Veterinarian Alumnus and Lifelong Beach Boys Fan Hears Pet Sounds
Jim Murphy ’79 not only used his liberal arts education to attend and graduate from veterinary school many years after college, but his fascination with the Beach Boys enticed him to write a book on the true story of how the band formed and went on to become one of America’s most popular rock groups.
Jim Murphy’s love of the Beach Boys began at the age of 10, when he accompanied his brother on a quest to locate the newly released Good Vibrations single. The Bronx resident was hooked after hearing the song, which was released in October 1966. Earlier that year, the Beach Boys released their landmark album, “Pet Sounds,” of which Murphy is still fond, particularly in his work life.
Today Murphy is a veterinarian in Washington, D.C., and hears pet sounds daily in the exam room. His science degree from Manhattan College and the lifelong dream of becoming a veterinarian enticed Murphy to make a career change and graduate from veterinary school 17 years after college.
Another passion of Murphy’s recently became a reality when an eight-year-long project was published in 2015. Becoming the Beach Boys, 1961-1963, is not only a tribute to Murphy’s dedication to the band but the fervor he has for reading and writing, another skill he credits to his Manhattan education. What he envisioned as a 10-12-page essay turned into a comprehensive, 433-page book.
“I could never find one clear, cohesive account of how they met, how they formed the band, how they wrote their first song, how they got a record contract and how they kicked off their career,” Murphy says. “There were too many inconsistencies and a patchwork of stories that did not make sense.”
One of Murphy’s best research discoveries was locating Brian Wilson’s one-time fiancée, Judy Bowles. After spending two years tracking Bowles down, Murphy was able to interview her for several hours and received numerous anecdotes and stories on the early days of Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys that he incorporated into his book.
Interviews like Bowles’ contributed greatly to the success of the book, which also included the release of 50 never-before-published images. Murphy conducted a total of 75 interviews for the book with friends and relatives of the band.
“With everything that I have written, [I thought] maybe I can make a contribution to what is known about the Beach Boys and their origin story,” Murphy adds. “They used to play on radio station rooftops, in high school gymnasiums, cafeterias, parking lots, and new record stores. They had a very humble origin story.”
Once McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, expressed interest in his manuscript, the book was on its way to being published.
Bruce Johnston of the Beach Boys wrote on the Beach Boys Britain message board, “Becoming the Beach Boys, 1961-1963, is a must read and I could not put it down. There are a lot of interesting things to read in this book.”
Passions Discovered in Riverdale
A biochemistry major with dreams of attending veterinary school, Murphy’s priority was first and foremost the sciences, but he also discovered his interest in writing at Manhattan College.
He looks back fondly on the abundance of English literature classes he took, preparation for his most recent venture as a first-time author.
“One of the things I am really happy with about the book is the reviews so far. They almost all mention how well-written and researched the book is,” Murphy says.
“The education at Manhattan was so good and so fundamental, I was able to use it all these years later. It was really my passport to getting into veterinary school,” he adds. “I could not have gotten in without my four years at Manhattan College. The quality of the education and the teachers and professors was top notch and well-respected by the veterinary admissions board.”
When Murphy explored the idea of attending veterinary school during college, he decided against it because it was so competitive.
After working as a letter carrier during college, he decided to apply for a position with the United States Postal Inspection Service, the federal law enforcement arm of the United States Postal Service. Shortly after applying, he moved to Washington, D.C., and worked in the Inspection Service’s crime lab for four years. He eventually moved over to the communications division as a manager, and later became a speechwriter for the postmaster general.
Years later in 1992, he told his wife the story of how he had wanted to be a veterinarian in college. “Why don’t you try it now?” she said.
This conversation prompted Murphy to look into and apply to Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, and four years later he graduated with his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree. Murphy commuted 608 miles round-trip most weekends to attend classes in Blacksburg, Va.
With the launch of his recent book and his nearly 20-year career as a veterinarian, Murphy’s career path has changed dramatically since his days as a Jasper. He remembers one of his college professors telling him to pursue something he loved because then he would always be happy.
“In a roundabout way, that is what happened to me, and I trace it back to Manhattan,” he adds.