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A rare photograph of the legendary Frederick “Feedback” Murphy.

Whatever Can, Will: A Manifesto For The Live Sound Professional

The life and times of one Frederick “Feedback” Murphy and his infamous, mercifully brief stint working in live sound.

Pretty much everyone knows Murphy’s Law: Anything that can go wrong, will. What’s not nearly as well known is that good ol’ Murph had a grandson named Frederick F. Murphy.

History doesn’t tell us what the “F” stood for – some say it was “Frederick,” which doesn’t seem likely unless one considers that there’s nothing inherent in a birth certificate that’s immune to the “Murphy magic.” And it leads to a pretty cool nickname: F Squared, or F2 for short. Others say the F just “was” – content to hang, adding an air of sophistication while striking a non-imposing facade, signifying nothing but an under-used consonant of the English alphabet.

But there are a rare few who know the real answer. You see, these lucky souls crossed paths with Frederick during his infamous, mercifully brief stint working in live sound. And they understand with every fiber of their being that there could be but one word that letter would signify: Feedback.

Yet while he worked on the stages and in the sheds of “that most glorious of professions” for just a short time before being tragically struck down by a runaway forklift, Feedback most certainly inherited his grandfather’s genetic marker. And fortunately, he recorded his keen observations and insights to form his own unique manifesto. Entitled Murphy’s Touring Law, it states:

• If all XLR cables on the tour are wired in-phase, one of them won’t be
• If all single-ended XLR cables are wired pin 2 hot, at least one will be wired pin 3 hot and one wired pin 1 hot
• Road cases ordered in black just before the tour will show up in red
• Road cases ordered in black that show up in black will have the wrong dimensions
• If three networked devices are all compatible, the fourth won’t be
• At least one cone driver in any given system will be out of phase with the others
• Files that run on multiple platforms will not run on your platform
• 3-phase motors wired to a road feed will run backwards
• Multipin insertion tools work, multipin removal tools don’t
• One or more power distro circuits will have hot and neutral swapped
• Shackle pins will always be too tight to loosen by hand if you have no wrench
• Gaffer’s tape will be the wrong color or left at the shop
• Bands that show up on time for sound check will have left their instruments at the hotel
• Bands that show up on time for sound check and have not left their instruments at the hotel will not plug them in because they’re already discussing the after party
• The pins that hold the array modules together are in a road case by the door at the last gig (or Keokuk, Iowa – who can really be sure?)
• Promoters will have just enough diesel fuel on hand to run the generators for the sound check and half of the show
• Hammond organs do not have oil filters – you just removed a metal-cased capacitor
• The one wrong color M&M will always be at the top of the bowl

Well… that’s the story, straight from the life and times of one Frederick “Feedback” Murphy. Pity that he wasn’t around longer to record more well-earned wisdom that would surely benefit future generations of audio professionals.

However, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that his time on this earth was all too brief; after all, his last manifesto entry read: “Forklifts don’t kill people, people kill people.”

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