The inspiration of the HubCityMusic website originated from when Kelly Murphy found a trunk full of stuff he had saved from all the bands he had been in. After digitizing all the contents of that trunk, he realized that people might want to see some stuff from the other bands and musicians that came out of Oelwein.
Murphy created and maintains the HubCityMusic website which documents the history of live music in Oelwein Iowa. The website includes sections on the Coliseum Ballroom, Country Music, Rock Music, and Notable Boosters of Oelwein Music. Viewers to the site can also leave comments on any page they visit. In four years time there have been over 90,000 visitors at HubCityMusic from all over the world.
Murphy’s musical career has spanned 40+ years. He learned guitar from Sister Mary Jo at Sacred Heart School and then formed his first band with Randy Landas and Mike Vargason which was called Bilbo Baggins Blues Band. From that point on he has performed live music across the Midwest and in the casinos of Reno and Lake Tahoe Nevada.
While Murphy was in the band “Tennyson” they recorded a 6 song demo tape. Read more about Tennyson here. Below are some songs from their demo tape:
When Murphy was in high school, his band “Blue Horizon” (nominated for Iowa Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame) recorded some live performances. Read more about Blue Horizon here. These were recorded straight from the board and are somewhat “rough”. But you have to consider that this band was making a living playing music throughout the Midwest even though they were only 16-18 years old.
Below are some “distinctive” songs from a live performance of that band playing for a wedding dance at the local Knights of Columbus. Wedding dance bands required playing a wide variety of musical styles that included country songs and fifties music. In addition to the typical wedding music, the band would still try throw in some of their signature songs and recently learned tunes.
DISCLAIMER: Tapes of live performances are unique, but the quality is much different than from a formal recording session. Although the audio mix on the songs below is not studio quality, you can hear that the band was well rehearsed. Technical flaws in the mix due to the quality of the recording and the age of the cassette tape are inevitable. Consider them like scars in fine leather, proof of the origin and authenticity of the material in which they are found.
You can listen to each song by clicking on the title. To see visuals along with the song, click on the “Version with pictures” link. The “pictures” version requires a fast internet connection.
- I’ve Had Enough – Version with pictures
- Varg on lead vocals with Tom singing a stellar harmony part at the 1:30 minute mark.
- Wheels and Murph blend together on lead guitar harmonies in the middle section.
- Originally recorded by Paul McCartney and Wings
- Look Away – Version with pictures
- BH would frequently jam out the intro of a song before the actual tune would start. Sometimes this free jam would be short and other times it may be extended. This intro has Wheels laying down the rhythm while Murph improvises with slide guitar and leads. Be sure to notice Tate’s bass harmonics in the intro.
- Varg on lead vocals.
- Murph’s solos throughout the song include slide parts.
- Four part vocal harmony break at the 2:45 mark.
- Originally recorded by Ozark Mountain Daredevils
- Traveling Shoes – Version with pictures
- Varg on lead vocals with everyone joining in on harmonies.
- Maracas and tambourine by Varg alternate throughout the song.
- Rhythm section of Tate and Tom is skin-tight and enhanced with Murph’s chicken picking guitar rhythms and Varg’s percussion. Rhythm section controls the dynamics by decreasing volume on soft parts of the song and going all out on other sections.
- Wheels and Murph on lead guitar harmonies throughout the song.
- Slide guitar by Murph.
- Four part harmony on the vocal break at 4:30.
- Tiny section of talkbox at the 5:30 mark.
- Originally recorded by Elvin Bishop.
- Struttin’ My Stuff – Version with pictures
- Varg on lead vocals with Wheels and Tom harmonizing
- Murph and Wheels on harmony guitar parts
- Varg on percussion
- The “Version with pictures” features the hand drawn poster by Varg
- Originally recorded by Elvin Bishop
- Wouldn’t Want to Be like You – Version with pictures
- Wheels on lead vocals.
- Wheels on lead guitar
- The original recording of this song has a lot of piano, so Murph is playing piano parts on guitar
- Originally recorded by The Alan Parsons Project.
- Whatcha Gonna Do? – Version with pictures
- Varg and Wheels singing two-part harmony in choruses. Trade off on lead vocals during verses.
- Wheels doing all the guitar leads.
- Murph is playing the piano parts on guitar but does play a couple of guitar harmonies with Wheels.
- Originally recorded by Pablo Cruise
- Ain’t No Half Steppin’ – Version with pictures
- Blue Horizon was a popular band because they played the current hits. However, they sometimes played a song just for themselves. These last two songs are examples of tunes that the audience probably did not recognize, but the band learned them as a project.
- Ain’t No Half Steppin’ has lead vocals by Wheels.
- Varg on percussion
- Murph plays some talkbox in the middle and at the end.
- Originally recorded by Heat Wave.
- Who Do You Think You Are? – Version with pictures
- This is one of the most unusual songs the band ever attempted. Definitely not a dance tune. This song would clear a dance floor faster than someone yelling “Fire!” Blue Horizon probably played it live only 2-3 times before it left their set list.
