Scottish bass player, Philip Neil Murray was born 27 August 1950. Originally a drummer who started playing bass in 1967, Murray formed his first band with school friends in 1967 (Slap Happy and the Dum-Dums). His musical tastes were heavily influenced by the mid-1960s ‘blues boom’ bands and musicians, especially Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce, and later by Motown legend James Jamerson and Tim Bogert of Vanilla Fudge, Cactus and Beck, Bogert & Appice. Murray moved to bass shortly before studying graphic design at the London College of Printing. In 1973, Neil briefly played in Gilgamesh, a jazz-fusion band led by Alan Gowen. After Leaving Gilgamesh, Murray toured the USA with Junior Hanson, following a recommendation from Jeff Beck’s bass player Clive Chaman. Hanson later became a member of Bob Marley & The Wailers under the name Junior Marvin. Neil spent early 1974 supporting the album he recorded with them, Magic Dragon.After Cozy Powell decided to fold Hammer, Murray and Airey joined a revamped version of the British jazz rock band Colosseum, named Colosseum II. The band’s leader, drummer Jon Hiseman, had evolved the band’s sound by eliminating the saxophone in preference for a rockier sound courtesy of Gary Moore’s guitar. Colesseum II Realeased the album Strange New Flesh.
Sadly Murray and vocalist Mike Starrs were fired and the record label Bronze, who dropped Colosseum II altogether. After Colosseum II, in 1976 Neil teamed up again with ex-Gilgamesh keyboardist Alan Gowen in National Health with whom he recorded a self-titled album in 1977. Prior to recording that album, the band played with drummer Bill Bruford of Yes/King Crimson fame, who was followed by ex-Hatfield & the North drummer Pip Pyle. Murray worked with Bruford again during the rehearsals for Bruford’s Feels Good To Me album, standing in for Jeff Berlin. Murray also deputised for Berlin on Bruford’s “Old Grey Whistle Test” appearance in 1978. During this performance he sports a long sleeve T-shirt saying ‘More Bass’, predating Saturday Night Live’s “More Cowbell” by more than 20 years. National Health’s complex music and the lack of commercial success prompted Murray to leave. Murray performed with Bernie Marsden in Cozy Powell’s Hammer and Babe Ruth’s album Stealing Home, before joining two members of Deep Purple in Paice Ashton Lord.
In 1977, ex-Deep Purple singer David Coverdale Founded Whitesnake, which featured guitarists Micky Moody and Bernie Marsden. Marsden invited Murray join along with drummer Dave Dowle. Deep Purple’s Jon Lord joined in the summer of 1978 and, after recording Lovehunter in 1979, Dowle was replaced by Ian Paice. From 1978 until late 1986, Murray helped make Whitesnake one of the most popular bands in Europe and Japan, and later America. He recorded 9 albums (Snakebite, Trouble, Love Hunter, Ready An’ Willing, Live in the Heart of The City, Come An’ Get It, Saints An’ Sinners, Slide It In, and Whitesnake). Murray’s melodic basslines, were influenced by Jack Bruce, Andy Fraser and even Jaco Pastorius. Whitesnake toured the UK, Europe, Japan and played at Reading Festival in 1979 and 1980 and the Monsters of Rock festival at Castle Donington in 1981 and for Jethro Tull in 1980 and Judas Priest in 1981. In early 1982, after tense Saints An’ Sinners recording sessions, Coverdale replaced drummer Ian Paice with Cozy Powell, meanwhile Paice and Murray recorded Gary Moore’s Corridors of Power album, and Paice decided to join Moore. Murray was replaced by Colin Hodgkinson in Whitesnake. Bernie Marsden also departed, replaced by Mel Galley, however Micky Moody and Jon Lord returned
Neil Murray then briefly formed The band Badlands (not to be confused with the American band featuring Jake E. Lee) with Uriah Heep’s John Sloman on vocals and future Thin Lizzy’s John Sykes on guitars. The band’s music was hard rock and fitted the gap between a melodic band like Thin Lizzy, a blues influenced outfit like Whitesnake and a more straight-ahead AC/DC. However Badlands only played London’s Marquee Club before splitting. In 1982, Neil Murray and Ian Paice both joined Gary Moore recording three albums with Moore: Corridors Of Power, Victims of The Future and Rocking Every Night – Live In Japan. Between 1979–1982 Murray performed on a number of solo albums from Bernie Marsden, Graham Bonnet, Cozy Powell, Forcefield and Jon Lord, sometimes playing with drummer Simon Phillips, which led in 1981 to Murray playing with a trio of superstars – Jeff Beck, Sting and Eric Clapton – at two of the Secret Policeman’s Other Ball series of four concerts at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, London.
In 1983, Micky Moody and Colin Hodgkinson left Whitesnake after recording the new album Slide It In. Coverdale hooked up with A&R guru John Kalodner and signed with Geffen Records and after trying to hire Adrian Vandenberg and Mama’s Boys’ Pat McManus, Coverdale hired John Sykes (Tygers of Pan Tang, Thin Lizzy) instead Murray was invited back and he and Sykes re-recorded a lot of the guitar and all of the bass parts for Slide It In, resulting in two different vinyl versions: one for Europe featuring Moody and Hodgkinson and a US remix version with Sykes and Murray. Unfortunately while Whitesnake were touring in 1984, Mel Galley injured his arm, And left the band. So John Sykes played guitar instead. Then Jon Lord left the band for the Deep Purple reunion thus making Whitesnake a four-piece outfit (Coverdale, Murray, Sykes, Powell) with off-stage keyboard player Richard Bailey (ex-Magnum).
