When Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. showed up to audition for America’s Got Talent, he was singing to pass the time while grinding out a living washing cars, 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 large wardrobe to win America’s heart. You need talent and Landau has truckloads of that. Since wowing the judges with his interpretations of classics by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin and walking away with the million dollar grand prize in front of 14 million weekly viewers on AGT, Landau has released his Columbia Records debut “That’s Life” (the CD hit #1 on the Billboard Jazz chart and was produced by Grammy winner Steve Tyrell, who also helmed Rod Stewart’s Great American Songbook album) and has performed all over the country, from the California State Fair to the New York’s famous Apollo Theatre, Caesars Palace in Las Vegas to the Marina Civic Center in Florida and all points in between.
Along the way, he 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 and dozens of other outlets, was named his home state’s “West Virginian of the Year” (where he has performed a series of sold out concerts helping raise over a half million dollars for state charities), played a special command performance at the Governors Inauguration, won Reality TV Personality of the Year in Hollywood, and was honored to perform with his band for U.S. Troops in Germany.
But all that 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 L.A. or New York for work, but being here helps keep me humble and grounded. I’m just very fortunate to be living my dream.”
For many winners of television talent competitions, the ride is short, but for Landau, more than two 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 called LANDAU: FROM WASHING CARS TO HOLLYWOOD STAR, debuted at #1 on the Amazon.com Jazz Book chart. Landau’s CHRISTMAS MADE FOR TWO is an album full of both classic and brand new original holiday favorites (“Christmas is by far my favorite time of the year”). The CD features a guest appearance by former Temptations lead vocalist Glenn Leonard reprising his role on “Silent Night” from the Temptations Christmas album. Landau’s Christmas CD is now a best-selling fundraising vehicle for The Children’s Home Society charity, and the holiday season found Landau guest hosting a show on the Sirius/XM “Holly” channel while crisscrossing the country on a sold out Christmas tour with his mentor Leonard and former lead vocalists from The Platters and Drifters. Landau also performed his first ever concerts with two complete symphony orchestras and visited Asia for the first time, at the headliner at a special charity benefit at the Mercedes Benz Arena in Shanghai China for AEG Live. But also penciled into Landau’s busy calendar is spending time at his modest new home in the West Virginia hills. “I’ve got my 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, those cars belong to Landau.
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Original Biography (2011)
In November 2010, Landau Eugene Murphy and his wife Jennifer left their hometown of Logan, WV for New York City, where they stood for over twelve hours outside the Jacob Javits Convention Center in Manhattan. They were among the thousands of people – young and old, singers, dancers, jugglers, mimes, and more — lined up to audition for NBC’s “America’s Got Talent.” It would take several more hours for Landau to finally get inside and sing a few bars, and his day grew even longer as he sang for one producer after another. Soon, he was the last one sitting in a huge rehearsal hall. “I knew that was a good sign,” remembers Jennifer.
The rest as they say is history. After receiving standing ovations from judges Sharon Osbourne, Piers Morgan and Howie Mandel, singing a sizzling duet with the iconic Patti LaBelle, and crooning a rousing rendition of “My Way,” Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. was named the winner of AGT’s sixth season on Sept. 14, 2011. Just in time for Christmas 2011, Syco/Columbia Records released Landau’s first album, “That’s Life” and it debuted at number one on the Billboard jazz charts and the top 40 overall. Not only did his unique singing style make him stand out from all of his competition, Landau’s humility, charm and confidence endeared him to the AGT judges, viewers and audiences at his sold-out concert tour that launched in December 2011 and is still going strong.
Many have compared Landau’s smooth vocals and phrasing to that of Frank Sinatra, a singer he’s always admired. That’s why many of the tracks from “That’s Life” are Sinatra standards, but Landau does them his way. “I put my own voice and my own soul into this album. For a lot of music fans, especially older people, I can bring back some happy memories. And hopefully I can create new memories for generations to come. I think I think my album encompasses all of that. I want to give back as much as possible and stay true to the people who supported me,” he says.
