This musical soul food is the bread and water that has sustained Murdock all of her life. She was born the youngest of three girls and three boys in Toledo, OH in the late 1950s. "We were the black Brady Bunch," she cracks. Her father was an assembly line worker at a factory and her mom was a surgery assistant. "My upbringing was great but my parents divorced when I was nine years old," she says. "I had some rough spots with my Dad but we made up." Murdock's mom kept her brood in church and she was weaned on the spiritual nougat of Rev. James Cleveland, Shirley Caesar, Aretha Franklin, the Clark Sisters and the Hawkins Family. "I would take songs like 'Hypnotized' by Linda Jones and learn how to do runs. I was attracted to those runs. I also grew up on Shirley Temple and of course, there was a connection with her name," she laughs. "I saw the Jackson 5. I saw kids having an opportunity to do what they dreamed of doing and I wanted to do that. I'd use a hairbrush for a microphone. I'd use the broom for a bass guitar. I used to lock myself up in the bathroom because the acoustics were so great. My brothers would always be calling for me to get out because I was taking long doing my shows."
After she was born-again, sanctified and saved in 1972, Murdock's biggest dream was to become a professional gospel singer. "In the early 1970s gospel music was not what it is today," she concludes. "It was a very tight field. There was Andrae Crouch, the Hawkins Family. Later on, there was the Winans. It was a very small ship to get try and get on board and there wasn't a lot of room. Those doors didn't open for me."
Still, she kept pushing and hoping for an opportunity. Her cousin took a recording of Shirley singing gospel to Roger Troutman of the funk group, Zapp, circa 1983. Troutman had no connections in the gospel music industry but he was amazed by Murdock's voice. Roger offered her a deal that she initially refused. "I said, "Lord is this you?" Going into secular music wasn't my plan; I just was being who I was. I wasn't going to leave church and just be out there in the world doing drugs and drinking.
After prayerful consideration, Shirley received release in her spirit from God to accept Troutman's offer. He asked her to move to Dayton so that he could spend time getting to know her and training her. When I got to Dayton, Roger had me doing background vocals for projects and it was like boot camp. It was God ordained. I met my husband, got married and had my child in Dayton. I had a positive influence on Roger's life in Dayton. My family moved to Dayton and did some positive things. I don't think they would have had the same opportunities had they stayed in Toledo."
Success came quickly for Murdock with the release of her debut project "Shirley Murdock!" on Warner Brothers Records' subsidiary Elektra Records. After her initial hit, "No More," stormed the dance charts, the tender ballad "As We Lay" shot up to #5 on the Billboard R&B singles chart and also charted nicely on both the Top 40 adult contemporary and pop charts in 1986.