Bonding through Bluegrass
It's a cold, damp February day. I've driven down a small side road and turned onto a gravel road, winding through field and forest. I finally stop the car at an old, one-room church and school house, Old Union. My dad has led the way out here - he's my assistant for the day. To the right of the building lay a cemetery, and my dad starts examining the tombstones. We're waiting for three friends - Gevan, Aaron, and Peyton Murphy. These three men comprise the Murphy Bluegrass Boys and play music just for the sake of making melody.
Aaron and Peyton first started playing in 2006. At that time, Aaron was playing mandolin and Peyton guitar. In October of the same year, Peyton bought a couple mandolins through eBay, and the two swapped roles. They became a trio when Gevan, their father, was given a restored 100-year-old upright bass in 2008 by the boys and their mother.
"There are two kinds of bass players," Gevan remarks, "There are some who just get by and some that are good. I just get by."
Humility runs in the veins of this family - unassuming and kind-hearted. But when they pick up their instruments and begin playing, they show that they've got more than good manners up their sleeves.
The Murphy Bluegrass Boys don't have a regular schedule of "touring," but one event they make sure to attend is the annual United Cerebral Palsy Bluegrass Benefit at The Forum in Jonesboro, AR.
Gevan jokes, "It's the closest I've come to the Grand Ole Opry…dressing rooms and everything."
When not picking and singing together, Gevan is a pharmacist in Imboden, AR and became a part of the Imboden community in 1978. Aaron, the second of three brothers is a dentist in the same town, and Peyton, the youngest, branched off to work for the Social Security office in Benton, AR. He also held the 2011 runner-up spot in the state-wide Mandolin Picking contest. True to form, Peyton won't bring that up, but it's obvious the boy has some talent.
The Murphy family grew up singing in church, namely the Imboden church of Christ. They attribute their ability to harmonize to their A Capella upbringing.
"My favorite [songs are] when we all get to sing three-part harmony," says Aaron, "We'll sing it one way through and one of us might have trouble breaking into the three parts. We just stop and say, 'Well, when we get to that point, you just sing the lead and I'll drop down and sing the other part.' Sometimes it's just a matter of finding the right mix."
"It takes a real man to sing tenor!" Peyton says while we all have a good laugh.
In fact, all of us in that room sing tenor quite often, so there were no disagreements there.
"We have considered making a CD recently," remarks Peyton. "We have a banjo player that plays with us some, who is really good."
"For the fun of it," Aaron breaks in, "not to make a buck on it."
They ultimately just want a record of what they've done and be able to pass that along in their family. In fact, they would love to involve more family into the mix.
"We're trying to expand it a little," says Aaron, "Ava (his daughter) sings with us some, Luke (one of his sons) would love to sing with us. We just haven't found him the right song. I'm thinking about getting him a banjo…It would be neat to keep it going a bit."
However long they keep it going, the Murphy Bluegrass Boys will continue to share their love of music with their family and anyone who'll listen.
For further information and performance dates, follow the Murphy Bluegrass Boys on Facebook.