Landau worked side by side with legendary record producer and GRAMMY Award winner, Steve Tyrell, himself an aficionado of Sinatra’s music on “That’s Life”. During his storied 40-year music career, Tyrell has scored movies (That Thing You Do, Father of the Bride), produced albums for dozens of top artists (most recently, Rod Stewart’s #1 album, Stardust: The Great American Songbook Volume III, Diana Ross, Ray Charles, Smokey Robinson, Linda Ronstadt, Mary J Blige, Chris Botti, Bonnie Raitt, Bette Midler and Stevie Wonder among them) and recorded his own albums.
“I loved working with him” says Landau. “He’s so cool. We got along so well – he totally understood me and he brought out the best in me.” The vocals for the album were recorded in Houston and then in LA at the legendary Capitol studio “B” with a full orchestra on the same hallowed ground where Sinatra, Dean Martin, Judy Garland, Nat King Cole and others have recorded so many classics. Tyrell and Landau have since performed together in New York, Los Angeles and Baltimore to audiences enthralled by the two vocal pros.
As part of his AGT prize, Landau realized a lifelong dream and headlined a show at the Colosseum Theater at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas – the legendary playground for Sinatra and his iconic Rat Pack. Other tour stops include the legendary Apollo Theatre, the DTE Energy Center in Detroit with Motown’s legendary Temptations, headlining appearances at the West Virginia and California State Fair, a Superbowl appearance, a televised performance at The Hollywood Christmas Parade and a string of sold out headlining shows across the USA (many supporting local charities). Major media appearances have included The Today Show, Anderson Cooper, The View, The Talk, The Wendy Williams Show, Fox and Friends, CNN, The Tom Joyner Show, Scott and Todd on WPLJ, Good Day LA, and many more. He’s also honored his country by singing the National Anthem at Madison Square Garden, WVU’s Mountaineer Field, prior to a West Virginia University/LSU matchup and at several other public events.
This sudden rise to fame has been in keeping with Landau’s roller-coaster ride of a life. As a young man, he was once reduced to homelessness, sleeping in his car; he worked as a car washer during the months leading up to his TV performances — and was down to his last pair of pants and jacket when he arrived to sing at his America’s Got Talent audition. “We didn’t discuss this during the show because we didn’t want people feeling sorry for us. But my wife and I had been away taking care of her mother, who had just been hospitalized, and someone broke into our house and cleaned us out. They robbed us blind. And we were so heartbroken. Thank goodness we were able to move in with my mother-in-law. We had no place else to go.” After they got over the initial shock of their situation, Landau said he began to take stock of what they had left, physically and emotionally. “I remember lying on the bed, looking at the ceiling. Jennifer was so down. I was talking to God and I heard him say, ‘You need to get on a bigger stage – and hold your head up.’ That’s when I knew I had to try out for ‘America’s Got Talent’.”
“My father was a coal miner and he really loves music; my mother is from a musical family, too. After my parents split up when I was 8, I moved with my mother and two brothers and two sisters to Detroit,” Landau explains. “It was completely different from Logan; I had to get used to the streets. My focus wasn’t on school” and he dropped out in the 11th grade to put his energy into looking out for the safety of himself and his family. “Church and basketball were the only things that got me out of the house and kept me going. I played for a church league, which kept me off the streets and they would take us to events where we could eat. Basketball was my first love and I grew up playing basketball with some great ballplayers like NBA star Chris Webber. There were times when I’d make a shot or dunk on someone and I’d run back down the court with a smile on my face singing ‘Fly Me To The Moon’, everyone got a big kick out of it.”
After moving back home to Logan in the late 1990’s, Landau renewed a friendship with a childhood friend, Jennifer Carter. “We started working together at a restaurant” where she was a manager and they finally married in 2005. The proud husband and father of five says “I love my kids and my wife with all my heart, more than anything, I want to make sure that they don’t have the same struggles I have had. I want them to have more opportunities. I want them to be able to do what they want to do.”
Despite having gone from wash rags to riches, “I’m still happiest when I’m with my family. I like it when there is no stress and I’m doing what I want to do – which is to sing.”