NASHVILLE – Michael Martin Murphey’s reputation as a songwriter began in Los Angeles when The Monkees released his “What Am I Doin’ Hangin’ Round” on their multi-platinum Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd (1967).
Murphey will make a rare appearance focusing on his songwriting at the famed Bluebird Cafe at 9 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 12.
As a recording artist, Murphey has topped the Pop charts with hits “Wildfire” and “Carolina In The Pines,” the Country charts with hits like “What’s Forever For” and “Long Line of Love” and the Western charts with hits like “Cowboy Logic.” A recipient of six gold albums, Murphey’s 2009 Buckaroo Blue Grass earned a Grammy nomination for Best Bluegrass Album.
Always at the core of his music for these past four decades has been a stubborn determination to be the best songwriter he can be, a focus that has led to his songs being covered by such artists as Lyle Lovett, John Denver, Kenny Rogers, Hoyt Axton, The Monkees and more.
“I grew up in a storytelling culture where you sat on the front porch and told stories in the evening,” Murphey said. “That’s why I became a writer and why I became interested in writing songs.”
According to BMI, Murphey has 5 millionperformance songs (“Wildfire,” 3.9 million; “Cherokee Fiddle,” 1.92 million; “Carolina In The Pines,” 1.65 million; “Talkin’ To The Wrong Man,” 1.21 million; and “Still Takin’ Chances,” 1.2 million), and a total of 11 award-winning BMI songs (six in Country and five in Pop).
When Murphey moved from Los Angeles to Austin in the early 1970s, his songs became a cornerstone of The Cosmic Cowboy Movement that included Jerry Jeff Walker and Gary P. Nunn, and opened the door for Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings and The Outlaw Movement.
“He was one of the formative voices and most sophisticated songwriters of the progressive-country boom that defined the city’s music in that era,” said John T. Davis of The Austin American Statesman.
“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,” Davis added.
At the time, Rolling Stone Magazine proclaimed, “Michael Murphey is the best new songwriter in the country.” The first artist based in Austin to be signed to a major record label (Epic), Murphey has left an indelible mark on the American Music Landscape with such important albums as “Geronimo’s Cadillac,” “Swans Against The Sky” and “Blue Sky — Night Thunder.”
Moving his base to Nashville in the 1980s, Murphey continued topping the charts with a string of 10 hits before turning his attention to American Cowboy Music, anchoring Warner Brothers’ Warner Western Label, and releasing “Cowboy Songs, Volume I,” the first album of Cowboy Music to be certified gold by the RIAA since Marty Robbins’ 1959 “Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs.”
“In the past two decades, no musical artist has done more to chronicle, preserve and further the cowboy culture than Michael Martin Murphey,” wrote David McGee for BluegrassSpecial.com. “(His music) overflows with life, enough for many of us. To saddle up with Murphey is to come in closer touch with enduring truths.”
Murphey continues to push his musical boundaries as he continues his exploration of the similarities between bluegrass music and American Cowboy Music. In addition to the Grammy-nominated “Buckaroo Blue Grass,” Murphey has released “Buckaroo Blue Grass II: Riding Song” and the third in the trilogy — his most current release — “Tall Grass & Cool Water.”