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In many ways, Michael Martin Murphey has the career that Michael Nesmith of the Monkees -- with whom Murphey performed early in both of their careers -- might have had if he had never been picked for the NBC series. A guitarist/songwriter, Murphey led the country-rock group the Lewis & Clarke Expedition in the mid- to late '60s and had some pop success, and even got one song, "What Am I Doing Hangin' 'Round?," recorded by the Monkees (with Nesmith singing lead, natch). His songs were cut by the likes of Flatt & Scruggs, Kenny Rogers, Roger Miller, and Bobbie Gentry, and he eventually began recording for A&M Records, and later for Epic Records, where he enjoyed a huge pop hit in the 1970s with "Wildfire." For a time he was known as the Cosmic Cowboy after one of his early songs. Murphey moved to Liberty Records in the early '80s and later jumped to Warner Bros., where his interest in cowboy and Native American subjects led to the foundation of the Warner Western imprint, a subsidiary label devoted to cowboy music and poetry.
Murphey was born in Dallas, TX, and quickly took to playing the ukulele. He had a special love for cowboy stories and songs and also read avidly as a boy -- especially the work of Mark Twain and William Faulkner -- and was writing poetry before he was in his teens. He began performing as an amateur while in junior high school and within a few years was playing the clubs around Dallas in the early '60s, combining country, folk, and rock music. Somehow, despite the inherently conservative nature of all of those audiences, Murphey made it work, and he formed a band with a decent following in the area around Dallas. He studied poetry and writing at the University of California, and soon after arriving in the Golden State he was signed up as a songwriter with Sparrow Music. By 1964, he was a popular figure in the folk clubs around Los Angeles and had formed up with three likeminded musicians, Nesmith, John London, and John Raines, under the name the Trinity River Boys, who recorded one never-to-be-released album before disbanding.
In 1967, Murphey formed the Lewis & Clarke Expedition with Owen Castleman (aka Boomer Clarke). This group recorded one self-titled album for the Colgems label -- not coincidentally, the label for which the Monkees, of whom Nesmith was a member, recorded -- and got a moderate hit out of the single "I Feel Good (I Feel Bad)." It was around this time that the Monkees recorded Murphey's "What Am I Doing Hangin' 'Round?"
Murphey left Los Angeles in 1968 to take up residence in the San Gabriel Mountains, where his songwriting blossomed anew. He was signed to Screen Gems (the publishing arm of Columbia Pictures, which also owned Colgems) as a songwriter, and with the exposure that he received from this association, wrote songs recorded by Flatt & Scruggs and Bobbie Gentry. It was Kenny Rogers who gave Murphey his best showcase as a songwriter, however, by cutting an entire album, The Ballad of Calico, comprised of songs Murphey had written about a Mojave Desert ghost town.
Back in Texas, in the Austin area, during the early '70s, he resumed his singer/songwriter career and fell in with Jerry Jeff Walker, Willie Nelson, and B.W. Stevenson. He also put together a new band that specialized in country-rock and folk-rock. In 1971, he was signed to his first solo recording contract on A&M Records, and his first album, Geronimo's Cadillac (1972), yielded a modest hit in the title song, which was covered by several other artists, including Hoyt Axton, and also taken up as an anthem by Native American civil rights activists. A second album, Cosmic Cowboy Souvenir, was well received critically and also a modest hit in the Austin area.
In 1974, Murphey moved to Epic Records, a division of Columbia, and recorded the first of six albums, Michael Murphey, that same year. It was his second album, Blue Sky - Night Thunder, recorded in 1975, however, that marked Murphey's commercial breakthrough. He had first heard the story about a ghost horse rescuing people on the desert when he was a boy, from his grandfather, and Murphey dreamed of something similar one night as an adult and set it down to music and words in half an hour that same evening. The resulting song, "Wildfire," got to number three on the pop charts in 1975 and became Murphey's first gold record. Another song off of the same album, "Carolina in the Pines," also made the Top 30.
He saw more success with Swans Against the Sun -- which included his first country chart hit, "A Mansion on the Hill" and "Flowing Free Forever," both in 1976. "Cherokee Fiddle" off of that album was a modestly successful single for Murphey, but six years later Johnny Lee brought it into the Top Ten and into the movie Urban Cowboy. Up until 1981, he'd been known as Michael Murphey, but that year he began making a series of film acting appearances, starting with Gus Trikonis' Take This Job and Shove It, and began using his middle name in films and on albums, as a way of distinguishing himself from the actor Michael Murphy (Manhattan).
