The Voice of America

By Beacon Staff

Perhaps you’ve seen the billboards. Maybe you have one of the postcards. Bigfork is hometown America, decorated red, white and blue. Mom, country, and yes, apple pie. Of course it takes more than a postcard to make the image a reality. And part of that “more” comes from Jerry Murphy.

Jerry is a Montana native who made his mark on the gridiron at the University of Montana. (Perhaps spot would be a better word as his football career ended two weeks into the first season when a 250-pound running back impressed upon the 150-pound freshman that his talents might lie elsewhere.) And he spent 50 years in Minnesota as a bagman for General Mills. (Literally. He was responsible for selling General Mills containers for its products.)

Since returning to Montana in 1995, Jerry has been hard at work again making his mark, this time on the village of Bigfork. His first foray into community improvement was the Sliter Park Memorial honoring pioneers and veterans. The landscape and the monument – Jerry was the impetus behind those. For that, he was honored with the Big Hat award from the Community Foundation for a Better Bigfork and was seated as the Grand Marshall in the July Fourth parade.

But Jerry’s real passion is singing. And the promotion of singing by others. Ask him and he’ll be happy to loan you one of the several CDs he’s recorded. He doesn’t actually sell the CDs (copyright issues, you know), but they give you a good idea of his enthusiasm. He’s also a regular at the monthly open mic night at Clementine’s in Bigfork. Most performers at this event read poetry or sing a couple of songs. Jerry stages “mini-musicals.” Don’t have time for the complete production of “My Fair Lady?” Too bad you missed Jerry’s abbreviated version.
Jerry contracted Meniere’s disease in his sophomore year of college, which left him deaf in one ear and mostly deaf in the other. But, as had been the case with Ludwig van Beethoven before him, that didn’t diminish his love for music. He makes good use of the ear he has and has an amazingly powerful voice. As a soloist, his deficiency is difficult to notice. Group performances take a little more planning, though. It generally goes well when a group sings with Jerry. It goes less well when Jerry sings with a group. But done correctly, the results are impressive.

Jerry’s current project is the National Anthem program in Bigfork Village. I proudly admit some complicity in this project. I got involved last year as Jerry’s MC, occasional performer, and full-time roadie. And that’s a story in itself. It started as a random conversation with Jerry about his idea that someone should sing the National Anthem in the village a few days a week. He had presented the idea to some of the influential folk around town, but found them less than enthusiastic. In fact, it appeared that someone had actually told him, “no.” Of course, with Jerry’s hearing deficit, he sometimes has difficulty distinguishing between “no” and “go.”

Anyway, a few inquiries later and we’d procured a balcony from Grille 459 on Electric Avenue and about a 1,000 watts of amplification from the Chamber of Commerce. We were thus prepared to broadcast the sound of patriotism throughout the village of Bigfork (and probably Lakeside and Polson, as well, if they happened to be listening.) It wasn’t the Ed Sullivan Show, but we had a variety of talent ranging from enthusiastic soloists to harmonious duets, trios and small barbershop choruses. We did it every Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning all summer. But perhaps the real treat was when Jerry, himself, sang the anthem. And the flags waved and the windows shook.

Jerry is heading up the anthem program again this year. (And, once again, I’ll be the roadie.) Bigfork will be hearing the National Anthem from the balcony of Grille 459 every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 11:45 starting June 14. Although it’s only a five-minute program, two years in it seems likely to become another Bigfork tradition: Mom, apple pie and the Star Spangled Banner.

Want to sing the anthem? Call Jerry at 837-2459.

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