IN MEMORIAM: Matt Murphy Dies, Jimmy Wopo Shot & Killed // Other Notable Musicians Deaths
Matthew Tyler Murphy (December 29, 1929 – June 15, 2018), known as Matt “Guitar” Murphy, was an American blues guitarist. He was associated with The Blues Brothers and Howlin’ Wolf.
Murphy was born in Sunflower, Mississippi, and was educated in Memphis, where his father worked at the Peabody Hotel. Murphy learned to play guitar when he was a child. In 1948 he moved to Chicago, where he joined the Howlin’ Wolf band, which at the time featured Little Junior Parker. In 1952, Murphy recorded with Little Junior Parker and Ike Turner. This resulted in the release, “You’re My Angel”/“Bad Women, Bad Whiskey”(Modern 864), credited to Little Junior Parker and the Blue Flames.
Murphy worked a lot with Memphis Slim, including on his debut album At the Gate of Horn (1959). Murphy recorded two albums with Chuck Berry and was also featured in works by Koko Taylor, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Buddy Guy, Etta James, and Otis Rush.
He gave a memorable performance in 1963 on the American Folk Blues Festival tour of Europe with his “Matt’s Guitar Boogie”. Freddie King is said to have once admitted that he based his “Hide Away” on Murphy’s playing during this performance.
In the 1970s, Murphy associated with harmonica player James Cotton, recording over six albums. Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi attended one of their performances and subsequently asked Murphy to join the touring band of The Blues Brothers. Murphy appeared in the films The Blues Brothers (1980) and Blues Brothers 2000 (1998), playing the husband of Aretha Franklin. He performed with the Blues Brothers Band until the early 2000s.
Murphy’s signature guitar is manufactured by Cort Guitars. He visited the Cort factory in Korea in 1998, and later that year the MGM-1 was introduced. Most of these guitars have a sunburst or honey finish. They are made of agathis, with a mahogany neck, and have two humbuckers and single volume and tone controls. This model was produced until 2006; 78 were sold, according to factory numbers.
Murphy was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2012.
Murphy suffered a stroke in the summer of 2002 but returned to perform a few years later.
In 2011 Murphy married Kathy Hemrick in a private ceremony in South Miami, Florida. A month later they celebrated with an “open to the public” reception at Fort Lauderdale, Florida which also doubled as a release party for the CD Last Call. He resided in Miami until his death on June 15, 2018. The cause of death was not revealed at press time.
Murphy’s death was first announced by his nephew Floyd Murphy Jr, who performed alongside his uncle and who said: “He was a strong man that lived a long, long fruitful life that poured his heart out in every guitar solo he took”.
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Travon Da Shawn Frank Smart (January 13, 1997 – June 18, 2018), better known by his stage name Jimmy Wopo, was an American rapper from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Wopo was an affiliate of fellow Pittsburgh based rapper, Wiz Khalifa, and his Taylor Gang imprint. He made his first high-profile appearance with his 2016 breakout single, Elm Street, which Complex included in the “Bout to Blow: 10 Dope New Songs You Should Be Hearing Everywhere Soon” list. Following that success, he collaborated with several prominent rappers including Wiz Khalifa, Sonny Digital, 21 Savage and more. After receiving a co-sign from Mike Will Made It, rap duo Rae Sremmurd brought Jimmy out to perform during their set at the Pittsburgh stop of the Sremm Life 2 Tour. Dispite his success and rising popularity, Wopo was murdered in a drive by shooting on June 18th, 2018 in the Hill District of Pittsburgh.
In January 2015, Wopo began uploading original tracks to his soundcloud account. Taylor Maglin the owner of the Pittsburgh based blog, The Daily Loud partnered with him and began to publicize his music. This additional push helped him to accumulate millions of views on his music videos on his YouTube channel. Joining the wave of Wopo’s viral success, urban hip hop blog, World Star Hip Hop exclusively debuted five of his music videos in 2016. On July 24, 2016 he premiered his debut project, WoPoNese, on Daily Loud. This 8 track mixtape included the single ‘Back Door’ which features Sonny Digital. In October 2016, Riff Raff tapped Wopo for a feature on the track, “Stay Away From You” on his ‘Balloween’ mixtape. On November 25, 2016, he released a joint album with his fellow Pittsburgh based rapper, Hardo. This nine track project featured ShadyHigler, 21 Savage and Wiz Khalifa.
On February 7, 2016, Wopo was arrested during a traffic stop in Washington County, Pennsylvania. Police arrested Wopo and two others after finding two stamp bags of suspected heroin and a small amount of marijuana. He was arraigned on drug charges and underage drinking charges and placed in jail with a $25,000 bond.
On June 18, 2018 around 2:30 p.m., Wopo was found shot in the Hill District neighborhood of Pittsburgh. The shooting was a drive-by and Wopo’s vehicle was struck multiple times, another person, who was in the car with Wopo, was also shot but survived and is in stable condition. Wopo later died at a local hospital. He was 21 years old. His death was on the same day as the murder of Florida rapper XXXTentacion.
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Other Notable Musicians’ Deaths…
19: Efrén Echeverría, 86, Paraguayan musician, composer, and record collector; Ángel Medardo Luzuriaga, 82, Ecuadorian Andean cumbia musician; Bansi Quinteros, 41, Spanish keyboardist (GMS), blood cancer; Lowrell Simon, 75, American soul singer-songwriter.
18: Barry McDaniel, 87, American opera singer; Billy Sammeth, 66, American talent manager (Dolly Parton, Cher, Joan Rivers), pancreatic cancer; Jimmy Wopo, 21, American rapper, shot; XXXTentacion, 20, American rapper (“Look at Me”, “Jocelyn Flores”, “Sad!”), shot.
17: Rebecca Parris, 66, American jazz singer.
16: Gennady Rozhdestvensky, 87, Russian conductor.
15: Enoch zu Guttenberg, 71, German conductor; Nick Knox, 60, American drummer (The Cramps, Electric Eels); Matt Murphy, 88, American guitarist (The Blues Brothers).
13: Santos Blanco, 46, Spanish pop singer (Locomía); D. J. Fontana, 87, American Hall of Fame rock drummer (Elvis Presley).
12: Wayne Dockery, 76, American jazz double bassist; Helena Dunicz-Niwinska, 102, Polish violinist, translator and author; Jon Hiseman, 73, English drummer (Colosseum, Colosseum II, John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers), brain cancer; Jaroslaw Kozidrak, 63, Polish guitarist, keyboardist and composer.