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Michele Murphy

Liberty Hill, Texas

Records with Sonobeat in 1972-1973 & 1975-1976
No commercial releases on Sonobeat Records
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A song recorded specifically to promote Michele to Kerville Folk Festival empresario Rod Kennedy

It's 1972 – possibly a hot, humid summer day – when multitalented 22-year-old singer/songwriter/guitarist/dancer Michele Sandra Murphy begins work on an album of original compositions and cover songs for Sonobeat co-founder and producer Bill Josey Sr. In sessions spanning about a year, Michele records ten songs at Sonobeat Studios in the KVET Building on North Lamar, in Austin, Texas. The tracks are intended for release as an album entitled Round Mountain Road, taking its title from one of Michele's original songs. The song itself refers to Round Mountain, Texas, population less than 75, about 30 miles southwest of Liberty Hill, where at one point Michele lives in what appears to be a hippie community (but not commune). In April 1973, Bill suggests to friend Rod Kennedy, founder of the Kerrville Folk Festival, that Michelle perform at the event, then entering its second year. On the strength of the demo tape that Bill sends Rod, which features Michele's original song When I'm With You, she gets the gig.

Michele picks some dramatic songs to cover in her Sonobeat recordings, including an inspired, languid interpretation of Summertime from Porgy and Bess. But Michele also records original songs to fill out the album, all of which show off her exceptional guitar and vocal skills. We don't know why Sonobeat never releases Michele's recordings, but we suspect that Bill Sr. circulates demo tapes to his contacts at the large national labels, seeking an album deal that never materializes. Michele continues to record on and off with Sonobeat into 1976, although none of her tracks is ever commercially released. In what we believe to be her final Sonobeat session, on April 17, 1976, Michele cuts a handful of original songs, including Easy Chair, Finest Man, Give Me A Window, and I'm Glad I Did It But I'm Sorry I Did It To You. Michele's is the next-to-last session that Bill Sr. conducts (Al & Alec's sessions in May or June are believed to be the last).

When Bill's studio lease at the KVET Building is expiring in mid-1973, Michele suggests that he move Sonobeat to Liberty Hill, a tiny, quiet rural community 30 miles north of Austin, where Michele lives. Harking to Michele's suggestion, Bill outfits an old stone A.M.E. church on the outskirts of Liberty Hill as his "Blue Hole Sounds" studio. It's also in Liberty Hill that Michele opens her first full-time music school, in 1975, offering a mixture of piano, guitar, and dance instruction. Notably, Liberty Hill is where outlaw country music legend Willie Nelson's 1975 Fourth of July Picnic and music festival is held. In that same year, Michele accompanies Arma Harper on vocals for his The Liberty Hill Song, which she includes in the Streets of Liberty Hill musical review, based on historical events in and around Liberty Hill, that Michele writes and directs for the community's celebration of the Texas Sesquecentennial.

Musicians’ brains are different. Learning music produces changes in the connections between the prefrontal lobe and the cerebellum. It takes three weeks for us to make that change. During the second week of camp, the kids are nervous. They wonder if they’ll ever be able to get the songs down. Then, during the third week, it all comes together.
Michele "Mike" Murphy, reflecting on how she teaches kids to play rock music by ear, quoted in Jesse Sublet's article on Natural Ear Music camp in The Texas Observer (November 14, 2008)

Michele, known today as "Mike", eventually moves to Austin, where for two decades she plays rhythm guitar and sings backup for Alvin Crow and the Pleasant Valley Boys, the house band at Austin's legendary Broken Spoke. Michele launches the Natural Ear Music camp and school in Austin in 1991 (and Alvin serves as one of the school's instructors), where she pioneers teaching kids as young as 4 music by ear instead of by sheet music. In 1988 she releases her self-produced cassette single Blue Hole Boogie and, in 1996, her album Once A Night on CD (it's still occasionally available on Amazon). In 2007, Mike returns to Liberty Hill and in 2011 begins a term as its mayor (simultaneously turning over Natural Ear Music to one of its long-time instructors, John Moyer). After wrapping up her mayoralship, Mike travels around a bit and, in 2015, relocates to Refugio, a small community on the Gulf Coast in south Texas, where she's presently remodeling her home and studio, out navigating the back bays in her Carolina Skiff, and working on a book about her experiences founding and running Natural Ear Music.

Michele Murphy personnel

Michele Murphy: guitar, keyboards, and vocals

Unreleased Sonobeat recordings
Easy Chair (Michele Murphy)
Finest Man (Michele Murphy)
Give Me A Window (Michele Murphy)
I'm Glad I Did It, But I'm Sorry I Did It To You (Michele Murphy)
The Moon She Rules Me (Michele Murphy)
Round Mountain Road (Michele Murphy)
Summertime (George Gershwin-DuBose Heyward-Ira Gershwin)
When I’m With You (Michele Murphy)
Six additional unidentified songs
Produced and engineered by Bill Josey Sr.
Recorded at Sonobeat Studios in the KVET Building on North Lamar in Austin, Texas, on various dates during 1972 and 1973 and at Sonobeat's Blue Hole Sounds studio in Liberty Hill, Texas, on various dates during 1975 and 1976
Recording equipment: ElectroVoice Slimair 636 microphones, Sony ECM22 electret condenser microphones, Scully 280 half-inch 4-track tape deck, Ampex AG350 tape deck, Dokorder 7140 quarter-inch 4-track tape deck, custom 16-channel 4-bus mixing console, Fairchild Lumiten 663ST optical compressor, Blonder-Tongue Audio Baton 9-band stereo graphic equalizer, custom steel plate stereo reverb, Ampex 681 tape stock
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Sonobeat producer Bill Josey Sr.'s note to Kerville Folk Festival founder Rod Kennedy promoting Michele as a potential performer at the Festival
Flip side of Bill Sr.'s note to Rod Kennedy regarding Michele
A publicity photo Michele begins using in the early '90s