In 1982, Murphey signed a recording contract with Liberty Records, which yielded two original albums, Michael Martin Murphey and The Heart Never Lies, as well as a best-of -- made up of superb re-recordings of his A&M and Epic hits as well as his original Liberty hits "Still Taking Chances," "Love Affairs," "Don't Count the Rainy Days," "Will It Be Love," and "Radio Land," the latter a sort of country-flavored equivalent to "American Pie." By that time he'd been voted Best New Male Vocalist of the year 1983 by the American Country Music Association. Additionally, his re-recording of "Carolina in the Pines" rose to the country Top Ten in 1985, outperforming the original Epic version.
In 1985, Murphey moved to Warner Bros. Records, making his debut on the label with Tonight We Ride. A year later he got to the country Top Five with "A Face in the Crowd," recorded with Holly Dunn, and then reached the number one spot with "A Long Line of Love." Murphey's singles chart success slackened off after 1989 with "Never Givin' Up on Love," which had been used in the Clint Eastwood film Pink Cadillac that same year.
It was after this that Murphey returned to one of the first loves of his life, cowboy music. In 1990, he cut an album, Cowboy Songs, made up of traditional and well-known popular songs from the genre, including "The Yellow Rose of Texas" and "Tumbling Tumbleweeds." That record uncovered a niche waiting to be filled, selling several times more than any of Murphey's other Warner Bros. releases. That success, in turn, led the label to establish its Warner Western imprint, which, in addition to Murphey (who also produces a lot of the work), has also recorded the harmony group the Sons of the San Joachin, veteran singing cowboy Herb Jeffries, and poet Waddie Mitchell.
Murphey has since recorded a number of additional albums featuring Western songs. Cowboy Songs III (1993) features a duet with the late Marty Robbins, no doubt inspired by the success of Natalie Cole's "Unforgettable" duet with her own father -- using a voice track recorded by Robbins in 1960 -- on the song "Big Iron." In 1996, Murphey released a live album on which he is backed by a full orchestra. He has also organized a series of annual celebrations of the American West, called West Fest, which he stages in various Western states. Cowboy Songs 4 appeared in 1998 and several collections followed. In summer 2002, his storytelling continued on Cowboy Classics: Playing Favorites II. Buckaroo Blue Grass appeared in 2009 from Rural Rhythm Records, followed by Cowboy Classics: Old West Cowboy Collection later that same year. Lone Cowboy, a solo live set recorded at the Western Jubilee Warehouse in Colorado Springs, appeared early in 2010.
Wikipedia:For other people named Michael Murphy, see Michael Murphy (disambiguation).
Michael Martin Murphey (born March 14, 1945) is an American singer-songwriter best known for writing and performing Western music, country music and popular music. A multiple Grammy nominee, Murphey has six gold albums, including Cowboy Songs, the first album of cowboy music to achieve gold status since Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs by Marty Robbins in 1959. He has recorded the hit singles "Wildfire", "Carolina in the Pines", "What's Forever For", "A Long Line of Love", "What She Wants", and "Don't Count the Rainy Days". Murphey is also the author of New Mexico's state ballad, "The Land of Enchantment". Murphey has become a prominent musical voice for the Western horseman, rancher, and cowboy.Cite error: The named reference eder was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Johnson, Anne Janette. Musician Guide "Michael Martin Murphey". Retrieved November 10, 2011.
Michael Martin Murphey was born on March 14, 1945 in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas, Texas, the son of Pink and Lois (Corbett) Murphey. He grew up in Dallas, Texas. His love of the outdoors began at an early age when his parents took him and his brother Mark (who was three years Michael's junior) on regular trips to the country to visit relatives. When he was six years old, Murphey started riding horses on his grandfather's and uncle's ranches. Years later he would remember sleeping on his grandfather's porch under the stars listening to the older man's stories and cowboy songs. He also enjoyed being around these men of the land as they went about their work. These experiences made a deep impression on the young boy.
