When Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. stepped onto the stage for the sixth season of "America's Got Talent," Frank Sinatra tunes weren't exactly what people expected him to sing.
After all, Murphy, who stands 6 feet, 4 inches tall, is a black man who fashions his hair in long braids and speaks with a southern accent, thanks to his Logan, W.Va., upbringing.
He might not be a stereotypical Sinatra-style performer — and that's exactly why Murphy walked away with the big prize.
Murphy hopes to wow local audience members when he performs Friday, Oct. 26, at The Maryland Theatre in downtown Hagerstown.
Expect his show to be in the vein of the Rat Pack, he said, where it's more substance and less flash.
"I don't want to ever sweat," he said with a laugh. "I don't want to jump through hoops to make you watch me on stage. I don't want to do that. I want to let you hear some great songs and listen to some fantastic musicians."
But to be headlining his own shows has been a tough journey for Murphy. When he appeared on "America's Got Talent," which aired in 2011, he was wearing the only clothes he had left after thieves had broken into his family's home.
"Someone broke into our home and took everything," Murphy said during a telephone interview from his West Virginia home. "They took the copper out of the walls, broke the tile floor, took the toilets from the bathroom — they took everything out my house."
When he said "everything" he meant it — he didn't even have a pair of shoes to wear to his November 2010 audition.
"When we went to New York, I went to the Shoe Parlor and bought a $35 pair of PF Flyers," he said. "I still have the shoes."
Murphy, 38, said he didn't realize he could sing until he was about 13 or 14, when "my friends started hating on me."
"When someone's hating on you, you know you're doing something right," he said.
So when he did sing, he would sing by himself, or sing in the shower — places where no one else would be around.
"I would just have my headphones on and listen to Jodeci, Boys II Men, Color Me Badd, and sing to those songs," he said.
When his parents divorced when he was 8, he and his two brothers and two sisters moved to Detroit. It was a culture shock from the small town of Logan.
Murphy wasn't interested in school and dropped out in the 11th grade, but he kept on being active with church and basketball. It was on the basketball courts where he'd sing "Fly Me to the Moon" to his fellow players to make them laugh.
When his mother returned to West Virginia in the 1990s, Logan returned, but soon when she remarried he found himself on the streets. He also had rekindled a romance with his now-wife Jennifer. And at age 19, he was starting a family.
Murphy said he was bound and determined that he wasn't going to live on the streets for the rest of his life.
"You either keep going or you're going to give up," he said. "If you give up, you start being exposed to a bunch of bad things."
He said he didn't want to end up in prison so he started to think of how to get his life back on track.
"I basically started loving me. I started loving myself. I started down, but I can cut hair, I can dance, I can sing, I can draw, I can play any sport," he said.
To survive, he started hustling by playing basketball and washing cars.
"There are all kinds of ways to make money. You can find someone and sell something — fruit, flowers or fish dinners — there's so many ways to make money."
And slowly, he picked himself up and has forged a path for his family.
Before the show, Murphy was singing and touring with a blues soul band in West Virginia and it disbanded. Then his father-in-law passed away and his wife started to care for her mother. Then while he and his wife were away, someone broke into their home.
"I was just so down and out, I felt like I had nothing left to lose," he said. "And it was a way to get back on my feet. I figure if could go on there and wow a couple of the judges I could possibly get on TV and get some exposure. I never went with the intention of winning, it was just to better my life."
Murphy and his wife flew to New York City for the auditions for the show that would premiere in 2011.
He said he liked "America's Got Talent" because "it lets you be who you are."
And striving to be himself was how Murphy wowed two of the three judges — Howie Mandel and Sharon Osbourne — in the first round. Piers Morgan wasn't as impressed.
"I blocked the judges out. I'm mainly an audience person, I like to feed off the audience," he said of his first performance. "... I started playing with the audience and pointing fingers, getting into character. I tried not to look at the cameras, just look at the front of the room."
By the end of the season, Morgan would eventually be swayed by Murphy's music.
As part of his win, Morgan played Colosseum Theater at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, where the Rat Pack once graced the stage.
"It's a dream come true," he said of the performance.
Murphy said when he walked in, he shook the hand of the statue of Caesar who stands at the entrance.
"I said, 'You all can't walk past Caesar and not shake his hand," he said with a laugh.
Although this has been a roller coaster ride, Murphy said it is a lesson for his five children — ages 11 to 18.
He said it hopes to teach them "to never give up, plain and simple. If you want something, go out and get it 'cause no one's going to give it to you. And you got to work hard at it, because it's not going to just fall in your lap. And don't be afraid of the process."
If you go ...
What: Landau Eugene Murphy Jr.
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26
Where: Maryland Theatre, 21 S. Potomac St., downtown Hagerstown
Cost: $27 to $39
More: To purchase tickets, go to www.mdtheatre.org or call the box office Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 301-790-2000