Sept 2008
Stream Part's better with headphonesDownload Part 1, right's better with headphones
Stream Part 2's better with headphonesDownload Part 2's better with headphones
Stream Part's better with headphonesDownload Part 3, right's better with headphones
Men's Music

I'm paying tribute this month to a single album, one that I consider a landmark album for our culture. It was released in 1979 and was called "Walls To Roses: Songs of Changing Men." It is important because not only was it the first various artists album including both gay and straight men, but for the focus of the album: to support the struggle against sexism and to strive for a more positive vision of masculinity.

The album was conceived and produced by folk artist Willie Sordillo, and the Walls To Roses Collective, as it came to be called, met just over 30 years ago, for four days beginning on August 12, 1978, for the process of selecting the music, rehearsing, arranging, recording, and holding a concert. A byproduct was learning from each other and the collective process. This show will be in three parts. The main part, for radio, covers all the bases, including music, interviews with three of the artists, and historic interview clips from that weekend. The other two parts are expanded interviews. For the interview with Willie Sordillo, it contained just much too much, in the way of thoughtful and interesting comments, that did not fit into the first show. It would be a shame not to share it all. And for Charlie Murphy, WTR was only his first recording, so I took this opportunity to explore all of his music career.

I always love it when during the presentation of interviews in my shows that, in addition to an artist giving his or her story and the story of their music, that they also open a window into a particular time in our culture…a time that may now be forgotten. I feel that happens on this show, giving a look at the efforts begun in the early 70's for men to question sexism and the role and definition of masculinity. I encourage you to assure you listen to the supplemental interviews (especially Willie Sordillo's) to dig into this area. As I joked to Willie during the interview, many people would be surprised that there even was a Men's Movement, with the response, yes, gee, isn't the whole world a Men's Movement? But men did question all of this, and still do. The National Organization of Men Against Sexism, just held its 33rd Conference on Men & Masculinity last month. I am glad to, as I said, open a window to some of the early workings of those efforts, and to share with you its music and message. 




Part 1 - 57:49
Charlie Murphy - Gay Spirit (1979, part)
Willie Sordillo Interview
Jeff Langley - Walls To Roses (1978)
Willie Sordillo - For My Men Friends (1979)
Chris Tanner Interview
Chris Tanner - The Sensitive Little Boy (1979)
Blackberri - When Will the Ignorance End? (1979)
Kenny Arkin - Walls to Roses (1979)
Charlie Murphy Interview
Charlie Murphy - Gay Spirit (1979)

Part 2 - 61:01
Charlie Murphy Interview
Charlie Murphy - Gay Spirit (1981)
Charlie Murphy - If You've Got Gayness (1980)
Charlie Murphy - Double Love (1981)
Charlie Murphy - Dear Men (1981)
Charlie Murphy - No More (1981)
Charlie Murphy & Jami Sieber - Calling on the Spirits (1984)
Charlie Murphy - Fierce Love (1985)
Rumors of the Big Wave, and The Total
     Experience Gospel Choir - Free South Africa (1987)
Rumors of the Big Wave - Burning Times (1990)
Rumors of the Big Wave - Spirit in the Wasteland (1990)

Part 3 - 59:26
Willie Sordillo Interview
Willie Sordillo - For My Men Friends (1979)
Willie Sordillo - Old Friend's Song (1980)
Willie Sordillo - Gone, Gone, Gone (1983)
Willie Sordillo & Flor De Cana - Feeding the Flame (1990)

Bonus Sections:

More Charlie Murphy, His Entire Music Career

More on Willie Sordillo

More on Chris Tanner (VonTanner)

The Complete "Walls To Roses" Album Booklet

The Artists / Where Are They Now

Early Articles on "Men's Music," Blackberri & Charlie Murphy (1981)

Article from 1988 Geof Morgan wrote
about WTR and "Men's Music"

Special WTR History

A few years ago the Smithsonian Institute acquired the entire catalog of Folkways Records, and here's the incredible part, you can order from them on CD every Folkways record every released, including all five gay/lesbian recordings ("Gay & Straight Together," 2 by Michael Cohen, 1 by Kathy Fire)