During these early years, Murphey developed a special love for cowboy songs and stories. He was also an avid reader, especially drawn to the books of Mark Twain and William Faulkner. As a youth, he enjoyed writing poetry and loved listening to his uncle's old 78 rpm records—particularly the music of country and folk artists such as Hank Williams, Bob Wills, and Woody Guthrie. In junior high school, he began performing as an amateur, and later as a camp counselor at a summer camp called "Sky Ranch". At the age of seventeen, he took his first "professional" music job, playing western songs around a campfire at a Texas ranch. By the early 1960s, Murphey was playing the clubs in Dallas, performing country music, folk music, and rock music. He won over the conservative Texas audiences with his charm and talent, and soon formed a band that developed a significant following in the Dallas area.RootsWeb "Pink Lavary Murphey". Retrieved November 10, 2011. Cite error: The named reference johnson was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Robinson, Lana. "Michael Martin Murphey" in Texas Agriculture. September 2, 2005. Eder, Bruce. Allmusic "Michael Martin Murphey". Retrieved November 21, 2007.
After graduating from W. H. Adamson High School in Oak Cliff, Murphey studied Greek at the University of North Texas and joined the Folk Music Club where he met Steven Fromholz, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Spencer Perskin, and Eddie Wilson—co-founder of Armadillo World Headquarters. Murphey then moved to California, where he studied creative writing at the University of California at Los Angeles, majoring in medieval history and literature. He signed a publishing contract with the Sparrow Music company, and soon he made a name for himself in the Los Angeles folk music scene. By 1964, he formed a musical group with an old Texas friend, Michael Nesmith, John London, and John Raines, under the name the Trinity River Boys.
In 1967, Murphey formed the Lewis & Clarke Expedition with Boomer Castleman, and recorded one self-titled album for Colgems Records. They had a modest hit with "I Feel Good (I Feel Bad)". Boomer Castleman went on to find success with his controversial song "Judy Mae" and as the writer and producer of the million selling novelty hit "Telephone Man" for singer Meri Wilson.
Murphey's first big break came through his friend Michael Nesmith, who had become part of the popular television musical group, The Monkees. Nesmith asked Murphey to write them a song for the next Monkees album, and Murphey composed "What Am I Doing Hangin' Round". The album Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. sold over five million copies.
In 1968, Murphey moved to Wrightwood, a village in the San Gabriel Mountains adjacent to the Mojave Desert of California to work on his songwriting. Based on the success of his songs, he signed a contract with the Screen Gems company, the publishing arm of Columbia Pictures. Some of his songs were recorded by Flatt and Scruggs and Bobbie Gentry. Kenny Rogers recorded an entire album of Michael Murphey songs called The Ballad of Calico, about a Mojave Desert ghost town. Murphey wrote some additional songs for The Monkees, but he grew disillusioned with the poor financial rewards and the Southern California music scene.Cite error: The named reference johnson was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Cite error: The named reference eder was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
Outlaw country years
In 1971, Murphey returned to Texas and became part of the so-called Outlaw country movement, playing alongside other maverick performers such as Willie Nelson and Jerry Jeff Walker. He created a unique sound that combined his country, rock, and folk influences. It was during this period that Murphey wrote "Geronimo's Cadillac", a song about Native American rights that later became an unofficial anthem for the American Indian Movement in the early 1970s.
In 1971, Murphey was signed to A&M Records by Bob Johnston, who discovered him in a Dallas club, the Rubiayat. Johnston had produced some of the country's most popular recording artists, including Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, and Simon and Garfunkel. In 1972, Johnston produced Murphey's first album Geronimo's Cadillac in Nashville, Tennessee. The sound of the album reflects Murphey's love of country, folk, and blues music. Murphey's early gospel influences are also evident throughout the album. The title track was released as a single, and reached the Top 40 on the US pop charts. In addition to the title track, the album included "Boy from the Country", "What Am I Doin' Hangin' Around?", and "Michael Angelo's Blues". Rolling Stone Magazine proclaimed, "On the strength of his first album alone, Michael Murphey is the best new songwriter in the country."
In 1973, Murphey followed up with the album Cosmic Cowboy Souvenir, which continued the urban cowboy theme of the first album. The album included "Cosmic Cowboy, Pt. 1", "Alleys of Austin", and "Rolling Hills".
