BRIEF HISTORY OF MICHAEL MARTIN MURPHEY
Michael Martin Murphey’s musical journey has taken many unpredictable paths over the past 50 years. Topping the Pop, Country, Western and Bluegrass charts, Murphey has never been one to rest on his laurels.
A loyal American son from Texas, Murphey is best known for his chart-topping hits “Wildfire,” Carolina In The Pines,” “What’s Forever For,” “Long Line of Love,” “Geronimo’s Cadillac”, “Cowboy Logic,” and many more across his 35 albums released to date.
Murphey’s long-running incarnation as a purveyor of the music, lifestyle, and values of the American West is one of many musical mantles he has worn over the years. To track his career path is to span the country itself, from coming of age in the Texas folk music scene, to Los Angeles to Colorado to Nashville and then back to his native Texas.
Murphey’s original songs have been recorded by The Monkees, Kenny Rogers, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, John Denver, Hoyt Axton, Johnny Cash, Tracy Byrd, Lyle Lovett, Jerry Jeff Walker, Dolly Parton, Johnny Rivers, Billy Ray Cyrus, and many others.
During the early 1970s in Austin, TX along with artists like Jerry Jeff Walker and Gary P. Nunn, Murphey created the “Cosmic Cowboy” movement, which was pivotal in drawing artists like Willie Nelson to the scene and helped birth the “Outlaw” Country movement. In 1972, Murphey signed a major label deal. Discovered by renowned producer Bob Johnston (Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Dylan), Murphey released his pivotal debut, Geronimo’s Cadillac. “On the strength of his first album alone,” proclaimed Rolling Stone Magazine, “Michael Murphey is the best new songwriter in the country.” In 1975 he topped the pop charts with his hit singles, “Wildfire” and “Carolina In the Pines” from the RIAA Certified Gold album Blue Sky - Night Thunder.
Then, in the early 1980s, Murphey recorded a watershed country album for Capitol Records produced by Jim Ed Norman. He topped the Country Charts with the “Still Taking Chances” single, which solidified his relationship with country radio as a hit singer-songwriter, and exposed him to an entirely new audience. Twelve years after his first hit in Pop music, Murphey was awarded “Best New Artist” by the Academy of Country Music (beating out George Strait). He continued to top the country charts throughout the decade with hits like “What’s Forever For,” the Grammy nominated “A Face In the Crowd,” (with Holly Dunn), the number one “A Long Line of Love”, “I’m Gonna Miss You Girl”, and many more.
In 1985, Murphey performed with the New Mexico Symphony in a concept he titled “A Night in the American West,” which was so well received, it led to hundreds of performances with American and Canadian symphonies, including the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C.
In 1990 he circled around to one of his first loves, cowboy music. Cowboy Songs Vol.1, was wildly successful and became the first album of cowboy music to go gold since the heyday of Marty Robbins. Cowboy Songs was so popular and highly regarded that Warner Bros. created an entire imprint called Warner Western. In the midst of this Country / Western successes he founded a Western cultural festival called “Westfest”, deemed “the best festival in America”. It is American West showmanship, culture, lifestyle and scholarship.
Ever a genre-busting artist, Murphey refocused his attention again in 2009 with his Grammy nominated Buckaroo Blue Grass. That project — and two subsequent releases, Buckaroo Blue Grass II and Tall Grass & Cool Water — topped the Bluegrass charts.
Murphey has been awarded gold albums for Cowboy Songs, Vol. I, Blue Sky Night Thunder, and a Platinum single, “Wildfire”. He has been given the prestigious Charlie Russell Award for Western Heritage. He is a 5-time recipient of the Wrangler award from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum and Cowboy Hall of Fame, and boasts awards from the Academy of Country Music, Rock Music Awards, Academy of Western Music Awards, Governor of New Mexico’s Outstanding Achievement Award, Outstanding Son of Texas Award by the Texas Legislature, and multiple from BMI. In 2009, he was inducted into the Texas Heritage Songwriters Association Hall of Fame, joining old friends Willie Nelson, Guy Clark and Allen Shamblin.
In 2018, Murphey released Austinology: Alleys of Austin, which celebrated his early days as a pioneer of the Austin Music Scene of the 70s with guest artists that included Willie Nelson, Steve Earle, Lyle Lovett, Amy Grant, Jerry Jeff Walker, Kelly Willis, Bruce Robison, and many more.
In April 2019 Murph was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 59th Annual Western Heritage Awards. The National & Western Heritage Museum honored him for his producing and celebrating western music. "In the Old West," Murphey said, "songs were shared by pioneers, cattlemen, ranchers, painted ladies and even gunslingers as a way of keeping the West alive. I have always been drawn to songs about the love of the land, the strength of the prairie folks, the dusty trails, the mythic tales and the legends of a bygone era. I have always admired Westerners for their stubborn determination and deep love of life. That's what I celebrate in my music."
QUOTES AND LINKS
“The Grammy-winning performer and wild lands advocate, in his weathered buckskin clothing, cowboy hat and rustic, bearded grin, is as authentic as the Rocky Mountains. Murphey, or ‘Murph’ to his friends, symbolizes a bygone era, drawing on his family’s deep roots, a genuine love of artful storytelling and the culture of the West. No one personifies this kind of Americana more than Murphey.”
— Dave Muscari / Denver Hotel Magazine
"One of the three main influences on my career"
- Garth Brooks
“Few people are dedicated to preserving the heritage and beauty of the American West quite like cowboy singer-songwriter Michael Martin Murphey. Through his music he tells the stories and romance of the Native Americans, cowboys, horsemen, ranchers, outlaws, and lawmen. But Murphey has gone beyond storytelling through active involvement in the conservation of the relics and landscape that define his most treasured region.”
— Jennings Brown / Cowboys & Indians
“Michael Martin Murphey may never have a bigger radio hit than ‘Wildfire,’ but what he has done by preserving the heritage of the West is bigger than any hit song. He is a living monument and a lesson to us all.”
— Storme Warren / Country Weekly Magazine
“In the past two decades, no musical artist has done more to chronicle, preserve and further the cowboy culture than Michael Martin Murphey. His music overflows with life, enough for many of us. To saddle up with Murph is to come in closer touch with enduring truths.”
— Dave McGee / thebluegrassspecial.com
“One of the best songwriters in the country.”
— Rolling Stone Magazine
"I credit Michael Martin Murphey with the creation of the Outlaw Movement"
- Willie Nelson
“When he lived in Austin in the mid- ‘70s, Murphey was one of the formative voices and most sophisticated songwriters of the progressive-country boom that defined the city’s music in that era. Murphey originals such as “Geronimo’s Cadillac,” “Alley’s of Austin” and “Backslider’s Wine” remain among the most graceful and accomplished tunes to come out of Austin’s turbulent country-rock scene.”
— John T. Davis / Austin American Statesman
“Murphey has spent decades raising horses and cattle in the Southwest and Midwest, and he has spearheaded the Western music revival since releasing Cowboy Songs in 1990. He’s the real deal.”
— Kevin Allen / Texas Music
“Michael Martin Murphey is a passionate advocate for the American West. He’s introduced thousands of people to its natural beauty via trail rides, festivals and concerts. His music celebrate the people and places that make it grand.”
— Tom Wilmes / American Cowboy