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Kenny McMurray is a Columbia rhythm-and-blues musician who works in a wedding band with dreams of getting a big break.
All he needed was to call himself MoonPie and record himself wearing a garish purple hat while singing a parody tune about the year’s most controversial story in college football.
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McMurray’s version of “Son of a Preacher Man” — a reference to the father of Auburn quarterback Cam Newton — has been viewed nearly 170,000 times on YouTube in two weeks, while getting notice from sports blogs and radio shows across the Southeast.
It also won him a gig last week in Alabama.
“I have been turned down twice by every record company for real music, and this is what hits,” said McMurray, who graduated from Lower Richland High School before getting a political science degree from USC.
The Gamecocks face the Auburn Tigers — led by Newton — in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game on Saturday.
Newton has been dogged with allegations that his father, a minister in Georgia, demanded money from schools interested in the quarterback. An NCAA investigation is ongoing. The Newtons have denied any wrongdoing.
But that didn’t prevent McMurray from having a little fun at their expense.
McMurray, 41, works at a Columbia industrial supplier with the son of former USC quarterback Jeff Grantz, Derrick, who suggested the song while they talked about the Newton controversy over lunch this month.
“Seemed like a pretty funny idea at the time,” Derrick Grantz said. “I knew he had the personality to be a star, but I didn’t know it would take off like this.”
Over a weekend, the 1968 Dusty Springfield hit about a young’s woman’s romance with the preacher’s son became a dart fired at the Auburn quarterback and his father: “That’s when papa went to hawking/Need some cash or we start walking/Then he looked into my eye and lord knows to my surprise/He said, ‘It’s gonna to take at least a hundred grand to get the son of a preacher man.’”
McMurray’s parody mentions Newton’s reported troubles when he attended the University of Florida, including an accusation he stole a laptop. At Grantz’s suggestion, the lifelong USC fan’s song also pokes fun at the Gamecocks’ in-state rivals: “Not since Clemson and Danny Ford/Has a Tiger been this corrupt, my lord.”
McMurray said he shot the video a couple of weeks ago when his band’s drummer was late to practice. He wore a large purple leopard-print fringed hat that he bought for $2.50 at a Family Dollar. That hat has become his trademark.
He posted the video on YouTube on a Monday, only identifying himself as MoonPie — a nickname McMurray received as a baby from a family friend because he was born soon after the first moon landing.
By Friday, dozens of web hits from friends who had posted links on Facebook turned into thousands of views when several blogs mentioned the parody. Radio shows tracked him down.
Not bad for a fella whose band, Kenny LoveChild & the Party, has a promotional video that has been viewed 254 times since it was uploaded to YouTube two months ago.
Before “Preacher Man,” McMurray said his career musical highlight was playing in a band that that opened for Kid Rock in 2008.
Last week, he traveled to Tuscaloosa, Ala., to perform at a large tailgate for Alabama fans before the school’s annual grudge match with Auburn. McMurray estimated he played his version of “Preacher Man” 50 times Friday.
In addition to $500, he was given three tickets to the game known as the Iron Bowl.
McMurray sold them. “I wanted to get home to watch the Carolina-Clemson game.”