, Shoes parted ways with Elektra. Boomerang was the first Shoes album recorded at the band's new studio, a fully professional 24-track facility in Zion called Short Order Recorder, and Jeff helped manage the studio and produced other artists there while Shoes took their time making their next album. 1984's Silhouette, recorded after Skip Meyer left the band, was initially released only in Europe, but when Shoes regained the rights to their Elektra albums, they revived their Black Vinyl label and released the compilation CD Shoes Best, which spawned a resurgence of interest in the band. In 1989, Shoes issued Stolen Wishes, another critical success, and since then, Jeff Murphy and his bandmates have emerged every several years with new recordings and archival projects documenting their painstaking efforts, all issued through Black Vinyl Records. Jeff also kept busy as a producer, working in the studio with Material Issue, the Sneetches, the Squares, and Herb Eimerman, the latter of whom also wrote and recorded a collaborative album with Jeff under the name the Nerk Twins. In 2006, Jeff published his first book, a memoir about the band's rise to the spotlight titled Birth of a Band: The Record Deal and the Making of Present Tense. The following year, after Short Order Recorder closed down, Murphy rediscovered home recording and cut his first solo album, Cantilever, writing all the songs and playing all the instruments himself. ~ Mark Deming