Throughout this period, Murphey's band included Bob Livingston and Gary P. Nunn, the author of "London Homesick Blues". He performed a number of times at the Armadillo World Headquarters, and his photo was even used for the original cover of Jan Reid's book, The Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock. But Michael Murphey's musical vision was expanding beyond the confines of the outlaw country sound and moving toward a much more ambitious musical tapestry.Cite error: The named reference johnson was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Michael Martin Murphey Official Website "Michael Martin Murphey Bio". Retrieved November 10, 2011. News reports at the time suggested that Murphey was upset that his image was used on the book's cover, and his photo was removed in subsequent editions.
"Wildfire" and the Epic years
In 1973, Murphey signed to Epic Records and released the album Michael Murphey that same year. Produced by Bob Johnston, the album included the orchestra anthem "Nobody's Gonna Tell Me How To Play My Music" and the beautiful "Southwestern Pilgrimage".
In 1975, Murphey released his seminal album, Blue Sky – Night Thunder, also produced by Bob Johnston. The album generated two hit singles: "Carolina in the Pines" and his Platinum-certified masterpiece "Wildfire", a sentimental song about the ghosts of a woman and her horse. As a boy, he first heard from his grandfather the story of a ghost horse rescuing people in the desert. Years later, Murphey had a dream about this ghost horse and wrote the words and music the same day with songwriter Larry Cansler.
In the summer of 1975, "Wildfire" became a chart-topping hit, reaching #2 in Cash Box and #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, as well as #1 on the Adult Contemporary charts, giving Murphey a new level of commercial success and exposure. It immediately sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A. in July 1975. It eventually surpassed two million in US sales. The song's harmonies were supplied by Jeff Hanna and Jimmy Ibbotson from the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and the piano introduction and ending coda played by master jazz pianist Jac Murphy. Although often stated that the introduction is based on Prelude in D-flat, Op. 11 No. 15 by the Russian classical composer Alexander Scriabin, comparisons show little similarity.
During the late 1970s, Murphey recorded four albums: Swans Against the Sun (1976), Flowing Free Forever (1976), Lone Wolf (1978), and Peaks, Valleys, Honky Tonks & Alleys (1979). The album Swans Against the Sun produced his first country hits "A Mansion on the Hill", "Flowing Free Forever", and "Cherokee Fiddle", which also became a top ten hit for Johnny Lee. Murphey's friends, John Denver, Willie Nelson, Charlie Daniels, and Steve Weisberg appeared on the album. Despite some success on the country music charts, none of these albums generated the enthusiasm or sales of Blue Sky – Night Thunder.
In 1981, Murphey made his first film appearance in Hard Country, which he cowrote. To distinguish himself from another well-known actor named Michael Murphy, the singer began using his middle name for film and music credits. To this day, he is known to the world as Michael Martin Murphey.Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 361. ISBN 0-214-20512-6. Erickson, Hal. "Hard Country". AllMovie. Retrieved November 28, 2013. Michael Murphey the actor co-starred with Woody Allen in several films, including Annie Hall and Manhattan.
In 1982, Murphey signed with Liberty Records and produced two original albums, Michael Martin Murphey and The Heart Never Lies, as well as a compilation of re-recorded versions of his A&M, Epic, and Liberty hits called The Best of Michael Martin Murphey. During the early 1980s, Murphey had significant commercial success with hits like "Still Taking Chances", "Disenchanted", "Don't Count the Rainy Days", "Will It Be Love By Morning", "Radio Land", "Maybe This Time", and the number one hit "What's Forever For", written by Rafe VanHoy, which also crossed over to number three at AC Radio and number nineteen on the Billboard Hot 100 Pop Singles Chart.
In 1983, Murphey was voted Best New Male Vocalist of the Year by the Academy of Country Music. In 1985, his rerecorded version of "Carolina in the Pines" reached the Top 10.
In 1985, Murphey signed a new recording contract with Warner Bros. Records and continued his streak of successful recordings. In 1986, he released the album Tonight We Ride, which included "Rollin' Nowhere", "Fiddlin' Man", and "Sante Fe Cantina". In 1987, he released the album Americana, which included "Once Upon a Time", "My Darling Wherever You Are", and another number one country hit with the song "A Long Line Of Love". That same album produced the hit single "A Face in the Crowd" with Holly Dunn, which was nominated for a Grammy Award.
