Billy Murphy was a thoroughly lovely bloke whose contribution to street fashion – particularly in Britain and specifically in and around the King’s Road – is sorely underrated.
I knew all about Billy’s significance in his field decades before I met him. His shop The Emperor Of Wyoming was “an extremely important staging post not just in the story of British rock and roll fashion but also the development of the vintage scene in this country”. Opened by Murphy at 404 King’s Road in 1972, TEOW specialised in selected items of Westernwear and American clothing at a time when the pickings were slim for such garments in London.
The received histories of the Chelsea thoroughfare concentrate on 430 King’s Road and places such as Acme Attractions, but ignoring The Emperor Of Wyoming presents an incomplete picture of the retail landscape there in the early to mid-70s. Murphy’s shop was a major draw, and rightly championed by influential fashion editors of the period such as Janet Street-Porter and Pru Walters.
Put simply, Murphy’s particular area of excellence formed the missing link between the niche sales of Americana imported and explored by one of his close pals Trevor Myles at the nearby Paradise Garage in 1971 and the explosion of interest when another King’s Road outlet, Flip, started shipping substantial amounts into the UK towards the end of the decade.
And during my researches, when I turned up photography of his lovingly curated clothes in an issue of Club International, I made sure to dig out a pristine copy for Billy. Not that he struck me as the type of character to trade on his past; Billy’s unassuming nature was just one aspect of his delightful charm which will be missed by those who knew him well and the thousands like me who pleasured in just a passing acquaintance.
Thanks to Sean Moorman for his kind permission to feature the portrait of Billy. Visit Sean’s site here.