Old-time musician and music instructor Dwight L. “Doc” Murphy passed away on March 29 in Georgetown, South Carolina, at the age of 83. His family shared the remembrance from which the following is drawn.
“Doc,” as friends and family knew him, was born in Fulton, New York, to Dwight Louis and Margaret Howe Murphy, into a musical family of a grandmother church organist, tenor father, and soprano mother. He and Nancy (his wife of 54 years) had two children, two children, Mark Edmond and Martha Ann.
Dwight received a BA in music from Potsdam’s Crane School of Music and a master’s degree in music from the Manhattan School of Music in New York City. From 1952 – 1954 he taught at the Army band training school at Fort Dix, New Jersey, and played in the orchestra for the USO. He also played the trombone and double bass with many big bands from the era. After marrying Nancy (Nanny) Louise Purcell in 1957, Dwight taught music in Munnsville, New York, for several years before moving to Lake Placid, New York, where he taught band and orchestra in the local school and played with the Lake Placid Club Band. In the early 1960s the family relocated to Altamont, New York, where Doc taught music in the Colonie school district for 28 years and played double bass in the Albany Symphony Orchestra. Upon retirement from public school teaching, he started on a lifelong dream project of building a 38’ cruising sailboat made of Ferro cement. Sometimes enlisting the help of family and friends, he hand-built the Mrs. Murphy himself at the local VFW post in Altamont, New York.
Upon turning 50, Doc decided to take up the old-time banjo. He built his first from a kit and learned in the clawhammer style. Always interested in music, learning and teaching, Doc picked up his fiddle again, focusing on the old-time fiddle tunes. As a teacher and student of music himself, in 1993 Doc began documenting, collecting and notating old tunes for younger classical students not versed in learning by ear. Doc was dedicated to this collection, believing in the importance of preserving the genre’s cultural roots and its musically historical significance. His collection grew to over 600 tunes lovingly collated into a series of books that is used by family and by small groups playing near North Myrtle Beach and in the Georgetown, South Carolina, area. Dwight instructed both adults and children at the Music School in Georgetown for several years, encouraging, guiding, and always entertaining his students with endless musical ditties.
Following his dreams and many artistic passions, Doc shared his life with others, bringing music, humor, love, and a deep appreciation for the joys that large and small events in life can bring.
This year’s Black Creek Fiddler’s Reunion in Altamont, New York, was dedicated to Doc Murphy’s memory, and at the Old Songs Festival, also in Altamont, there was a special jam dedicated to “The Tunes of Doc Murphy.”