The jazz singer says his only competition is too young to headline a Las Vegas show

By Dahvi Shira
Updated September 06, 2011 10:30 AM
Credit: Justin Lubin/NBC/AP

Landau Eugene Murphy, Jr. went from washing cars in West Virginia to singing classic jazz tunes in front of millions of America’s Got Talent viewers. His hard work, combined with the positive response from the show’s judges and audience make him confident he will definitely walk away with the prizes of $1 million and his own headlining show in Las Vegas.

“I’m the one to beat,” Murphy told PEOPLE on Friday at an L.A. press day for the show. “The only thing that’s missing in Vegas is the rat pack. That’s it. Right now you’ve got Michael Bublé, Harry Connick, Jr., and then you have Landau Eugene, Jr. Put one more guy with us and you’ve got the whole rat pack.”

But his desire to land big bucks and Sin City fame isn’t entirely for selfish purposes.

“I’m going to take that money and invest it in my kids’ future so they won’t have to wait as long as I did to follow my dreams,” Murphy explains. “I’m just so overwhelmed seeing the joy on my kids’ faces when they watch me perform.”

The loving husband and doting dad, 37, says the only person he considered his competition already got kicked off the show.

“I thought Snap Boogie would be in the top two,” Murphy says of his break-dancing buddy who was booted last week. “He’s a free-hearted person, too. He’s so warm. He was a genuine person, but obviously they let him go.”

But that’s not to say Murphy doesn’t see talent in any of the other nine remaining finalists competing with him for the big win.

“I think Anna Graceman is great, but I don’t know if she’s old enough to be in Vegas,” he says of the 11-year-old singing sensation. “Even though she’s so small, she’s so wonderful and great.”

Some of Murphy’s fellow finalists also believe he will win the competition.

Calling him “our boy,” the biking stuntmen Smage Bros. expect Murphy to take it all, explaining, “The show is about popularity and relatability to the American public.”

Magician Landon Swank seconds the Smage Bros.’s prediction.

“I think Landau’s going to be up there,” Swank said. “He’s got a great voice and a great personality, both on and off camera.”