In 1988, Murphey released the album River of Time, which produced three hit singles that reached number three on the charts: Jesse Winchester's "I'm Going to Miss You, Girl", his own "From The Word Go", and "Talkin' to the Wrong Man", which featured his son Ryan.
In 1989, Murphey closed out a successful decade of recording with the album Land of Enchantment, which contained "Never Givin' up on Love", "Got to Pay the Fiddler", "Route 66", and "Land of Enchantment", which became New Mexico's state ballad.
Despite the impressive critical and commercial success he achieved throughout the 1980s, Michael Martin Murphey's creative heart and spirit began to focus on the Western music that first captured his imagination as a boy growing up in Texas. As early as 1985, Murphey performed with the New Mexico Symphony in a show called A Night in the American West, which led to many subsequent performances with American and Canadian symphonies, including the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington, D.C. These western shows, and the songs he was writing and recording at the time, presaged a major change in Murphey's career—a change that would lead the artist down the unlikely trail of Cowboy music.
In 1990, Murphey released the album Cowboy Songs—a project he'd been working on for several years. This was a pure labor of love, since no one had recorded an album of authentic cowboy songs in more than twenty years. The album contained Murphey's versions of old cowboy songs from the public domain such as "Tumbling Tumbleweeds", "The Old Chisholm Trail", the beautiful "Spanish is the Loving Tongue", the classic "The Streets of Laredo", and his tip of the hat to Roy Rogers, "Happy Trails". The album also contained Murphey's own "Cowboy Logic".
Murphey was reluctant to promote the project, but he eventually released "Cowboy Logic" as a single and it quickly became a hit. Soon after, the album caught on and sold much better than expected. Cowboy Songs earned widespread praise from country and folk music critics, such as Jack Hurst from the Chicago Tribune who wrote, "[This is] not only one of the finest albums of [the] year but also one of the finest of the last decade. Its 22 riveting cuts represent a labor of not only love but also scholarship; it raises a cult musical genre to the level of mainstream art." Cowboy Songs went on to achieve Gold status, the first western album to do so since Marty Robbins' No. 1 Cowboy in 1980.
In 1991, Murphey followed up with two additional albums of cowboy songs. His innovative concept album Cowboy Christmas: Cowboy Songs II contained versions of traditional and original western Christmas songs, including "The Christmas Trail," "The Cowboy Christmas Ball," and "Two-Step 'Round the Christmas Tree". An accompanying video was later released of one of Murphey's Cowboy Christmas Ball concerts, which included many of these songs. Cowboy Songs III contained a mix of traditional and original cowboy songs, including a virtual duet with Marty Robbins, "Big Iron," which used an early Marty Robbins' vocal track.
Cowboy Songs and its follow-up albums were so successful that they inspired the formation of Warner Western, a new subsidiary label of Warner Bros. Records devoted to western music and cowboy poetry. In 1992, Warner Western issued albums by Don Edwards, Waddie Mitchell, and the Sons of the San Joaquin. All three records were produced by Michael Martin Murphey.
In 1995, Murphey further demonstrated his musical ambitions with the concept album Sagebrush Symphony, recorded live with the San Antonio Symphony Orchestra, Herb Jeffries, and the Sons of the San Joaquin.
In 1997, Murphey released the album The Horse Legends, a musical tribute to this majestic animal. The album included several new Murphey songs, a new version of "Wildfire," and covers of some well-known songs, such as Dan Fogelberg's "Run for the Roses" and Gordon Lightfoot's "The Pony Man".
In 1998, Murphey left Warner Bros. Records and started his own record label, WestFest/Real West Productions. That year, he released Cowboy Songs Four, which contained both traditional and original cowboy songs, including "Utah Carroll," "Little Joe, the Wrangler," and Murphey's "Song from Lonesome Dove". In 1999, he released Acoustic Christmas Carols: Cowboy Christmas II, which included Murphey's quiet renditions of traditional Christmas songs, and featured his son Ryan and daughter Laura.
