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Ohio's Songbird & Former Zapp Vocalist, "Shirley Murdock" Using Her Voice for The Glory of The Lord!

Updated: May 7, 2022

Shirley Murdock, one of the most talented singers I have ever heard, has the voice of an angel! After hearing her for the first time, I was blown away by the beauty of her voice! To me, her voice is a sound that is totally unique. I found the combination of her beautiful vocals with the futuristic computer sound to be cutting edge and unlike anything I had ever heard before. Computer Love was a song that had to be played at my school dance in order for the dance to be successful. I can assure you that a bunch of rowdy, pimpled-faced 7th graders would confront the DJ if he did not play computer love (laughs). Despite the fact that Computer Love was released in 1985, it is still one of the hottest R&B gems of our time. I thoroughly enjoyed interviewing Shirley. She shared much of her life experiences, both good and bad. The following is what she discussed with me.

Hi Shirly, how is the weather out there? Well today, it will be 70 degrees here in Dayton. It will be a little cooler tomorrow. We must keep the faith and know that trouble doesn’t last always!

Well, it's so good to speak with you. I’m truly honored to be able to interview one of my favorite artists! I’m definitely a fan of your voice. I grew up listening to your music! So, let’s talk about you. Where are you from? How was life growing up? I grew up in Toledo, Ohio, the fifth of six children. Although my parents divorced when I was young, my dad was a part of my life. As far back as I can remember, I grew up listening to a lot of music. My family was also very fond of music. My mother loved basketball and blues; my dad loved jazz my sister loved music also. So, as you can see, music was always happening!

I remember listening to Aretha Franklin, Gladys’s knight, and Stevie Wonder on the radio. I also loved gospel music! Some of my favorite gospel singers were mama's Shirley Caesar Some of my favorite gospel singers were mama's Shirley Caesar, The Hawkins, The Mighty Clouds of Joy, The Clark Sisters, and Andre Crouch!

So, I recognized that God gave me this special gift even as a young child. I knew it because of how I felt when I sang and how the people responded to my singing. I just knew that there was something going on with this voice that God gave. So, because I grew up singing in church, and had a strong relationship with the Lord, I thought I would become a gospel singer.

Now, back in the day, on Saturday mornings, I remember watching in black and white a little curly-haired white girl by the name of “Shirly Temple”. I felt like I could relate to her. We had the same name, she could sing and dance, she was an actor, and she was young like me. So, after seeing her, I said, “one day, that's going to be me”.

So, as I stated before, I thought I was going to be a gospel singer so, over the years, when I would be offered opportunities to sing mainstream, I would turn them down because I was thinking that I couldn’t sing secular music and be a Christian too. So, I was going to be a curly good Christian and sing gospel.

Later in my life, I traveled the country with a ministry team called, “T.E.T.R.E.C “, The End Time Revival Evangelistic Crusade. I was their praise and worship leader for that ministry. We traveled all over the country, city to city, doing weeklong revivals. We also recorded it on cassette tape. Yes, cassette tapes, that’s how long ago that was!

Now, my mother had a cassette copy of one of the songs we did from one of our conferences called, “Jesus’s is love”. We did a cover of, “The Commodores (Lionel Richie’s) song. Jesus is love”.

So, my cousin who worked at, “Troutman Enterprises”, begged my mom to give her a copy of the tape. So, she took it back to “Troutman Enterprises” where, Larry Troutman and Roger Troutman from the band “Zapp”, heard me singing and wanted to know who is she and does she want to make records? So, my eldest sister spoke to them on my behalf and told them that I wanted to sing gospel music, but, unfortunately, they didn’t have any connections in gospel, but left the door open for me to record mainstream music they would love to help me.

So, I left there, and said “God, why does this seem to be the only door that is opening to me?” In my heart of heart, I really wanted to sing gospel, but it seemed that at that time, only mainstream doors were opening. So, after I prayed about it, and talked to my family and pastor about the matter, I decided to walk by faith through the open door. And the rest was history. So, basically, I got my start through, Roger Troutman and Larry Troutman, who was his brother and manager, who then became my manager, who shopped a record deal for me and got me signed to Electra Records.

So, what happened from that point? Let’s dive deeper into your professional recording life. Let’s talk about your music and your recordings.

Well, we started making my record. I was commuting back and forth from Toledo to Dayton. One day, Roger called me and said, we need to finish this record, so I need you to move to Dayton. Also, he wanted to show me how to sing in the studio because I was used to singing in the church choir. So, he wanted to show me how to sing in the studio, how to sing in what we call, “singing in the pocket”. So, I've moved to Dayton and started making my record. At that time, Roger was on tour, so he asked me to come out on tour with him. That was a great opportunity for me as a young artist to be able to learn from somebody that was already doing what I was getting ready to do. So, it was a great experience being on tour with Roger and Zapp!

What were some other projects you worked on? In the meantime, I sang on many of the projects. Just to name a few, I sang on projects such as, “Sugarfoot from the Ohio players, New Horizons, which was a local Dayton group, and Roger Troutman and Zapp albums. I even co-wrote a song from the Zapp album called “Computer Love”. In fact, I sang along with Charlie Wilson on that song. Roger also produced a soundtrack for the “Martin Lawrence movie” called “A thin line between love and hate”. I'm featured on that title cut along with a group called, “H Town”. So, it’s been a great journey. And that's how I got my start. I just feel blessed to be able to do what I do.

