Matt “Guitar” Murphy, the iconic Blues Brothers guitarist who’d previously found fame as a sideman with Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, James Cotton, and many others, has died. He was 88.
Murphy was best known to mainstream audiences as a member of the band in The Blues Brothers and Blues Brothers 2000. His character was a soul food chef and weary husband of a waitress played by Aretha Franklin, who reassured his wife that he was “the man” when Franklin took issue with him rejoining the band in the 1980 film. (She responded by asking him to “Think” about it, quite convincingly.)
Murphy’s death was confirmed on Facebook by his nephew Floyd Murphy Jr., who performed alongside his uncle. “He was a strong man that lived a long long fruitfull [sic] life that poured his heart out in every guitar solo he took,” he wrote. “The master is upstairs now with my father and mother, Uncle Melvin Murphy, Jimmy Biggins, Eric Udell, Alan Ruben, BB King, [and] Etta James.”
Murphy was born in Sunflower, Miss., in 1929, but discovered music in Memphis, where he moved with his family as a toddler. Along with his brother, Floyd, he became a fixture of the Memphis blues scene in his teenage years, before segueing into sideman gigs for some of the world’s greatest blues musicians.
In 1948, he moved to Chicago, where he teamed with Little Junior Parker as a member of the Howlin’ Wolf band. Though he didn’t have a band of his own until 1982, Murphy enjoyed a long and memorable career of collaborations with musicians including Otis Rush, Chuck Berry, and Joe Louis Walker.
After Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi witnessed him playing in a New York club in 1978, he joined the Blues Brothers and went on to appear in their films; he’d continue to perform with them into the 2000s, when a stroke slowed him down. A few years later, Murphy found himself back on the road, playing a show with Cotton in 2010 and appearing at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival in New York’s Madison Square Garden just five years ago.
This Is Spinal Tap star Michael McKean paid tribute to the late musician on Twitter, calling him “one of those play-all-night guys that rock ‘n’ roll is made of.”