- Varg on vocals
- Wheels and Murph on harmony guitar parts
- Originally recorded by Gentle Giant
Read Murphy’s complete history below.
Bilbo Baggins Blues Band 1972 Oelwein, Iowa
By the time Mike Vargason and Kelly Murphy were 8th graders (1972) at Sacred Heart Elementary School they encouraged classmate Randy Landas to buy a bass guitar and amp and they started practicing as a 3 piece band. Both Landis and Murphy got an Ampeg B25B amplifier and they were now a loud rock band. It was not long before they came up with their band name: Bilbo Baggins Blues Band. Vargason sang lead and played drums. They practiced at Landas’ house and soon worked up about 10 songs. Songs by Led Zepelin, Black Sabbath, Grand Funk and Deep Purple were a major part of their song list along with an original or two. […read more…]
Country Patriots 1973 Oelwein, Iowa
Even though Murphy and Vargason were only 14-15 years old, they were regularly playing in bars but needed a parent to drive them and the equipment for jobs.
For these first couple of gigs, they would run all the instruments and vocals through one little amplifier. They played mostly country but threw in some rock tunes such as Roll Over Beethoven by Electric Light Orchestra. Also, Joy to the World by Three Dog Night.
They played at Tavern in the Town (The TIT) in Wadena and at Clyde Ohl’s in Maynard and taverns and bars in Arlington, Fairbank, Aurora and other northeast Iowa villages and hamlets. […read more…]
Blue Horizon 1974-1978 Oelwein, Iowa
During the spring of 1977, Blue Horizon played 18 high school proms. Due to the band’s popularity, schools needed to book Blue Horizon as their prom band a year ahead and many schools changed their prom date to accommodate the band’s availability. They played songs that people could dance to and sing along with and had a wide range of music types for all ages to enjoy. As teenagers, they spent countless hours learning the music that their fans wanted to hear on a Saturday night. Their music selection and stage presence made them one of the most versatile and sought after bands in Iowa.
The band featured strong vocal harmonies, two lead guitar players, and an electric violin that allowed them to play both original music and all the current hits of the day. Blue Horizon also distinguished themselves by performing deep album tracks by Frank Zappa, Jeff Beck, Elvin Bishop, Steely Dan, The Beatles, Charlie Daniels Band, George Benson and Stevie Wonder. Blue Horizon was also one of the first regional bands that featured a talkbox when covering Peter Frampton music and the band also featured violin for 2 beat county fiddle tunes and in songs by Kansas and Charlie Daniels. […read more…]
Butch Gage and Gage Country 1978 Oelwein, Iowa
Butch Gage was a blue collar, country music icon in Oelwein and northeast Iowa. He never made it big, but his band played every weekend at all the local bars.
Murphy played with Gage while he was working at the Oelwein Daily Register selling advertising. This was a band that never rehearsed. They were playing standard country and western songs that were played by many bands in the area. All songs were announced on stage and Butch would lean over to Murphy and tell him what key it was in, and the drummer would kick it off. Murphy knew some of the songs, but a lot of them were totally new to him and involved listening closely and trying to follow along. […read more…]
Hip Pocket 1978-1980 Waterloo, Iowa
Playing with Hip Pocket during this time was when Murphy experienced playing club dates that consisted of 5-6 nights in a row. He had much experience playing one nighters, two nighters and sometime 3 nighters. But Hip Pocket frequently played a month at a time with only 3-4 nights off. This was the type of schedule that road bands played and it resulted in stage presence that stood apart from the typical weekend warrior bands. They played at Ramada Inn, Twin Torch, Raintree Lounge, Porky’s Red Carpet, Electric Park, and many Waterloo/Cedar Falls High Schools.
One of the driving forces of the band was to convey a style. You can see by their promo shot that featured 1980’s bright colored clothes that portrayed a “new wave” look that heavily influenced the band.
The song list was drastically different than Murphy’s previous bands. Hip Pocket’s songs were more of the type of professional road bands that toured a circuit of clubs as opposed to rough rock and roll songs played at ballrooms and high school proms. […read more…]
Tennyson 1980-1987 Waterloo, Iowa
Tennyson was considered by many locals as one of the “Supergroups” to come out of the Waterloo/Cedar Falls area.
Tennyson had a multi-year history before Murphy, John Rohlf, Gerg Coffin and Greg Galloway came on in 1980. One of the unique qualities of this version of the band is that they had a vision. They were not going to be another cover band playing in local bars. Leader of the band Skip Franklin wanted to capitalize on the current Urban Cowboy theme and play cross-over country made famous from the movie. The film is said to have started the 80’s boom in country music appeal. Some film critics referred to the movie as a country music version of Saturday Night Fever. Although country cross-over was a driving force in the formation of the band, they very soon developed into a much wider range of music. In addition, Skip’s lead vocals, combined with his sister (Debi Smythe) and Greg Coffin, gave the band three tremendous lead singers that enabled them to cover many different bands and styles.
