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Lyle 'Spud' Murphy, arranged theme for Three Stooges, 96

LOS ANGELES -- Lyle ''Spud" Murphy, the composer, arranger, bandleader, and teacher who created music for acts as varied as the Three Stooges and bandleader Benny Goodman but is perhaps best known for a system for composing now widely used by professional musicians, died Aug. 5 at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital. He was 96. Colleagues said he died from complications from recent surgery.

Mr. Murphy's resume was varied as well as accomplished. He arranged two of Goodman's greatest hits, ''Get Happy" and ''Jingle Bells," and took the children's ditty ''Three Blind Mice" and turned it into the theme for the Three Stooges shows.

He wrote hundreds of instrumental compositions, contributed music to more than 50 films, wrote dance arrangements for several Fred Astaire movies, led a conventional swing orchestra, and made several jazz recordings under his own name.

In his 90s, far from fading into retirement, Mr. Murphy kept active spreading his method of composing, arranging, and orchestration, which he began teaching in his 40s.

Born in Berlin, Mr. Murphy moved to the United States at 4 with his mother and grew up in Provo, Utah. He showed an early natural talent for music and first learned upright e-flat alto horn taking lessons from the father of famed trumpet player Red Nichols. He eventually would master the trumpet and all the saxophones and woodwinds.

He left home at 14 and got his first music job at 16 playing and arranging music for bandleader Johnny McFall and his Dallas-based band called The Honey Boys.

Mr. Murphy played and arranged music for a number of bands over the next several years before landing in New York City in 1933.He became well-known in New York's busy music world creating arrangements for bandleaders, including more than 100 for Goodman's ''Let's Dance" radio broadcast and scores for the Glen Gray and the Casa Loma Orchestra. He also created more than 250 stock arrangements for several leading music publishers, many of which are still used by dance bands worldwide.

While in New York, he also formed an orchestra, made several radio broadcasts, and recorded five albums for Decca and Bluebird.

Mr. Murphy moved to California in the late 1930s and served in the Merchant Marine in World War II. After the war, he picked up film work. It was during this time he arranged ''Three Blind Mice" for the Stooges' movies.

By the late 1940s, arrangers had become fascinated with Mr. Murphy's prolific writing technique. He trained hundreds of students, including top jazz performers including Oscar Peterson, Buddy Collette, and Gerald Wiggins.

Mr. Murphy called his composing and arranging process the ''equal interval system."

David Blumberg, an arranger/composer who contributed arrangements for the Grammy-winning Ray Charles album ''Genius Loves Company" and the ''American Idol" TV show, said Mr. Murphy's method was ''a simple way to deal with 12 notes by using six intervals, and that use of six intervals when mastered would allow anyone to write any style or type of music freely."

Kennard Ramsey, who scores for film and television and who studied with Mr. Murphy for five years, said the system ''took a lot of the mystery and misinformation out of traditional music studies -- he made it so simple to see."

''Spud was such a wealth of knowledge, you could always go back to him for help," Ramsey said. ''He would just know what to do. He was vital up until the end."

Mr. Murphy won numerous awards in his industry and was a charter member of the American Society of Music Arrangers and Composers, serving 12 years as its president.

Mr. Murphy spoke several languages, and was a voracious reader who kept up with current events and was a keen student of boxing. He was also an expert in astronomy, geography, and the Titanic.

He leaves two daughters, Lilith and Jolie; and two grandchildren.

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