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April 17, 2024

The wizard of Waverly Farmer’s Market

By HANNAH MELTON | September 15, 2016


RICHARD LAYMAN/cc-by-nc-2.0 A typical, joyful Sunday morning at the Waverly Farmer’s Market between 32nd and 33rd Streets.

It’s 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning, and no one looks more alive than the older gentleman strumming a guitar at the entry of the Waverly Farmer’s Market. He sits on an old milk crate, holding court next to Zeke’s Coffee with his circular spectacles glinting in the light.

Murdolf the Busker’s smile is even brighter than the sunflowers over his right shoulder. Finishing a chord, he nods at a passing shopper who smiles back, spouting a cordial, “Hey there man, how you doin’?” Murdolf raises a hand and hollers back, “I’m doing, man! I’m great!”

Maybe you came to the market to buy some nectarines while they’re in season. Or maybe you just popped in for a crêpe and some coffee. Perhaps you’re gunning for the salmon stand, determined to buy a beautifully seasoned filet before they’re all gone at 10 a.m. Whatever you hope to find, you’re guaranteed to get a slice of joy courtesy of Mr. Murdolf.

“That song’s called ‘All My Life’,” he says as the tune peters out on his strings. “The vendors say the market isn’t open until I sing that song.” Smiling to himself, Murdolf pats his guitar, which is graced by an oval-shaped image of Gandalf printed on white copy paper and stuck on with Scotch tape near the instrument’s bridge.

“Ah, yeah, I did that for the kids,” he says, gesturing to the photo. “I give the blues away for free,” he jokes. “People pay me for the kids stuff.”

He’s a staple here, as regular as the vendors. Watching him is akin to biting into a peach and finding it even more perfectly sweet than you had hoped.

A sea of early-rising shoppers strolls around him, toting iced lattes and canvas bags. Many of them are half his age. Almost everyone says hello as they pass — he’s popular and he knows it. The jar in front of him holds many fresh bills.

A woman from a nearby stand calls out, “Good morning, you handsome devil!” and Murdolf’s infectious chuckle fills the air. He begins to strum his guitar. “I know a lot of people,” he says. “They’ve been seeing me here five to six years. I couldn’t even play when I first come.”

Looking up he surveys the colorful carnival of foods and smells and voices. “I’ve had my troubles, but I love the people — the beautiful, handsome, lovely people.”

Murdolf leans in, confiding in a whisper, “This place here saved my life. I’m a recluse; I’m bipolar. It’s hard,” he shrugs. “They brought me out, made me open up.” Another pause — his eyes focus far away.

His face breaks into a smile. “I wrote a song about this place.” Quietly his fingers begin to work the strings on his guitar, crafting a tune as pleasant as grandma’s peach pie and as unique as the soaps sold across from him. His friends come back weekly for a taste of his specialty: Pure, unbridled joy in life. Little do they know that they are the secret ingredient to his happiness. Murdolf strums his guitar and begins to sing.

“When I first played

here, I felt all alone.

You came to me with

your love.

You made me feel alive,

you helped me to


You’re in my life.

New life has started


Fed with your love,

your cheer.

You’re why I’m here


Can’t seem to stay away.

Now, you’re in my life.”

With a final pick, his strings ring out one last chord and settle. Murdolf raises his head.

“It’s called ‘You.’”

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