Michael Martin Murphey
Michael Martin Murphey--singer, writer, multi-instrumentalist, producer, actor, entertainer, western historian, cowboy, quarter-horse and cattle rancher and conservationist--has worked tirelessly to become the world's leading representative of the culture of the American West. With his Sagebrush Symphony album on Warner Western and TV special from Austin City Limits, Murphey shakes the foundations of music by bringing together a symphony orchestra and bunch of musical cowboys and Indians for a concert album and TV show that captures and honors cowboy-and-western music as Americana folk art of the highest quality, to be treasured and enjoyed for all time. Although it will be imitated, nothing could duplicate Murphey's style preserved in this recording.
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Murphey's maverick approach to a symphony pops show initially raises eyebrows when a New Mexico cowboy strolls into a symphony rehearsal in hat, boots and jeans; but eyebrows are raised even higher when the conductor and players fall in love with the arrangements, then delight in the roars of applause and the critical praise. The eyebrows of symphony managers are often raised the highest when they look at the bottom line to find something they don't see very often -- strong ticket sales and black ink. Because Murphey's shows are such a powerful marketing tool for symphonies faced with budget cuts and lagging box office sales, he has been invited for many command return performances leading to ten years of numerous concerts with many distinguished orchestras like the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington, D.C.
The Sagebrush Symphony live recording on Warner Western was produced by the head of Warner Brothers country division Jim Ed Norman featuring Murphey backed by The San Antonio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Christopher Wilkins. Murphey has performed his songs with orchestras at hundreds of special concerts throughout the country for the past ten years. During that same period of time, he presented Michael Martin Murphey's WestFest--a celebration of the art, culture and music of the Old and New West.
Murphey has always loved cowboy music, and throughout his recording career he has continually embraced themes from his homeland--the West. One of the best-known and best-selling cowboy singers, Murphey has had 20 Top 10 pop and country hits as well as three recent Cowboy Songs albums featuring both classics from the past and hot new cowboy music. Murphey calls these albums "the music of my people, my land, my culture and my own life."
An Academy of Country Music award winner and National Cowboy Hall of Fame award honoree, Murphey is the consummate western entertainer. As a child, Murphey spent time on his family's ranches in Texas where he first learned western songs from the cowboys and ranch hands. He now owns and runs his own ranch near Taos, New Mexico. In addition, Murphey was the inspiration behind Warner Western, a division of Warner Bros. Records entirely dedicated to music of the West. He has released two dozen albums during the past 25 years and has always included songs about the West on his recordings. His proudest accomplishment is the Cowboy Songs collection which was hailed by critics as a "masterpiece."
He went to college at North Texas State and UCLA, where his musical career continued as a member of the folk-rock group the Lewis and Clark Expedition, named after the pioneers of the West. In 1971, he moved back to Texas and joined the burgeoning Austin music scene and the famed Outlaw movement that led to a revolutionary country-rock sound. The next year he had his first hit, "Geronimo's Cadillac," which quickly turned into an anthem for the Native American rights movement. It was three years and three albums later that Murphey established himself as a major hit maker with the pop smash "Wildfire" and the follow-up hit "Carolina in the Pines" from the gold album Blue Sky--Night Thunder.
In addition, Murphey has recorded an album of ten songs about America's horses, currently available exclusively through the American Quarter Horse Association, for which Murphey was awarded one of only seven lifetime memberships since 1946.
In the early 1980s, Murphey wrote the screenplay, composed and produced the musical score, and acted in Hard Country. The singer also has been featured on The Nashville Network (TNN) hosting the Westfest Special documentary, and has narrated and scored other documentaries for PBS and Cowboys of the Americas, which aired on The Disney Channel.
"With Sagebrush Symphony," explains Murphey, "we're showcasing American roots music. This is a Wild West, red-white-and-blue American album. I wanted to present these simple, yet archetypal melodies and lyrics with full classical orchestration to show their inherent power. Cowboys and an orchestral music have always been unplugged, so the instrumentation melds together easily although there might have been more trail-dust on-stage than they're used to. The only other difference is that instead of 'Bravo' at the end of the concert, we'd rather hear a cowboy yell."
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