Over 100 sold out concerts across three continents, from Caesars Palace to the Apollo Theater and all points in between. A debut CD from a Grammy winning producer that hit the top of the Billboard charts. More than a million dollars raised for children’s and homeless charities via his holiday CD and personal appearances. Performing duets with childhood heroes Patti Labelle and Glenn Leonard, the former lead vocalist from The Temptations. An international television audience of over 100 million touched by his amazing life story. And it all started in a very small town with a man who possessed a big dream and an even bigger voice.
When Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. showed up to audition for NBC TV’s America’s Got Talent in 2010, he was singing to pass the time while grinding out a living washing cars in his hometown of Logan, WV (population 3,000) and the only “nice” clothes he owned were the ones on his back: a pair of jeans, a modest button down striped shirt and jacket.
Fortunately, you don’t need a slick wardrobe to win America’s heart. You need talent and personality, and Landau has a great deal of both. Wowing the judges with his back story of homelessness and determination to succeed for his family, coupled with interpretations of classics from Cole Porter, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and others, Landau walked away with the million dollar grand prize in front of 14 million weekly viewers. According to show insiders, when all was said and done, Landau had won America’s Got Talent by the biggest vote total in the show’s history.
In November 2011, Landau released his Columbia Records debut album “That’s Life.” The CD hit #1 on the Billboard Jazz chart in time for Christmas and was produced by Grammy winner Steve Tyrell, who also helmed Rod Stewart’s Great American Songbook album. Landau soon hit the road for his first ever tour, backed by an 18-piece big band, selling out performing arts centers, casinos, and theaters all over America. It was a dream come true for the always humble, gracious vocalist, who insisted that he come out after every show to meet his fans for photos and conversation. “Without them, I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t be anywhere.”
For many winners of television talent competitions, the ride is short, but for Landau, four years after winning America’s Got Talent, things couldn’t be busier. A book co-authored with award-winning writer Rick Robinson chronicling Landau’s All-American success story titled “Landau Eugene Murphy Jr.: From Washing Cars to Hollywood Star” debuted at #1 on the Amazon.com Jazz Book chart, where it remained for several weeks during the 2013 holiday season, and was purchased by many as a companion piece to Landau’s second album “Christmas Made For Two.”
Landau’s Christmas CD is full of both classic and brand new original holiday favorites. The CD features a guest appearance by former Temptations vocalist Glenn Leonard reprising his now classic lead on “Silent Night” from The Temptations Christmas album. Landau’s Christmas CD is also a best-selling fundraising vehicle for The Children’s Home Society charity, where Landau spent many years volunteering well before his America’s Got Talent win. Christmas is a favorite time of year for Landau, who goes all out with his annual holiday tour. Murphy often has local choirs and symphony orchestras join him on stage in their towns. He does toy drives for area children at most venues. He guest hosts a show on the Sirius/XM “Holly” channel. And he often invites other artists he admires to be a part of the show while crisscrossing the country including former Temptation Glenn Leonard, former Platters vocalist Joe Coleman, and former Drifters singer Joe Blunt, who Landau refers to as “living legends.”
Landau’s third album, scheduled for release this year, will include his signature take on popular Great American Songbook standards, updated versions of classic R&B tracks with what Landau calls a “Big Band twist,” and Landau’s first ever original compositions co-written with some of the music industry’s biggest Grammy-winning songwriters. Tracks were recorded at the famed Capitol Records Studio “B,” home to Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Nat “King” Cole, Dean Martin and many more legendary vocalists. The CD was helmed by Grammy winner Jeff Weber, who said that the album will “stay true to Landau’s signature style, while stretching him and showing just how versatile a vocalist, performer and songwriter he is. It’s going to pleasantly surprise a lot of people.”
Never seeming to slow down, Landau has appeared on The Today Show, The View, CNN, Fox and Friends, The Wendy Williams Show, The Talk, Anderson Cooper, Tom Joyner, Sirius XM, NPR, The Daily Buzz and dozens of other local and national media outlets. Landau was named his home state’s “West Virginian of the Year,” and is often called on by The Governor’s Office and others to represent the state, and played a special command performance at the Governor’s Inauguration. In 2014, he performed huge homecoming benefit concerts for several charities in his hometown of Logan and at a sold out black tie gala fundraiser for West Virginia HospiceCare’s 35th Anniversary Celebration in Charleston. The United States Junior Chamber (Jaycees) honored Landau with their prestigious Ten Outstanding Young Americans Award during ceremonies in Baltimore. He won Reality TV Personality of the Year in Hollywood, and was nominated for an NAACP Image Award. Murphy was honored to perform with his band for U.S. Troops stationed in Germany, and by performing the National Anthem has appeared for Major League baseball’s Baltimore Orioles, the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder, and several collegiate events, including a sold out crowd of 70,000 for WVU vs. LSU and an NCAA basketball tournament at Madison Square Garden. A huge basketball fan, Landau was named honorary co-captain of the Washington Wizards prior to a 2015 game, and visited Asia for the first time as the headliner at a special charity benefit at the Mercedes Benz Arena in Shanghai China for AEG Live.
But all of his success hasn’t made Landau forget his roots. He was born in the Mountain State of West Virginia and continues to live there rather than move to entertainment industry hubs like Los Angeles or New York. “West Virginia will always be my home,” says Landau, “and home and family are the most important thing in the world to me. I can always fly out to LA or New York for work, but being here in West Virginia helps keep me humble and grounded. I’m just very fortunate to be living my dream.” In between tour dates and appearances across the country, Landau enjoys spending time at his modest home tucked away in the West Virginia hills. “I’ve got my little home studio, plenty of room for my family and a big beautiful mountain behind me. I’m so thankful to God everyday for giving me these blessings, and a bigger stage to perform on.”
And, yes, he still sings while he washes cars. But now, that car belongs to Landau.
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