What challenges do you encounter being a gospel singer and then transitioning into mainstream music? Before I could even resolve myself into taking that leap of faith, I did some soul searching. That soul searching said “Shirley, your relationship with God is personal. It has nothing to do with anybody else. You know in your heart of hearts that you asked “The Lord Jesus Christ” to come into your heart and to be your personal savior, so that's a done deal! Nothing was going to make me forget about that or snatch me out of God's hands! I also understood that it would not be a popular decision because people would think that you would lose your soul and that you would go to hell. They thought I would go out into the world and become a sinner. This is especially true when it comes to the music industry with all the horror stories about drugs and alcohol.

I think the blessing to me was that I didn’t get so-called discovered until I was in my mid-20s. This gave me an opportunity to come into my own and learn not only who I was, but what my standards for myself were. I always kept in my heart the things that my mama taught me about being a lady and having self-esteem, pride, and moral values.

These values were also established from the teachings I heard while sitting in the choir stand from the pulpit. So, all of these things combined strengthened and shaped my relationship with The Lord and The Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was guiding and leading me into all truth. The lord was my conviction. So, for me, it was not a flippant decision, but it was one made after much prayer and consideration. I also thought, as I look back over my life, I held many secular jobs. I first started off working at a Toledo hospital in the dietary department. While I was in high school, I worked at JC Penney & various other jobs. And through all that, I still maintained who I was and who’s I was no matter where I worked. I never stopped being Shirley Murdock the Christian.

I never separate my spiritual life from my everyday life, They’re one and the same. I’m never Shirley on Sunday and then Monday through Friday some other Shirley. So, that's what I brought to the music industry. I brought the totality of who I was and I’m also proud of that.

So, I decided that I was going to walk by faith through that door. I said, Lord, I’m not going to leave you or the Godly principles or my relationship with God behind. I was determined to take God with me just like I did with every job that I ever worked. So, that's where my heart was and that was my mindset.

What was the public’s perception of you singing secular music? I did catch a lot of flak. I think people just didn’t understand but they didn’t understand the calling I had in my life. It was just as unique as the fingerprints on our hands. I understand as a Christian, according to the bible, that we are a body with many members, but Christ is the head. My feet cannot do what my hands can do but my hands can’t be angry at my feet because my hands can't walk. But, when I put all my members of my bodies together with Jesus as the head, oh, “we can get things done”!

So, with all that foundation, how did that play out in your new musical journey? Well, when I got to Dayton and spent time with Roger Troutman and his brothers, I learned that this was a family organization that I had become a part of. This was something I was used to. They were also very community-oriented. They spent the money that they earned from the music and invested it into a construction business so that they could build houses in the inner city. Personally, I thought that was a very Godly and normal thing to do.

Also, they knew where I came from, and what I represented. But I will say, I was never ever approached in a disrespectful way. I never got me too…ed with the Troutman Brothers. On the contrary, they looked out for me. They were very protective of me as well. They taught me what I needed to know about the music industry and so they respected me not only as a woman but as a woman of God! I have to say, it’s been that way from then until this very day.

The way I see it is that we can be more effective by being a written epistle read of men more so than browbeating on top of people’s heads. We need to just be authentically who we say who we are. And do this with a spirit of loving-kindness. The bible says in Romans 2:4 that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance. So, my brothers (Zapp) got drawn to Christ not only the Holy Spirit using me as a living example but, my husband who became a staff musician, producer, Roger’s music director about a year after I got there.

So, we became two church kids in the music business. We became great friends our relationship grew, and we’ve now been married for 33 years.

I struggled because on the one side I felt that God was leading me and ordering my steps. He has given me markers throughout these years, and I just know that where I was, it was where I was supposed to be for such a time as this!

In my humanity, I felt church hurt. People did not understand me nor did they believe that I will still be saved. Now that broke my heart! Even when I went back to my church that I grew up in, and the church choir, they even looked at me crocked-eyed. Not all of them, but some of them. And, because you love them, and you share a close family-like bond with them. That hurt me. I was church hurt.

But, I can say, throughout the years, God has healed my heart, from that pain. Now, I have come to a point in my journey of over 35 years in the music business of coming to terms with the fact that I know that God planted me here on purpose for a purpose. I feel that He allowed me to have a bigger platform to spread his good news!

I remember saying to Roger, “my first album cannot go out without me saying something too, “The Lord”. He asked me do I have something” I told him, yes! I had this little song called, “My tribute”. The lyrics were, “I shall not forget what you've done for me…I shall not forget how you set me free…. everywhere I go, Jesus lives within my soul…. thank you for this time to say what's on my mind…. you're everything to me”!

And let me tell you, the company did not want that song on that record, but Roger and Larry Troutman fought for me and got it on the record. They did this because they knew what that meant to me. From that point on, every mainstream album that I recorded, always had a gospel song and some inspiration on it. That’s just who I am.

Wow! That’s a great testimony! How do you feel your music has impacted people? Firstly, I promised God that I would not leave Him out and that I would always take Him with me. In doing so there were times that I had the opportunity to minister and pray for people while I was doing R&B. Some of them gave their lives to the Lord. I remember this one time when I was in St. Paul, Minnesota, and I had an encounter with a waitress. She told me that she used to be saved. I told her, what do you mean? Don't you know that God is married to the backslider?

(American Standard Bible: Jeremiah 3:14, Return, O backsliding children, saith Jehovah; for I am a husband unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion ) “