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Another candidate for the fifth Beatle, is DJ Murray the K, a New York City disc jockey who played an integral role in getting the Beatles heard and played in America in 1964. Murray the K, who had worked as a DJ a year prior, was at the peak of his popularity as the leading disc jockey in NYC and had a prime airplay slot. An ardent supporter of The Beatles, he played Fab Four on heavy rotation and even dubbed himself as the fifth Beatle – an incredible marketing ploy. By doing so, he created a mystique surrounding the DJ’s personality as well as the Liverpool lads who, along with their manager Brian Epstein, were on the verge of breaking the States.

Murray the K was one of the first media guys The Beatles welcomed into their circle. The Liverpool lads had heard about him through his promotional work with other prominent bands at the time, such as The Ronnettes. Murray was invited by Brian Epstein and then promptly persuaded his radio station, WINS, to broadcast his prime time show straight from The Beatles’ suite in the Plaza hotel they were staying at. It was unclear if he was subsequently invited to go on their American tour with them, but he somehow managed to wiggle his way in. Stephanie Fremaux noted, “It’s part of the mythology that the American DJ Murray the K was the first to name himself the ‘fifth Beatle’ on air.”

Whether The Beatles accepted Murray as the fifth Beatle seemed irrelevant. It was understood that Murray the K did wonders for them to promote their music in the States early on, and accepting Murray as this seemed like it was part of the sensationalisation. Fremaux adds, “He probably did that as he was heavily promoting their first US visit in 1964 and playing their music on the radio.”

Embarking on their tour, The Beatles travelled from New York City to Washington D.C and then onto Miami, Florida; with Murray tagging along, he would broadcast his show from George Harrison’s suite, with whom he roomed with. George Harrison commented on this, “I’ve often wondered how Murray could barge into the room and hang out with us for the entire trip. It’s funny, really. I never quite understood how he did that.”

Despite this seemingly bold and sensational style of promoting The Beatles, Murray Kaufman believed in the art of music and is quoted saying, “You didn’t have to hype the record any more. The music was speaking for itself.” He made this grand statement when he later left WINS and became a program director for the first FM rock station, where he DJ’d his show, FM Cuts, upon which he was famous for never spinning singles, but for playing long-form album segments. By this merit alone, it was clear that DJ Murray the K loved and breathed music and was well-intentioned when involving himself within the inner-circle of The Beatles.


1 Response
  • Peter Altschuler
    Tuesday, February 23, 2021

    It’s refreshing to read an article that puts Murray the K in a good light. It’s been part of the Beatlefan playbook for half a century to suggest that, until he hitched his wagon to their star, he was nobody in particular. Not in New York, he wasn’t.

    Murray had been on the air since the mid-’50s. He’d produced radio shows before that (for Eva Gabor, Laraine Day, and Virginia Graham) and promoted records like “How Much Is That Doggie In The Window” even earlier. By the time he landed at WINS, he was proving that overnight listeners were just as “tuned in” to him as primetime fans were to Alan Freed. On the night of a major New York snowstorm, he offered a prize to any woman who would show up at the station in a bikini. A dozen did.

    When Freed left WINS, Murray soon took over his primetime slot… in 1958. So the article’s statement that “Murray the K, who had worked as a DJ a year prior” is a little… off. By 1961, Murray’s live rock ‘n’ roll shows at the Brooklyn Fox and other NY theaters monopolized the market three or four times a year — Christmas, Easter, Memorial Day, and Labor Day. No other DJs had his onstage presence, showmanship, dance moves, or a wardrobe that was the envy of every teenage fan.

    The Beatles didn’t touch down in NY until 1964. The next year, Murray conceived and starred in a national TV special that, among other things, presented the first music videos — 15 years before MTV. The format he established on WOR-FM for FM rock set the standard for more than 30 years. And he helped discover an incredible amount of talent, including booking The Who and Cream for their first US appearances.

    For anyone who wants to get a sense of what he could do, American viewers can tune into their local public television stations on March 6, 2021, to see a newly restored version of the 1965 special “It’s What’s Happening, Baby,” which is being broadcast for the first time in 56 years.

    Who’s in it? Who isn’t? Ray Charles, Herman’s Hermits, Dionne Warwick, Johnny Rivers, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, The Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, Jan and Dean, Martha and the Vandellas, The Temptations, The Coasters, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, Mary Wells, The Supremes, The Righteous Brothers, Chuck Jackson….

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