Updated: Jul 10, 2020
| This is the 103rd story of Our Life Logs |
Living simply has been ingrained in me. I was born in the late 1950s in Danville, Kentucky, and raised by my great-grandmother. My mother’s parents weren’t involved in my mother’s life, much like my father was not there for me, so my great-grandmother stepped in. She raised both my mother and then me. Thanks to her, I grew up in a strict household where I was taught to respect other people and prioritize what was truly important. I never cared about being rich; just wanted enough money to live. I think my neighborhood raised me, too. We all took care of each other. We played outside till 6 pm, ate dinner at 7, and went to bed at 9. That’s how it was every day, all year long: simple.
1 | A Love for School
Not a lot of kids liked school, but I loved it. High school was when I discovered my love for music. Everyone had to learn to play an instrument, and it was as simple for me as picking it up and learning to play. I was hooked. I learned to play drums and bass guitar. In addition to having found a love of music, I also found a lot of friends. In the 70s, school had more cliques, and I was a part of every single clique. It didn’t matter what background anyone was from. I could be friends with all of them. I’m thankful for my longtime friend Bucky who later brought me in to be the drummer for his band.
I took a vocational careers class at Danville high school, taught by Robert Trumbo, one of the most positive influences in my life. He had encouraged me to get my CDL license to drive commercial vehicles, buses and all that. I wanted to get my degree first, and go to college, so I just focused on the rest of his class where he was teaching us how to get jobs. One day, Mr. Trumbo told us that we will get a job based on our appearance. Well, I told him that was wrong; that your personality is what would get you a job. After a smirk, he challenged me, and it made me want to prove myself. So, after school, I dressed in some hippie pants, a hippie band and scarf, and I went to a store in Danville. As soon as the manager came out, I met him, stuck my hand out to shake his hand and gave him a big smile. He didn’t even notice what I was wearing and asked me when I could start. After that, I went back to the class and showed Mr. Trumbo what I was wearing, then informed him that I got the job. More importantly, I would keep getting the job.
I loved high school because things always worked out for me. Even if I had bad grades in school, I’d just sweet talk the teacher of the class until I got my grade upped a letter. I was failing a class once, and my teacher had a thing for my older cousin. So, I helped get them together, and the teacher gave me an A. They even later got married. It was wild how I got my way, just by being happy and outgoing.
Around the age of 18, when I was a senior, I met my wife, Kelli, who was just a freshman at the time. I saw her upstairs at the school, leaning on the banister and watching the lobby, so I went over to her, introduced myself, and immediately asked her out. I could not believe it when she said, “Yes.” The following Saturday, we went to the movies and found out we had the same birthday. It felt like fate that we met. One day, sometime after our first date—maybe a few weeks or a month—some of her friends came up to me and said they had heard Kelli say that I was her boyfriend. We hadn’t talked about that yet, so I wasn’t sure. I went to ask her myself, and she said we were definitely together, and we have been ever since. She is the first and only woman I’ve ever dated and loved in my life.
2 | The Man with a Hundred Jobs
I’ve had plenty of jobs throughout my life; typically working multiple jobs simultaneously. Most of my jobs overlapped when it came to the start and end dates, and if I’m being honest, the years blur together when you’re having fun.
After high school, I went to Eastern Kentucky University and majored in business management and communications. It seemed like the easiest thing to do at the time. I had to find an extra course to take one semester, and the only one with any open spots was broadcasting communications. I loved the class and wanted to keep pursuing broadcasting, so while I was in school, I got a job at a radio station as a DJ. The only problem was that no one listened to black DJs in the 80s. I had to take an hour-long class every day to learn how to change my voice so that I didn’t sound black.
Then in the 90s, the trend flipped. No one was listening to white DJs anymore, and there I was, stuck on the air using my “Caucasian” voice. It took a while to learn how to once again speak in my normal voice on the air to fit into what people listened to. There were a lot of rules when it came to working on the radio. You had programmers writing “scripts,” that told you how to read the news, and what music to play. Despite all the rules, I thought working there was fun, and it was something I had never tried before college. I picked up on how to do it pretty quickly, too. I always lived my life that way. If I wanted to try something new, I would. I knew I’d learn how it worked once I began. I think this mindset is what brought me success in life.
