Murray Kaufman (February 14, 1922 – February 21, 1982), professionally known as Murray the K, was an influential rock and roll impresario and disc jockey of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. During the early days of Beatlemania, he frequently referred to himself as the fifth Beatle.
Murray the K reached his peak of popularity in the mid-1960s when, as the top-rated radio host in New York City, he became an early and ardent supporter and friend of The Beatles. When the Beatles came to New York on February 7, 1964, Murray was the first DJ they welcomed into their circle, having heard about him and his Brooklyn Fox shows from American groups such as the Ronettes (sisters Ronnie and Estelle Bennett and their first cousin Nedra Talley). The Ronettes met the Beatles in mid January 1964, just a few weeks before, when the Harlem-born trio first toured England (the Rolling Stones were the group’s opening act). The Beatles and Decca Records (distributor of Philles Records, the Ronettes’ U.S. label) jointly threw the Ronettes a welcome party in London. When the band arrived in New York, Murray was invited by Brian Epstein to spend time with the group, and Murray persuaded his radio station (WINS) to let him broadcast his prime time show from the Beatles’ Plaza Hotel suite. He subsequently accompanied the band to Washington, D.C. for their first U.S. concert, was backstage at their The Ed Sullivan Show premiere, and roomed with Beatles guitarist George Harrison in Miami, broadcasting his nightly radio shows from his hotel room there. He came to be referred to as the “Fifth Beatle“, a moniker he said he was given by Harrison during the train ride to the Beatles’ first concert in Washington, D.C. or by Ringo Starr at a press conference before that concert. (However, in The Beatles: The First U.S. Visit he is seen christening himself thus in a phone conversation with the Beatles on the morning of their arrival in New York). His radio station WINS picked up on the name and billed him as the Fifth Beatle, a moniker he came to regret. He was invited to the set of A Hard Day’s Night in England and made several treks to England during 1964, giving WINS listeners more Beatle exclusives.
By the end of 1964, Murray found out that WINS was going to change to an all news format the following year. He resigned on the air in December 1964 (breaking news about the sale of the station and the change in format before the station and Group W released it) and did his last show on February 27 prior to the format change that occurred in April 1965. A year later, in 1966, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruled that AM and FM radio stations could no longer simply simultaneously broadcast the same content, opening the door for Murray to become program director and primetime dj on WOR-FM — one of the first FM rock stations, soon airing such djs as Rosko and Scott Muni in the new FM format. Murray played long album cuts rather than singles, often playing groups of songs by one artist, or thematically linked songs, uninterrupted by commercials. He combined live in-studio interviews with folk-rock — he called it “attitude music” — and all forms of popular music in a free-form format. He played artists like Bob Dylan and Janis Ian, the long album versions of their songs that came to be known as the “FM cuts”. Al Aronowitz quotes Murray as saying about this formula, “You didn’t have to hype the record any more. The music was speaking for itself.”
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