January 15, 1992 – Dee Murray (Elton John band) was born in Gillingham, Kent, England on 3 April 1946. Before joining Elton John as his touring sidemen, Murray and drummer Nigel Olsson were members of the Spencer Davis Group in 1969. In Murray’s musician bio in the program book for 1982’s “Jump Up!” tour, Murray recalled when he first took up the bass guitar during his high school years: “Someone put this heavy thing over my shoulder and said, ‘Here, you play this!'”
Murray quickly established a solid reputation on the instrument. In the Classic Albums documentary on Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, producer Gus Dudgeon lauded Murray’s musical ability, and said he hadn’t heard a bassist quite as good as him.
Murray and Olsson joined John as his road sidemen in 1970, and first appeared on disc with John on “Amoreena” from the 1970 album Tumbleweed Connection, though they were first featured on the live album 17-11-70. While they were John’s constant touring band mates, his record company only allowed them to play on just one track per studio album. As of Honky Château in 1972, however, John exerted some of his skyrocketing popularity at the time, and convinced his record company to allow Murray and Olsson to also become full-time recording members of his band. Along with fellow new recruit Davey Johnstone on guitar, Murray and Olsson played on John’s hit albums, including the milestone album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, singles, and world tours for several years.
In 1975, after recording Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, Murray and Olsson were released from the band because John wanted to achieve a different sound. He said at the time “The band always rattled along. I want it to chug”.
Murray and Olsson continued working together as session musicians in Los Angeles. They played on Rick Springfield‘s first United States album, Wait for Night (1976). In 1977, Murray briefly joined Procol Harum on a North America tour promoting their last 1970s album, Something Magic, although he never recorded with the group.
Between 1978 and 1979, Murray worked as part of Alice Cooper’s backing band. According to music site AllMusic.com, Murray played on Cooper’s hit album “From the Inside,” and joined Olsson backing the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir on his solo album “Heaven Help the Fool” in 1978.
Other artists he worked with during the 1970s and early 1980s include Yvonne Elliman (her Night Flight album contained the hit single “If I Can’t Have You,” composed by the Bee Gees), Shaun Cassidy, Allan Clarke, Bernie Taupin, Kiki Dee, Stefanie Gaines, Barbi Benton and Jimmy Webb.
Murray and Olsson returned to tour and play sessions with John, starting with “21 at 33” in 1980. He and Olsson backed John during his landmark concert in New York City’s Central Park before more than 400,000 fans on the Great Lawn on 13 September 1980, and appeared on The Fox in 1981. Murray went on to contribute all the bass tracks on Jump Up! in 1982, and joined Olsson and guitarist Davey Johnstone for the Jump Up! Tour, followed by albums and tours for Too Low for Zero (1983) and Breaking Hearts (1984). The group then disbanded, reuniting once more to record backing vocals on Reg Strikes Back in 1988.
In the 1980s, Murray played on numerous Nashville sessions for artists such as Michael Brown, Lewis Storey, Beth Nielsen Chapman and John Prine, amongst others.
He was a talented musician whose gift for melody, placement, and an understated, yet profound technique, plus his standout work as a backing vocalist, puts him in an elite class among rock bassists. He died after a long brave battle with skin cancer from a stroke at age 45 years on 15 January 1992.