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As strains of a Lynyrd Skynyrd song filtered through David Lee Murphy’s tour bus Saturday evening in Radcliff, a smile creased the country musician’s face.
He is older and a little more road worn than he was when he burst on the Nashville scene in 1994, churning out chart-topping hits such as “Dust On The Bottle” and “Party Crowd.” But his enthusiasm for his profession was evident as he discussed his return to Hardin County in a friendly southern drawl.
He played Fort Knox several years ago and said his only regret for this stop was his inability to tour the military post.
“I’m just fortunate to get out here and play,” he said, surrounded by his band mates. Some have been with him on the road long enough to earn a gold watch, he said with a chuckle, prompting laughter inside the bus.
The shows do not come as fast or often as they once did with Murphy settling into a new stage of his career and stepping out of the spotlight to write or co-write songs for other Nashville artists.
His touch has been felt on several hits recorded in recent years, including Kennny Chesney’s “Living In Fast Forward” and “Pirate Flag” and Jason Aldean’s “Big Green Tractor.”
Murphy said he plays 25 to 30 shows a year with his band, supplementing his full show with 10 to 15 acoustic showcases. Doing more, or drifting too far from Nashville these days, he said, can prove detrimental for his creative stamina.
“It kind of takes a toll on writing songs because it wears you out,” he said.
While touring now takes a secondary role, he said there are few feelings like stepping on a stage and unleashing a barnstorming set with his band, partying with the hundreds or thousands who drove to see him.
“Even though we’re in Kentucky, it feels like Tennessee Saturday night,” he said. “We just hope everyone is having as much fun as we’re having.”
Murphy uncorked his honky tonk and rock-infused country at Radcliff Summer Blast this past weekend, a free show secured by Mayor J.J. Duvall that followed Fort Knox’s big budget concert production featuring country artist Trace Adkins last weekend.
Fans lined up hours in advance to snag a perfect spot. Many brought lawn chairs while others carved out a seat on the pavement or grass. Some men held their wives or girlfriends close while others left their seats to move their feet, shake their hips and release full-throated roars of approval.
Whether he was singing about haunted jukeboxes, dusty bottles or an affinity for God and guns, Murphy exuded a laidback charisma that seemed to satisfy those who gathered to hear familiar hits.
Black clouds lurked and threatened rain as the show kicked off, but the possibility of getting wet dissuaded none. By 8:30 p.m., a parking space near Colvin Community Center was a luxury.
Duvall estimated several thousand attended the concert, which was postponed and ultimately called off a little after 9 p.m. because of a sudden thunderstorm that soaked the equipment. Duvall said fans traveled from areas such as Peoria, Ill., and Alabama to see the show.
Radcliff resident Marlesa Roberts was perched in the VIP section for the show and said she grew up hating country music because it was the only genre her father listened to.
“I learned to love it,” she said, balancing country classics with modern acts.
Roberts has been a Murphy fan for 10 to 15 years and said his voice and song selection stands out for her.
Murphy performed one of the songs he helped write, “Way Out Here,” which was recorded by Josh Thompson and contains the refrain, “If it’s our backwoods way of livin’ you’re concerned with, you can leave us alone. We’re about John Wayne, Johnny Cash and John Deere. Way out here.”
He also paid tribute to Charlie Daniels with a performance of “Long Haired Country Boy.”
Spc. Danny Clark and his wife, Becky, brought their young daughter to the show. Clark said he and his wife attended the Trace Adkins performance at Fort Knox and have traveled to other country concerts getting their fix.
“I grew up with it,” he said of the music.
Becky said she pays more attention to the songs than the artists performing them.
“I couldn’t tell you Toby Keith from Alan Jackson,” she said. “I just listen.”
Elizabethtownresident Dennis Carvy said Murphy is “good country music” with solid hits.
He grew up with standard bearers of the genre such as Hank Williams and Willie Nelson and commended Radcliff city government for offering Murphy to the masses at no charge.
“It’s good to get out and associate with other people and have a good time,” he said.
His words would have brought another smile to Murphy’s face, who said his only goal is those who hear his music leave happy.
“They made us feel welcome,” Murphy said.
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or email@example.com.