In 2001, Murphey released a compilation of some of his best-loved songs, Playing Favorites, which included rerecorded versions of such songs as "Carolina in the Pines," "Cherokee Fiddle," "Cowboy Logic," "What's Forever For," and "Wildfire". He followed this up in 2002 with Cowboy Classics: Playing Favorites II, which again included re-recorded versions of some of his best-loved cowboy songs. That same year, Murphey released Cowboy Christmas III, which contained a new original song "The Kill Pen," as well as original cowboy poetry written and recited by his daughter Karen.
In 2004, Murphey released Live at Billy Bob's Texas, and in 2006, he released Heartland Cowboy: Cowboy Songs, Vol. 5.
During the past twenty years, Michael Martin Murphey has been a champion of western cowboy culture and the western wilderness. In 1986 he founded WestFest, an annual music festival held at Copper Mountain, Colorado that celebrates western art and culture. The festival has attracted the biggest names in Country Music as well as Western Music.
Murphey almost singlehandedly resurrected the cowboy song genre and its image throughout the country. Molly Carpenter, writing in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, noted, "Murphey's love for the American West clearly comes through in his songs, painted with vivid images of the rugged mountains and vast deserts of southwest landscapes, all evidence of his travels from his native Texas to California's Mojave Desert, Colorado's Rockies and the wild diversity of New Mexico, his home for the past 10 years."
During the 1990s, in a further effort to preserve the traditions of the West, Murphey led a group of performers—including cowboy poet Waddie Mitchell and western music historian and troubadour Don Edwards—in a series of improvisational concerts called Cowboy Logic, which toured throughout the United States, including such unlikely locations as New York City and Las Vegas. Waddy Mitchell is the co-founder of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Murphey met Mitchell there in 1986, the first such event he had ever attended. Murphey later described the transforming event as "a religious experience," noting, "I'd been collecting cowboy music and performing it among my friends. But when I saw a lot of other guys like me and also women performing this music and enjoying each other's company, it was the most important thing that had happened to me in years in my musical life."
On May 22, 2007, Murphey made a rare appearance in New York City to perform "Wildfire" on the Late Show with David Letterman. The song had become one of Letterman's favorites and was included regularly on the show. That same month, Murphey organized and performed for John Wayne's 100th Birthday Celebration, with the approval of the John Wayne Family. Murphey was commended by the White House for his activities. Later that year, Murphey released three DVDs detailing his love of the cowboy ways, life, and preservation of the American West traditions. The DVDs document his trail rides, cattle drives, and Cowboy Poetry gatherings. One of Murphey's Cowboy Christmas Ball concerts, recorded in Oklahoma City, was included as a fourth DVD in the combination CD/DVD set. In December 2007, Murphey released "A Soldier's Christmas" based on a poem by Michael E. Marks, a soldier serving in Iraq. Marks sent the poem to Murphey, who was so moved by the poem he sought permission to set it to music, which he did. Murphey started including the song in all his concerts, including his Cowboy Christmas Ball concerts, to long standing ovations after its performance, which prompted its release in December 2007.Cite error: The named reference johnson was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Sikes, O.J. Western Music "Michael Martin Murphey". Retrieved November 10, 2011. Carpenter, Molly. Richmond Times-Dispatch Holden, Stephen. "Pop/Jazz; Cowboy Revue in the Sky At Rainbow and Stars" in The New York Times, May 22, 1992.
In February 2009, Murphey released Buckaroo Blue Grass, which marked a return to his bluegrass musical roots. Murphey's love of Bluegrass music dates back to when he sang lead vocals with the Earl Scruggs Band. Over the years, Murphey's songs have been recorded by Bluegrass artists such as Flatt and Scruggs, Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, the Country Gentlemen, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. On Buckaroo Bluegrass, Murphey offers new versions of his famous Bluegrass songs, such as "Carolina in the Pines", "Fiddlin' Man", "Lost River", and "What Am I Doing Hanging Around". Murphey also includes new Bluegrass versions of several of his classics, such as "Boy from the Country", "Dancing in the Meadow", and "Healing Spring". The album includes two new songs, "Close to the Land", the theme song of the PBS documentary television series America's Heartland, and "Lone Cowboy", a song that reflects Murphey's experiences as a solo artist performing throughout the West at music festivals, cowboy gatherings, historical theaters, and trail rides. Murphey has always used Bluegrass musicians on his records—people like Ricky Skaggs, John McEuen, Jerry Douglas, and Mark O'Conner. For Buckaroo Bluegrass, Murphey added Ronnie McCoury, Charlie Cushman, Rob Ickes, Andy Leftwich, and Rhonda Vincent to this roster of top Bluegrass players. Michael's son, Ryan Murphey, produced the album, and added acoustic guitar and vocals.
