Count Basie doesn't have the only claim to the title "The Kid from Red Bank," as Neal Murray is fond of reminding you; both were born in Red Bank, New Jersey, although a year or two apart. Neal nevertheless considers himself as being raised in Old Greenwich, Connecticut. That's where his father bought the family's first (and only) house, after a succession of rentals while shuffling from one chemical engineering project to another throughout the northeast.
Growing up in the Eisenhower 1950s, like many other members of his generation, he was blissfully unaware of much beyond the town line. That's probably what made college life such a traumatic change. But that's where the radio bug bit, when he tried out as a student announcer at WKCR. Yeah. Big-time New York Radio Personality. Sure.
Academically qualified, but with a lot of emotional and personal growing left to do, he lasted less than a year at Columbia before joining the Air Force ahead of the draft. Four years in the service away from the rigors of higher education, he thought, was just the thing to settle his sights on some kind of goal for the future. Stability in a peacetime military was not a bad thing -- Korea was a fading memory, and neither he nor any of his friends had ever heard of Vietnam. Besides, didn't girls just love men in uniform.
So imagine the irony at being sent to one of the most rigorous year-long academic programs the Air Force had to offer, and then being banished from the country to a place where girls hadn't been invented yet. At least, that's how it seemed at the time.
Neal spent the next two decades -- and a bit more -- in the Air Force, most of it overseas. In the process he was culturally deprived of many things his generation grew up with: Gilligan's Island, Star Trek, and the other TV series he saw only in reruns. And there is still something not quite right about Brooklyn not being home to the Dodgers; and remember when the Washington Senators were known for baseball, not filibusters?
Along the way, he got a lot of seat-of-the-pants experience in doing all kinds of radio work in Armed Forces Radio in several countries. Some folks build model planes for a hobby; Neal 'played radio.' Music, news, features, even the occasional home-grown radio playhouse. He even filled in once as a country music disc jockey... country music barely survived that venture.
After retiring from the Air Force here in Virginia, he was finally ready for college again. He got his business administration degree from Old Dominion University and mailed out pounds of resumes. The inclusion of broadcast experience on the bottom of the resume was almost an afterthought, but it caught the attention of WHRO's Vice President for Radio Vianne Webb, who was beating the bushes for additional people to staff the company's second radio station, WHRV.
For the past ten years, in addition to the normal (is there really such a thing as normal?) announcing chores, he has hosted a three-hour weekly program called "The Saturday Night Fish Fry," featuring the Swing Era, big band favorites, and the so-called 'golden age' of American popular song.
Neal considers that the best job in the world is getting paid for something you used to do as a hobby. As George Gobel used to say, "You just can't hardly get them kind no more..."