Although Michael Martin Murphey first gained national attention on the country music scene, he has remained true to his Western roots with hits like "Wildfire" and compositions like " Land of Enchantment ( New Mexico)." The former was a major commercial success and the latter has been recognized as one of the most beautiful Western ballads to be written in recent decades. And over the years, he has become a major spokesperson for Western music.
Born in Dallas, Texas, he began his musical career in folk, pop and "outlaw" country music. Moving to Colorado, he scored his biggest hit, "Wildfire" in 1975, on an album titled Blue Sky/Night Thunder. There were a number of other hit records along the way, but in 1986, he branched out. He launched WestFest, an event that would lead the way in the revival of interest in all things Western. This outdoor festival, repeated in many Western locations and almost annually since then, brought together Western artisans, American Indians and musicians representing several genres but with a focus on Western, and made all of this accessible to the public.
In 1990, he convinced his record label, Warner Brothers, to let him record an album of Western songs, Cowboy Songs, Vol 1. Reluctantly, the executives agreed, and were pleasantly surprised to find that the album, without major promotion or commercial airplay, out-sold Murph's earlier work, earning him a Gold Record! Three more Cowboy Songs CDs followed, as did Warner's formation of a new subsidiary label, Warner Western. The new label, at Murph's suggestion, recruited some of the best Western talent around, artists Murph had met at Western gatherings in the late 1980 and early 90s, and a new series of Western music releases was started. This gave national attention and product distribution to artists who had only gained regional recognition up to that point, and eventually led to the launch of other record companies, e.g. Western Jubilee.
In the years following the end of the singing movie cowboy era, especially during the 1970s and 80s, national interest in Western music declined. It might have been lost had it not been for the successful efforts of a few artists and organizers like Murphey who were dedicated to the preservation and continuation of Western music. With his talent, his vision and his dedication, Michael Martin Murphey played a major role in the revival of Western music.
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