In February 2010, Murphey released a follow-up album, Buckaroo Blue Grass II – Riding Song, which follows the production approach of the first album. This album contains fully acoustic Bluegrass versions of songs about the region to which Murphey has been deeply connected throughout his life, the American Southwest. Backed by an impressive list of Bluegrass veterans such as Carrie Hassler, Audie Blaylock, Sam Bush, Andy Hall, Ronnie McCoury, Pat Flynn, Charlie Cushman, Andy Leftwich, Murphey delivers Bluegrass versions of songs mainly from his early to mid-1970s albums. Ryan Murphey's production and Bluegrass arrangements breath new life into songs like "Blue Sky Riding Song", "Backslider's Wine", "Southwestern Pilgrimage", "Cosmic Cowboy", "Wildfire", "Renegade", and "Swans Against the Sun".
In May 2011, Murphey gave a benefit concert at the Prairie Rose Chuckwagon Supper near Benton, Kansas to help save the cabin where Brewster Higley wrote the song "Home on the Range", Kansas' state song. "He might have been living anywhere," Murphey noted, "but he was inspired by that place. This song gives focus to the heritage of the American West, to the prairie and its songs, poems and literature." Murphey made his first pilgrimage to the cabin prior to the concert, where he performed the song.
In June 2011, Murphey released Tall Grass & Cool Water, subtitled Cowboy Songs VI and Buckaroo Blue Grass III, which contains some of Western music's all-time classics. Backed again by a roster of top Bluegrass musicians and his son's solid production, Murphey delivers an inspired album that moves effortlessly between Bluegrass and Cowboy music. The CD includes two classics from the Sons of the Pioneers, "Cool Water" and "Way Out There", as well as other Western classics such as "Texas Cowboy", "Santa Fe Trail", and "The James Gang Trilogy". Murphey closes out the album with a beautiful duet with Carin Mari, "Springtime in the Rockies".
On September 4, 2011, Murphey performed at the wedding of long-time friend David Lauren and Lauren Bush, the niece of former President George W. Bush, at Ralph Lauren's Double RL Ranch near Ridgeway, Colorado. The event was called "America's Royal Wedding". Murphey, who helped Ralph Lauren find the ranch they now call home, has been friends with the Lauren family for nearly 30 years. "I go there to write songs from time to time," Murphey noted, "It's the most spectacular ranch in the Rockies." At David Lauren's request, Murphey performed "Vanishing Breed" for the couple's first dance. Murphey wrote the song at a cabin on the Lauren ranch in the 1980s. Murphey and his Rio Grande Band played nearly six hours for the Lauren and Bush families.
In January 2012, Tall Grass & Cool Water became the number 1 album on the Top 20 Western Music Albums Chart of the Western Music Association.
In July 2013, Murphey released Red River Drifter, his first album of all new original songs in 20 years. The album reached number three on the Billboard Top Bluegrass Albums chart. Murphey was named among the top 50 Greatest Country & Western singers by American Cowboy magazine.Tackett, Travis. Bluegrass Journal "Michael Martin Murphey will release "Buckaroo Blue Grass" on Rural Rhythm". Retrieved November 10, 2011. Poet, J. Allmusic "Buckaroo Blue Grass II – Riding Song". Retrieved November 10, 2011. Tanner, Beccy. The Wichita Eagle "Michael Martin Murphey to help save historic cabin". Retrieved November 8, 2011. Jurek, Thom. Allmusic "Tall Grass & Cool Water". Retrieved November 10, 2011. Country Music News International "Michael Martin Murphey Special Musical Guest". Retrieved September 21, 2011. "#1 for Michael Martin Murphey's Tall Grass and Cool Water". Cybergrass. Retrieved February 22, 2012. Jurek, Thom. "Red River Drifter". AllMusic. Retrieved November 26, 2013. "Red River Drifter". Billboard. Retrieved November 26, 2013. "50 Greatest Country & Western Singers". American Cowboy. Legends Issue: 12–14. 2013.
