Murray SawChuck describes himself as the Dennis the Menace of magic. An America’s Got Talent contestant, the magician says he loves watching audiences go from curiosity to amazement.
“I’m the type of guy that, when I go on stage, I have a plan and the audience believes that I have a plan, and then it goes awry—completely wrong—and then, at the very end, it’s proven that I really did have a plan and the effect actually worked,” Murray told us after hosting a recent Midwest-based episode of Pawn Stars. “Seriously, it’s usually a big circle or something that looks like a good set-up and then it looks like a complete disaster and then at the end it actually works out.”
Murray says he first began experimenting with magic when he was five-years old, after his parents gave him a magic kit. The talented youngster had already been playing numerous musical instruments—from the saxophone to the keyboard to the accordion (the latter of which he says he quit playing when he wanted a girlfriend). But soon he wanted to entertain crowds even more.
Some of Murray’s all-time favorite entertainers include big names, unique personalities with unique shows. “David Copperfield was a favorite during my early years because he was in the forefront of the industry,” he says, “but the stars I really admired growing up included Dean Martin, Lucille Ball, Fred Astaire and Phyllis Diller. All those were legends because they had a look, they had a great program they were selling and they had a great show.
“When I was recently on America’s Got Talent, we didn’t have a lot of time to show our personalities, so I just did big tricks. I vanished a girl in a box, switching her into nothing, and then I produced a Ferrari and turned a girl into a tiger. And then I finally vanished a 1918 steam train.”
Surprisingly, the 21 jobs this world-famous magician has held over his three decades include everything from telemarketing to delivering newspapers to, yes—mobile DJing.
“I had these two Tupperware containers full of amps and CDs—and actually cassette tapes during the transition to CDs,” he recalls. “I’d go do the weddings and the bar mitzvahs and all that stuff, and once again everything is done from a production point of view. It’s lighting. It’s music. It’s everything.”
Asked about the trend in the mobile DJ business from being simply a jukebox to developing into a full professional entertainer who entertains crowds, Murray said he can surely identify.
“It’s the same with myself and magic,” he says. “I’ve never been one to just be a magician—I’ve always wanted to be a personality, and I think that’s exactly what DJs today have to consider. They have to go, ‘If I really want to go and make a name for myself I have to be a personality. I can’t just be good at spinning songs. I’ve got to really come out and own that theater or that dancefloor for the night.’”
Murray says the trick to becoming a true entertainer more than simply a person standing behind a console is to approach each gig with a positive outlook and a feeling that we actually “own” the room.
“I think it goes this way for any business, but especially with DJs, is when you walk into a room you have to really look at yourself as a personality,” he says. “You may not be a singer and you may not be a magician performing with your hands, but indirectly you really are using your hands because you’re using your skill mixing music.
“I mean, if you look at stars, everyone’s branding themselves. Even the ones you don’t think branded themselves, they did. You look at Howard Stern on the radio with the dark thick glasses and the long curly hair. You can even look at Garth Brooks—half his shirt was red and half was black, plus a hat.
“I think it’s important that when you come into a venue, even though your skill level may not be the best in the world, at least come in with a package that helps people remember you. If they can’t remember your name, come in with something they can identify you with. And also come up with a cool name that people can either make fun of or it’s easy to remember.”
Murray suggested for DJ Times readers a handful of out-of-the-box ideas we could use to make events more memorable, raise our profiles in our communities and even earn more money:
Magic Dove Pan: “Go to your local magic store in town and buy a magic prop called a Dove Pan. It’s a very simple prop to use, yet the effect on an audience can be incredible. The point is to show an empty silver pan. You light a match and fire burns; you cover the pan and can produce anything—a birthday cake for the birthday girl, or thousands of pieces of confetti you throw in the…