Composed and confident, Jimy Murphy is able to recite facts and stories that began long before his birth. Tales of how his mother moved with her father from the Oklahoma Dust Bowl to Evergreen in 1934 literally set the stage for the events that molded Jimy into the mesmerizing character he is today.
Although his two older sisters were born elsewhere during World War II, Jimy was actually born in Evergreen and has remained a significant influence on the town ever since.
In the early 1950s, his mother originated the Evergreen Players, and Jimy eagerly involved himself and began taking on acting roles by the age of 10. Never a stranger to performing, he had become a professional singer two years earlier after a paid performance at St. John's Cathedral in downtown Denver.
While not honoring a full-time commitment to theatre, Jimy continued to perform in Denver, Chicago and Telluride when he was just a teen. He maintains that he never took the art of acting to heart until he discovered the works of Shakespeare.
Nonetheless, he did end up creating the Fly By Night Repertory Theatre Company, which successfully toured the state. It was during these travels that he was fortuitously offered a chance to sit in with a band, which changed his life forever. Having discovered his niche, he eventually put together the band that he considers his dream come true, the Kamikaze Klones, named after the Japanese word that means “divine wind.”
The year was 1978 and Jimy was on his way to becoming a rock-and-roll icon, at least within the state. Although proficient on guitar, he prefers his hands free and refers to himself as a “front man actor” maintaining the position of lead singer. He ranks Jimi Hendrix high among his heroes and says that was the man that made him want to play.
Early on, the Klones performed music by various artists, but that eventually that evolved to two-thirds original material. They often toured Aspen and other Colorado towns; even playing a benefit or two along the way. In fact, the band still plays here in Evergreen on occasion.
But there’s another part of Jimy’s story that he holds perhaps even more dear – the children. Oh what a spread of glee is cast when Jimy speaks of the schools he founded and the lives of the children he touched. The energy and peace he shared with them naturally summoned the “kamikaze” reference once again.
In 1990 Jimy created, advanced and led the Evergreen Children’s Theatre, which lasted until 2005, with members ranging in age from 4 to 20. During that time, Jimy directed about 70 plays. He says the kids represented “a blank page” to work with and shoved him to a pinnacle of inspiration.
After tackling the kid’s theatre in Evergreen, Jimy formed the Community Involved Charter School in Lakewood where was a teacher and principal advisor for a dozen teens at a time.
By the late 90s he had plenty of worldly travel experience behind him and was primed for an adventure. Because he had successfully completed an excursion to the British Isles with his family the previous year, he proposed that his 12 students accompany him to the same destination for a month of on-site education. In 1999 Jimy took the helm and guided the kids in their own fundraiser. Keeping the individual price beneath $700, they were able to pull off financing for their trip with no significant kinks.
With one other chaperone, the troop took off to London, rented a vehicle and headed in the direction of Stonehenge, probably Great Britain’s greatest ancient icon. Upon arrival, they were informed that “special access” was required for a student group tour and they would not be admitted. Just before disappointment could set in, a cancellation for the following day miraculously occurred, so they gladly spent the night in the region to return the next morning. When they awoke, however, it was raining buckets and discontentment supplanted elation.
Sparks of anxiety and discord flew. Forever hopeful, Jimy persevered, loading everyone into the 15-passenger van and driving directly to the monument. The moment he pulled into the parking lot the sun unexpectedly broke through the thick layer of clouds and within a few seconds the skies became a bright blue.
The revived ensemble poured out of the vehicle, with each student claiming a wee space for a bit of privacy there among the giant stones. The wise teacher remained in the distance, opting for isolated minutes of his own and a chance to survey what he has always coined his “magical life.”
A hired guard stood close by and ended up offering the group an extra 30 minutes on the grounds to explore and absorb … an hour and a half in total. After, the students returned to the vehicle one by one and piled in. As soon as Jimy showed up they hit the road again. Oddly, once under way no one had anything to say.
It’s remembered that the team was unusually pensive and meditative, unwilling or unable to share their personal thoughts. Seemingly, the 5000-year-old Stonehenge, known for its power, mystery and endurance had transformed the lot of them, stunning them to silence. About a mile or two later one of the kids pushed the radio to “on.” Without warning the horrific details of a Colorado high school shooting shattered the silence. It was April 20, 1999, the day of the Columbine massacre.
The night passed before any pertinent information made its way to the students. Most of them knew someone who attended Columbine and without doubt, they feared the worst. All the while though, their leader and “rock” reassured them with comfort and hope. Thankfully, the news from home was good with no familiar victims and the trip could continue as planned.
Jimy says no one discussed their experiences at Stonehenge until two weeks after the group returned to school in Colorado. Proudly, he confesses that each kid had something germane to add. They spoke of the “nature of reality” and “whole life visions;” they spoke of death and how such a tragedy had impacted them.
From England, class and chaperones journeyed across to Ireland and eventually back to Scotland. Each town and culture brought thrill and stimulation along with precarious events, such as the unimaginable behavior of the soccer fans aboard the ferry ride to Scotland. They were a fierce group of Celtics supporters, rife with animosity and given to singing high volume, x-rated songs.
Ultimately, however, the treasured details from the whole month together culminated in a hearty, life-changing bounty for Jimy. When asked what it was like to travel with 12 teens, he reports that never in his life has he experienced better traveling companions. He speaks of the adventure in alluring and metaphysical terms, being ever so careful not to bring extra attention to his own success.
Once he concluded that story, Jimy totally relaxed and began to speak of other things. While doing so, his eyes did twinkle, and it was evident how this man’s exceptional character was powerful enough to impact just about anyone who stood in his presence. His stories, like his energy, are as endless as they are entertaining.
Evergreen has much to be proud of when it comes to Jimy Murphy, the man with the magical life.
Photo by Jim Bailey, copyright protected but used with permission.