Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. sings like a dreadlocked Frank Sinatra who grew up rapping to Snoop Dogg.
Murphy showed Wednesday at Savannah Center that he is equally adept at hanging with the homeboys or romping with the Rat Pack.
How else do you explain a guy singing Old Blue Eyes’ “I Got You Under My Skin” and then getting down with Snoop’s “Gin and Juice.”
This concert fractured musical boundaries. And Murphy’s unique vocal talent, humor and dynamic personality somehow made it work. That’s how the West Virginia native won the “America’s Got Talent” contest in 2011.
Murphy, lean and limber, wore a steel-blue suit with a black vest. His long, tightly-knit dreadlocks went down to the small of his back.
Murphy opened with Rat Pack standards, including Sinatra’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “I Get A Kick Out Of You” and “Fly Me to the Moon.” Then he tossed in Dean Martin’s “Ain’t That A Kick in the Head.”
“I like singing this music and doing these shows; I used to sing hip-hop,” Murphy said. “It’s better now; nobody is shooting at me. This music is blue skies and puffy clouds. Nobody wants to beat me up in the parking lot.”
But there is a price to pay, he said.
“When I go back to the hood, I’m not welcome,” he said with a grin. “And the police are nice to me; they don’t bother me. This music has changed everything in my life.”
Murphy grew up in poverty, was homeless and until “America’s Got Talent” came along was working in a car wash.
“It’s a lot better being up here,” he said. “This is the life. I don’t miss waxing cars. Maybe I could wax golf carts in The Villages. I could see getting one of those golf carts. I could make it like a Cadillac and drive around playing hip-hop.”
Murphy then went into a wicked rap and sampled Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice.” He even did a little moonwalk.
The near-capacity crowd loved it and clapped along.
“I don’t believe it – hip-hop in The Villages,” Murphy said. “Man, that’s a first.”
Then it was back to mellow pop as Murphy offered a smooth “For Once In My Life,” and a soft “The Way You Look Tonight.” He was backed by a tight, seven-piece band that featured a three-piece horn section, guitar, bass, drums and piano.
Murphy also displayed a more contemporary sound. He brought plenty of soul to Otis Redding’s “Try A Little Tenderness.
The mood was laced with social commentary as Murphy covered Bruce Hornsby’s “The Way It Is.”
Murphy’s fans enjoyed every number.
“I just love the way he sings and I remember seeing him on ‘America’s Got Talent,’” said Villager Elvira Halloran. “This is the first time I’ve seen him live and I feel lucky to be here.”
The reason is Murphy’s vocal talent.
“He has the kind of voice that moves you,” Halloran said. “When he sings, you can feel it through your whole body.”
Villager Sally Jacobs also is a fan.
“It’s his voice that matters most,” she said. “His story is very inspiring but it’s the music that matters. He just has a way of making it sound great.”
Murphy’s life has changed but he tries to take everything in stride, from the car wash to the worldwide acclaim.
“Wow, this is the life – I love it,” he said. “Who knows, maybe I’ll buy a golf cart and move to The Villages.”