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Lyle ‘Spud’ Murphy


Lyle “Spud” Murphy, prolific Hollywood composer-arranger best known for developing a composing system widely used by professional musicians, died Aug. 5 at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital of complications from recent surgery. He was 96.

Murphy, who contributed music to more than 50 films, arranged two of bandleader Benny Goodman’s biggest hits, “Get Happy” and “Jingle Bells,” and transformed the children’s song “Three Blind Mice” into the theme for the Three Stooges shorts.

In his later years, Murphy kept active by spreading his method of composing, arranging and orchestration, which he began teaching decades ago.

Berlin native moved to the U.S. at age 4 with his mother and grew up in Utah. He showed early talent for music, eventually mastering the trumpet, all the saxophones and other woodwinds. He got his first music job at 16 and landed in New York City in 1933. There he became well known for his arrangements for bandleaders, including Goodman.

He moved to California in the late 1930s, where he worked at Columbia Pictures, but left to serve in the merchant marine during WWII, resuming film work after the war.

By the late 1940s, arrangers had become fascinated with his writing techniques. One student persuaded Murphy to teach him his method, and Murphy went on to train hundreds of students in his composing and arranging process called the Equal Interval System.

He was a renaissance man who spoke several languages, was a student of boxing and an expert in astronomy, geography and the Titanic.

He is survived by two daughters and two grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at 7 p.m. Monday at Forest Lawn in Glendale.

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