Whitesnake toured the USA with Dio and Quiet Riot culminating with an appearance at the 1985 Rock in Rio Festival in front of 150,000 people, Cozy Powell left the band for Emerson, Lake & Powell and Aynsley Dunbar (Journey, Jefferson Starship) joined as drummer for Whitesnake’s album “1987”. Meanwhile Murray continued doing sessions for several other artists (including Phenomena) and recorded with a band project put together by music impresario Jonathan King called Gogmagog, featuring former Iron Maiden singer Paul Di’Anno, future Iron Maiden guitar player Janick Gers (ex-Ian Gillan), ex-Def Leppard’s Pete Willis and another ex-Iron Maiden member Clive Burr on drums. Murray also joined Marsden and Galley in the short-lived band MGM playing the Reading Festival in 1987. Unfortunately work Was very slow on the album “1987” so Murray took the opportunity to redo some of the bass parts, but disagreements led to John Sykes quitting the band. Eventually 1987 went on to sell well over 10 million copies worldwide. Then Coverdale assembled a new version of Whitesnake in Los Angeles, of which Murray was no longer part which led to legal wrangling between Coverdale and Murray. Murray has played on the second most Whitesnake albums, behind only David Coverdale himself.
In 1987, Murray joined Japanese hard rock band Vow Wow, after having worked with its guitarist Kyoji Yamamoto and Vocalist Genki Hitomi on the second album by Phenomena. He recorded four albums including Helter Skelter, with the band between 1987 and 1989, and toured the UK, Europe, and Japan. In 1989, Murray was asked to join Black Sabbath by Cozy Powell after Geezer Butler’s refused to join the latest Black Sabbath line-up. He toured with the band in support of the album Headless Cross and stayed with the band until late 1990, recording the Tyr album. After Black Sabbath reformed their “Mob Rules” lineup in 1991 with Dio, Butler and Appice for Dehumanizer, Powell and Murray started a band project and recorded songs with singer John West (Artension, Royal Hunt). In 1992, Murray played with Powell and Black Sabbath’s Tony Martin, in a short lived version of Cozy Powell’s Hammer. Murray also recorded most of Martin’s first solo album Back Where I Belong and later played at a series of concerts at Expo’ 92 in Seville, Spain backing Steve Vai, Joe Satriani and Brian May. He also reunited with his ex-Whitesnake pals, guitarists Bernie Marsden and Micky Moody.
During 1992, Murray and Powell Played on ex-Queen guitarist Brian May’s solo album “Back to the Light” and went on tour, supporting Guns N’ Roses before releasing Live at Brixton Academy in 1993. The core of the Brian May Band (Neil Murray, Cozy Powell, Spike Edney and Jamie Moses) became the basis of the SAS Band (Spike’s All Stars), which continues to this day, playing sporadic live gigs with many famous guest vocalists, including Paul Rodgers, Brian May, Roger Taylor, Chaka Khan, Arthur Brown, Lionel Richie, Bob Geldof and many others. Steve Stroud became their main bassist, but Neil Murray returns to play with the band sporadically. In 1994, Powell and Murray returned to Black Sabbath. They recorded Forbidden and toured the US & Canada in 1995, then Bobby Rondinelli returned on drums when Powell departed. Between 1996 and 1997 Murray and Powell helped kickstart the return of the legendary Peter Green (John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, Fleetwood Mac) in his Splinter Group. Murray also recorded three albums with Green and toured
In 1998, Brian May released his third solo album, Another World, which Murray and Powell had once again played on, but Powell’s death meant a tour with Eric Singer (KISS, Alice Cooper, Lita Ford, Black Sabbath) instead. 1998 also saw the posthumous release of Cozy Powell’s “Especially For You” featuring vocal phenom John West (Royal Hunt, Artension, Badlands, Lynch Mob, Ten Man Push), and Michael Casswell (Brian May Band), and Lonnie Park (John West, Wrathchild America, Ten Man Push).
In 1999, Murray started working again with Bernie Marsden and Micky Moody, for a Norwegian Whitesnake tribute band The Snakes. Marsden and Moody eventually changed the band name to Company of Snakes. They were joined by vocalist Robert Hart (The Jones Gang, Bad Company, The Distance, solo artist/songwriter) and keyboard player Don Airey. Hart then decided to leave to concentrate on his solo/songwriting career. The only recording with Don Airey on keys and John Lingwood on drums) is on Micky Moody’s solo album I Eat Them For Breakfast. In 2001 Swedish singer Stefan Berggren was recruited and COS released two albums: Here We Go Again Live (the gig was recorded in Germany with temporary ex-MSG singer Gary Barden, and Burst The Bubble.
Company of Snakes desolved in 2002 with the band being transformed into M3 Classic Whitesnake, dropping recent original material in favour of a purely Whitesnake set. Ex-Sabbath frontman Tony Martin was their singer initially, before being replaced by Berggren. The band has released one live album (with Tony Martin on vocals) and one live DVD (with Berggren and Rainbow/Yngwie Malmsteen/ Cornerstone singer Doogie White) featuring songs from the classic Whitesnake era 1978–1982. Murray is also a member of German heavy rock band Empire, with guitarist Rolf Munkes. Empire also featured Tony Martin on the Trading Souls and The Raven Ride albums. Since April 2002, Murray has been in the band of the London musical We Will Rock You. He also performed at 2007’s ‘Classics in Rock’ concert in Rotterdam and the first London Rock ‘n Roll Fantasy Camp. Murray also played on the 2008 Michael Schenker album In the Midst of Beauty.