Michael Martin Murphey has had a successful music career that has spanned four decades and included such musical genres as folk, country, rock, popular, western, and cowboy music. As a singer, songwriter, and producer, he has contributed some of the best-loved songs of his generation. His songs have been recorded by Johnny Cash, Kenny Rogers, John Denver, Cher, Lyle Lovett, Flatt and Scruggs, Claire Hamill, Hoyt Axton, Roger Miller, Bobbie Gentry, Michael Nesmith, and the Monkees. Murphey is the narrator of the short film Spirit of the Cowgirl at the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth, Texas
Murphey played a major role in the resurrection of the cowboy song genre, recording and producing some of the most successful cowboy music of the past forty years. His album Cowboy Songs inspired a whole series of albums. For his accomplishments in the Western and Cowboy Music field, Murphey received five awards from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, formerly known as the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City.
Michael Martin Murphey married his first wife, Diana Vero, in Dallas, Texas on June 17, 1967. Vero was the former secretary to Brian Epstein, and traveled with the Beatles during their first North American tour in the summer of 1964. They had one child together, Ryan Murphey, and divorced on March 22, 1974.
Murphey wrote the song "Carolina in the Pines" for his second wife, Caroline Hogue, whom he married in 1973. They were divorced in 1978.
Murphey met his third wife, New York model Mary Maciukas, in May 1978 at the Bottom Line in New York City. They were married in 1980. They had two children together, Brennan and Laura Lynn Murphey, and were divorced in 2001.
Murphey married his fourth and current wife, Karen Rische, in Fort Worth, Texas in April 2003. Murphey's mixed family includes six children that are all involved in the family businesses of music, ranching, and recreational and competitive horseback riding. The Murphey family have residences in Colorado, New Mexico, and Wisconsin, as well as a private fishing lake in Linden, Texas, not far from where Michael Martin Murphey's pioneer ancestors came to Texas in 1858."Diana Vero, Mr. Murphey Read Vows" in The Dallas Morning News, June 18, 1967. "The Divorce of Diana and Michael Murphey". Texas Divorce Records. Retrieved February 15, 2014. Daily News: 16. July 6, 1975. Missing or empty |title= (help) McMurran, Kristin (August 20, 1979). "Singer Michael Murphey and Model Mary Maciukas ...". People 12 (8). Retrieved February 16, 2014. "Mary Murphey". Zoom Info. September 17, 2008. Retrieved February 15, 2014. DeNies, Ramona (October 14, 2011). "Five Questions For…DJ Heatesca". Portland Monthly. Retrieved February 15, 2014. "GOLDEN RING". Country Weekly. February 23, 2004. Retrieved 2014-01-08. Cite error: The named reference mmm was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
Murphey has long been a champion of the western wilderness and wildlife, and has lent his support to various political causes associated with western culture and ideals. Early in his career, for example, he supported the Native American rights movement, which used his song, "Geronimo's Cadillac", as an anthem. In 1986, he founded an annual festival, WestFest, celebrating western art and culture in an effort to preserve the traditions of the West. He has been a long-time supporter of the conservation movement, attempting to find a middle ground between ranchers and activists on opposite sides of environmental issues.
In the past decade, Murphey has focused his political energies on the issue of private property rights—especially in the western and southwestern United States. In 2006, he released "The Ballad of Kit Laney" in support of the New Mexico rancher's fight with the United States Forest Service over water rights. Laney was imprisoned for assault after standing up to federal agents who seized his ranch in 2004. Murphey helped form the Farmers' Freedom Agriculture Alliance and scheduled a benefit—The Farmers' Freedom Concert—to protest unfair land acquisitions across the western states. Murphey's opposition to the political forces threatening the American family farmer and rancher transcends political party affiliation. "I can tell you," Murphey observed, "that politics—doesn't matter whether it's Democrats or Republicans—have been involved with big agribusiness for a long, long time."Cite error: The named reference johnson was invoked but never defined (see the help page). Johnson, Anne. Encyclopedia.com "Michael Martin Murphey". Retrieved November 10, 2011. Woodka, Chris. Chieftain "Murphey settles on spread in Beulah". Retrieved July 27, 2011. McGee, David. The Bluegrass Special "Murph Rides Again". Retrieved November 10, 2011.