Murray The K -- dead at 60.
Heard it on the radio. Where else, baby?
". . . Okay, all you submarine race watchers out there, this is Murray The K on the Swingin' Soiree, playing 'em red hot, and blue all the way . . ."
His real name was Murray Kaufman. He was weaned on Sinatra and the big bands, but if he didn't invent rock 'n' roll, at least he gets a share in the patent.
He was there at the beginning, and he rocked it and he rolled it and he bought it and he sold it. There were live Murray The K shows at the Brooklyn Fox and the Brooklyn Paramount theaters. Murray The K and his ge-eus-orgeous wife, Jackie The K, leading the Murray The K Dancers. He'd do a Motown show and put Marvin Gaye, the Four Tops, the Temptations and Martha and the Vandellas on the same stage in the same two hours. There were Murray The K Presents rock 'n' roll goldies albums--even one crazed hit he released under the pseudonym "The Lone Twister." For a while, at WINS in New York in the late '50s through the mid-'60s, Murray The K probably was the voice of rock 'n' roll, especially after he latched onto the Beatles, insinuating himself into their first American appearances in 1964 and proclaiming himself "The Fifth Beatle," with a little help from his friends, of course.
But his greatest move--his truly visionary move--was the invention of FM rock, on WOR in 1965.
It was, like he always said, what's happening, baby.
And it was all his.
He invented FM rock, and then when he got on FM with it, The K invented mellow and format. He lowered the volume, cooled the delivery and started playing blocks of music--three or four songs in a row. It had never been done before. On AM, the songs were speeded up so you could squeeze more pimple cream commercials in between the music. But on FM--where there weren't many commercials because advertisers didn't know who, if anybody, was listening--The K started with his "attitude" blocks, in which he'd play three or four more or less related songs. Like a "protest block" might contain Bob Dylan, Barry McGuire and P.F. Sloan. Nobody else did that. Nobody else played album cuts either. The K did. By the late '60s he had stopped all the submarine race-watching music, and all the "Me-eus-urray" lingo and the screaming and the hoppin' and the boppin' and he was into that cool FM thing. Turned it on and off like tap water, baby. An original. A one of a ke-eus-ind, baby.
Inventions were what he was all about. Basically, he invented himself as he went along anyway. Remember Me-eus-urray? Remember The K saying something like, "he-eus-ere's the De-eus-ave Cle-eus-ark Fe-eus-ive with their big hit, 'We-eus-ell Eus-I'm Fe-eus-seelin' Glad All Over' . . ."
The trick was to put the "eus" sound after the first consonant in a word. So Dave became De-eus-ave, for example. A sort of pig Latin for teen-agers. The K invented it and named it after himself. He invented his name and his language. Invented dances. Invented his persona. Invented an intimate relationship with the Beatles. And always a couple of steps ahead on the whole the-eus-ing. He was on the point of rock, then on the point of deejay rapid-fire personality, then on the point with the fave, rave, fab, gear British Invasion and not just on the point but way, way, way out in front on FM.
Finally, long after so many of his original contemporaries self-destructed through payola or drugs or burn out, Murray The K fell victim to his own gifts; he simply ran out of inventions. By the mid-'70s he'd become passe', and there wasn't any room left for him in New York. So he took it on the road, stopping in Washington for a while. You'd hear from him now and again. Comebacks. Specials. One-shots. Trading on his legend. Murray The K as nostalgia--no longer what was happening, baby, but unwilling to give it all up. Eleven years ago, The K gave his age as 41. Inventing himself on the run again. More power to him.
Late Sunday, Murray Kaufman died of cancer.
If there's a rock 'n' roll heaven, they just got themselves the deejay.