After college, I tried to put my degree to good use and became an assistant manager at Wendy’s. There I learned that I couldn’t just work inside and sit at a desk. I determined that I didn’t want an office job. I decided to go back to be a DJ. I DJed for 15 years, and I loved it, for a while. Eventually, I got fired because I broke the rules. I got fed up one day and decided I didn’t want the programmers telling me what music I should play or how I delivered the news. I went into the radio station that night, locked myself into my booth, shutting the programmers out, and I just went to town. I played whatever music I wanted, I read the news the way I wanted to, said whatever I wanted. Back then, you couldn’t cuss on the radio, so next thing I knew I was being sued by the FCC and fired by the radio station for it. That was a low blow, but I knew I’d find something else. I always did.
After getting fired, maybe around 1994, I started working for the fire department. Alongside that job, I started driving a school bus for Danville Schools part time, using that license that Robert Trumbo encouraged me to earn. When I realized I was making more driving the bus, I took that on full time instead, and drove for 24 years. I’ve driven limos, charter buses, school buses, and today I drive for two different trucking companies, as well as having my own lawn mowing service. Many of the driving jobs came to me, just like Trumbo said they would when I got my license. Driving various types of vehicles wasn’t a goal that I set for myself. I wanted to try it, I did it, I loved it, and that just became something else I accomplished in my life. No time limits.
Even with all those jobs, I still had hobbies. Over the course of my life, I joined three different bands. At one point, I was part of all three of them at the same time; Crowhaven (the band that my friend Bucky had gotten together), Musicians for Hire (which has broken up now), and the Danville Pipe Band. Most recently had a performance with the pipe band for Saint Paddy’s Day 2018 in Richmond, Kentucky. The love of music that my school fostered in me at a young age is a huge part of how I ended up in Chicago, and also at a bunch of other music festivals with Crowhaven. We usually play out of state because Kentucky doesn’t have much of a hard rock following, which allows me to travel to places that I wouldn’t be able to visit otherwise. Just by being involved in Crowhaven, I got to go to Illinois, Tennessee, New York, and Ohio and perform.
I also spend time with my wife and kids when my schedule isn’t too full. Today, I have two wonderful kids, Brandon and Leigh Ann, as well as two grandkids. I’ve got my wife and two kids, just like I wanted when I was growing up. I didn’t try to set a goal to get the wife and kids. Fate brought them to me, and I found happiness through them and my interests.
3 | Fortune Favors the Bold
The next thing I want to do is get my pilot’s license, and I’ll get them too, but on my own time. People, especially you younger people, put too much stress on yourselves to accomplish everything you want to by the time you’re 30. You don’t have to put a timestamp on your success, and the rewards you reap from your life. I’ve worked for everything I have in life, and I’ve gotten a hell of a lot of great experiences out of it.
I think setting goals is a great thing to do for some people, but it doesn’t work for me. I never had a goal to have as many jobs as I’ve had by my age, but it just happened that way. When I wanted to do something, I just read up on it and I did it. I still do this today. My bold confidence is what has gotten me this far. This is the same attitude I’ve had my whole life, and it’s why I’ve gotten where I am today. When you have a positive personality, you can go really far in life. If you have a negative personality, you can still go far. It’ll just take a lot longer to get there.
This is the story of James Murphy
Murphy currently lives in Danville, Kentucky with his wife, Kelli. His son Brandon and his grandkids live nearby, so Murphy gets to see his family often. With the support of strong role models in his life like his mother, great-grandmother and a teacher from his high school, Murphy has had many jobs over the course of his lifetime. He found these jobs by not pressuring himself to stick a specific timeline or goal, which helped him find happiness. He loves taking his best friend out for lunch and taking care of the people he loves in general. He lives a simple life with his wife, a beautiful home, and his three or four jobs. He looks forward to the time when he retires for good, but he’s just not ready yet. He currently works for two trucking companies based out of Danville and surrounding small towns. His only regret in life is that he never went to graduate school. He would keep learning just to further his education if he could, but he doesn’t want to be in a hundred thousand dollars’ worth of debt. Still, if he went today, he’d study to be a dental assistant. He doesn’t know why but he’s fascinated by dental assistants right now, and but he’d like to learn more about the profession and definitely learn to be one sometime in the future.
This story first touched our hearts on June 19, 2018.
| Writer: Cheyenne Cooley | Editors: Kristen Petronio; Colleen Walker |