Murphy said he sat down and thought long and hard about what he wanted to do. He prayed, and the only thing that came to mind was that he needed a bigger stage.
"I thought about going into the mines." He held his thumb and forefinger before his face, an inch apart, then added, "I was this close to going in the mines. I got family in the mines. My dad is a coal miner. All my cousins. But I'm claustrophobic."
He shook his head. "I'd have to be drunk every day to go down in there."
Instead, he had what he called "a moment of clarity." While he was considering his options, he saw a commercial for "America's Got Talent." He went online, checked out the show and decided to give it a shot.
Wife Jennifer thought he was kidding.
"America's Got Talent" seemed like a good fit for Murphy. Unlike similar shows, such as "American Idol," "America's Got Talent" isn't just individual singers competing for a record deal but a variety of very different acts in a showcase. Plus, it doesn't have an age restriction.
Even if he didn't win, there was more of a chance to stand out.
"I didn't go with the intention of winning," Murphy said. "I wasn't there to compete. Once you got past the judges, you had 90 seconds in front of America."
For Murphy, who said he was looking for a bigger stage, it was hard to imagine a bigger one than in front of a television audience numbering in the tens of millions.
He went to New York City for the first round of auditions.
"You'd get in line at about 5:30 in the morning, and it would take to 6:30 p.m. just to get in the building," he said. "It was 9 o'clock just to audition."
The lines were a kind of circus: a mix of talented hopefuls, sideshow attractions and clowns just looking for attention.
"You had all different kinds of characters," Murphy said.
Eventually, applicants were broken down into different categories for judging. Murphy auditioned with about 80 other singers before producers pulled him aside. They liked what they saw and wanted to hear more about where he was from.
He told them about Logan, West Virginia.
"They told me to go home, lay down, don't get a job.
"See you in L.A."
Murphy had a great run on the show, winning over the judges and then the country with his talent, his story and his humble, gentle nature.
"I was just being me," he said. "It's not work. I'm just me."
People around town in Logan say much the same.
Jeanie Thorne, a clerk at Goldtown Jewelers, said, "He and his wife have always been really, really sweet."
Afternoon DJ Erin Williamson-Miller at WVOW said, "Landau and his wife are very kind small-town people."
And so far, they seem the same as they probably always have been.
Terri Keefer, a bank teller at Logan Bank & Trust, said before the show, she didn't really know Murphy particularly well, although in a town the size of Logan, everybody tends to know everybody a little.
She remembered seeing him at Walmart during the summer, while he was on break from the show. She said she tapped him on the shoulder, introduced herself and asked him to come by for a visit at the bank.
"He came by." Keefer said, "but I was gone."
He came back a second time.
During his time on the show and after his win, Murphy has been quick to point out the people who've helped him along the way. People like his old boss, Mike Ferrell, and Debrina Williams at the Logan Chamber of Commerce, as well as many others, helped provide financial support for Murphy and his wife to go back and forth between West Virginia and Los Angeles. They paid for the billboards encouraging people to vote.
Others supported him by watching the show, voting and telling others to do the same.
"I called my kids in Tennessee and Texas," Logan Bank & Trust teller Vanessa Shelton said. She said it was important to her that her family, wherever they might be, supported Murphy.
"He put our small town on the map," she said. "He's from here, where I live, and he made Logan County proud."
He also made Logan County proud since he won "America's Got Talent." In the months following, Murphy has worked almost continuously. He's sold out shows on both coasts, particularly in concert halls close to home where he's basked in well-deserved adoration.
Murphy also has contributed his time and energy to helping others. He's collected coats for charity, agreed to star in television spots for Daymark's Community Connections program and is slated to perform at a number of local benefits in the coming months.
He also said he's not leaving.
While his career might take him to Las Vegas, New York or a thousand other places, Logan is still home -- and the place Murphy wants to be.
"It feels good just getting to the Kanawha County line," he said.
Reach Bill Lynch at ly...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.