The band played throughout Iowa and traveled to Lake Tahoe and Reno Nevada in the summer. […read more…]
Step On It – 1998-1993 Indianapolis, IN
Nick Boulse of Indianapolis had a career which was similar to Murphy’s in many ways. Boulse had been in bands since high school and knew what it took to be successful. Additionally, Boulse was at a point where he wanted to do something different. What he wanted to do was to get a three piece band that used sequenced midi parts as the core of the band. What he envisioned was that he would program the drum and bass parts, and he would play live keyboards, have a live guitar player and feature a female lead singer.
Step On It played throughout central Indiana for about 5 years. Most of their gigs were in the Indianapolis metro area. They worked every weekend and frequently played 3-4 nighters. One of their most interesting gigs was playing New Years Eve in the Crows Nest at the Bank One Tower in downtown Indianapolis. This room was at the top of the tallest building in Indianapolis and slowly rotated 360 degrees to offer a constantly changing different view of downtown Indy. […read more…]
Trevor Gage Band 1994 Indianapolis, IN
Trevor Gage was from the Indianapolis area and recorded an album in Nashville Tennessee. The album was recorded with Nashville studio musicians and therefore he had no band to do dates with. With the suggestions from several area musicians, he put a band together to play about 7 gigs over a period of about a year.
Along with Murphy, he hired Michael Clark to play pedal steel guitar and some rhythm guitar. Clark has a resume a mile long that includes playing with many big name musicians and appearing on TV shows. Clark was and still is the staff guitarist with the nationally syndicated Bob and Tom Show radio show. Clark accompanies many of comedian/musicians who appear on the show and tours with the Bob and Tom Band.[…read more…]
BJ Baxter Band 1992-1994 Bloomington, IN
Essentially a country band that played the Eagles, Elks, Lion’s Club and other local venues such as the Port Hole Inn..
The Porthole was a restaurant on the shores of Lake Lemon that was frequented by the coaches of the IU Basketball team. […read more…]
FatCat 1995 Bloomington, IN
Short-lived band that practiced for about 4 months and played only four jobs.
Mainstreet 1996-1997 Boomington, IN
This was a high end country band with a big PA that played all the local critter clubs (Eagles, Lions Club, The Moose Club, etc.) in Bloomington Indiana while Murphy was in graduate school at Indiana University. […read more…]
The Sundown Band 1998-2000
After completing graduate school at Indiana University, Murphy moved to Lebanon, Indiana to become Director of Technology for Lebanon Public Schools. While there he made friends with the Middle School Choir Director, Brian Brauchla.
Brauchla played in a local band that played the “Critter Clubs” (Eagles, Elks, Moose Lodge, The Lion’s club) and other Indianapolis area American Legions and such. The band also featured the Middle School PE teacher Roy Flanary, on drums.
Murphy started out with this band as a permanent substitute. If the bass player needed a night off, Murphy would play bass. If the guitar player needed a night off, Murphy would play guitar. He even filled in for the keyboard player on his nights off.
This was a band that never practiced. All the songs that Murphy played with them were learned on the job. They had a group of songs that they relied on but they also would do songs from sheet music. The keyboard player had a stack of music fake books that he rifle through between songs. He would pick out a song and the band would go for it. Because of Murphy being a sub, he would have to stand behind the keyboard player and sight read many of the tunes.
Unfortunately, while Murphy was frequently filling in for various band members, the band’s lead guitar player passed away. Murphy was offered the job and he became the full time guitar player. […read more…]
Kelly “Midi” Murphy – 1996-1998 Bloomington, IN
While in graduate school at Indiana University, Murphy worked up a solo gig that featured him on lead guitar playing along to a midi backing track. In addition to solo gigs, he also did breaks with the bands he was currently working with.
Most of his material were instrumental tunes, but he did some lead vocals also. […read more…]
Blue Horizon Reunion 2015
Blue Horizon was an unannounced band that appeared at the Tom Kammer benefit, KAMMERSTOCK, in Oelwein on December 12, 2015. Four members of Blue Horizon (Terry Wheeler, Tom Kammer, Rob Tatro and Kelly Murphy) played a short, unplugged and unrehearsed, 3 song set after Terry’s acoustic set and immediately before BlueShatter.
Kammerstock 2016 Oelwein, IA
Murphy teamed up with musicians from his Oelwein IA days to perform a benefit concert for Tom Kammer, his friend and bandmate from Blue Horizon.
Nine different bands performed with the headliner being former members from Oelwein bands Blue Horizon and Shatter.
The KAMMERSTOCK website describes the backstory of the event and videos of the live performance of the bands. […read more…]
Watch video of their live performance:
BlueShatter was prepared to perform a 10 song set but due to the Knights of Columbus having a strict policy on when the event was supposed to end, BlueShatter (the last band to perform) only had time for 5 songs. Also, due to some technical issues, the complete BlueShatter set was not recorded. The video below is the first 4 songs of the BlueShatter set.
Where Is Murph Now?
Murphy is now working as an Instructional Technologist in Indiana emphasizing the integration of technology into K-12 and Higher Education curriculum to increase student achievement. In addition to his academic and musical interests, his expertise in website development led him to create the HubCityMusic website.