Order the CD Here

photos by Ellen Shub

Above, artists heard in Part 1; below, pass cursor over image for the names

photos by Ellen Shub

The heart & soul of WTR, with only a few missing:  Jeff Langley, Geof Morgan,
Ray Makeever, David Greenberg, Christopher Hershey, Ellen Shub, and Karen Kane

Gay Spirit - written & sung by Charlie Murphy
Brothers - written & sung by Chris Tanner
Walls to Roses - written by Jeff Langley, sung by Kenny Arkin
The Matador - written by Geof Morgan, sung by Charlie Murphy
The Flowers, The Weeds - written & sung by Blackberri
Are You Karen Silkwood? - written & sung by Fred Small
For My Men Friends - written & sung by Willie Sordill
The Sensitive Little Boy - written & sung by Chris Tanner
Tears Fall From the Sky - written by Robbie Rosenberg & Kenny Arkin, sung by Kenny Arkin
When Will the Ignorance End? - written & sung by Blackberri

and, throughout the recording, the artists/musicians sang and played on each other's songs

Eric Gordon   The Making of Walls to Roses

I am grateful to Eric Gordon, for producing the 1978 radio special "The Making of Walls to Roses," as the sound clips he gathered during that weekend are an invaluable look at the "Walls to Roses" process. And I thank the Pacifica Archives for providing me with a copy of, and permission to use, parts of the broadcast on this program.

Photo credits for the original booklet belong to Ellen Shub, find her at

Note: I don't often "pat myself on the back" by sharing the comments from the folks I've featured, but I was bowled over by those from Willie Sordillo. Putting together this month's show was a true labor of love.

Dear JD,

I received the recordings last night- wow! Thank you so much for sending them, and thank you, thank you, thank you for the tremendous amount of work you put into producing the documentary. It's fabulous! Listening to it really brought me back to that time, and it was really wonderful to hear the voices of so many of us, but especially the recent interviews with Charlie and Chris. I think you really caught the spirit of what the project was about, and a sense of the times. I'm just overwhelmed at how comprehensive your work is, how extensive your research, unearthing things I'd never come across myself, and what a careful, painstaking job you did in editing all of this material into a coherent and enjoyable (as well as educational) documentary. In my opinion you're a first rate historian as well as an entertaining radio host. Thank you so much for honoring our work with your work- in my mind you're as much a part of the Walls to Roses Collective as any of the rest of us, though your contribution came 30 years later.

Thanks again,


Charlie Murphy

Charles (Charlie) Joseph Murphy Jr.
July 4th, 1953-August 6th, 2016

Posted by his partner Eric Mulholland.
Charlie passed away peacefully at midnight in my warm embrace. His passage was quick and without stress or struggle.
I know Charlie would want me to thank you for the years of love and support. He was an extraordinary human being who lit so many creative fires. They will burn long after this sad day.
I count myself privileged to have cared for him these past 16 months as his body got weaker. But mostly, I feel lucky to have had his love for 14 years. I am heartbroken today but the love we shared will go a long way in helping me through this hard time.
With great love ~ Eric and Charlie

My Facebook post

I am very sad, regarding the passing yesterday of Charlie Murphy. He did much in his long music career, including the inspiring work of his band Rumors of the Big Wave ("Burning Times"). But to me I will honor most his role in the landmark 1979 album "Walls to Roses." It was important because not only was it the first various artists album including both gay and straight men, but for the focus of the album: to support the struggle against sexism and to strive for a more positive vision of masculinity. And his song "Gay Spirit" was very important and inspirational to me.

When I began my radio show Queer Music Heritage in January of 2000 I gave that song the honor of being the first one played, and for the next several years I used a bit of it to open each show. It was/is "my" gay anthem.

It took a while for me to be in a position to honor the "Walls to Roses" album itself, as I didn't want to even try that without including an in-depth interview with Charlie himself. That became my September 2008 show. I played and got him to talk about a whole lot of his work on that show, and felt humbled in doing so. And when I did my last QMH show in March of 2015 I made sure "Gay Spirit" was the very last song I played. My sympathies go out to his partner Eric Mulholland and to those who loved him.