Michael Martin Murphey
Michael Martin Murphey, "singing cowboy poet", is not only the number one, best-selling singer/ songwriter of American Cowboy Music, he's one of the world's most respected singer/ songwriters in the Pop and Country-Western field. Though he's remained a lifetime resident and loyal son of Texas, he's a man on a mystical, spiritual quest to try capture the soul of the deserts, plains and mountains in the soul of America- from the Carolinas to California, from the Great Plains to the Deep South to the Wild North Country.
Murphey is the world's most prominent musical representative of the Western horseman (Richard Farnsworth, legendary Hollywood stunt man and Western actor once called him a "master horseman"), the horse rancher, cattle rancher, and cowboy. He's also a lover of the outdoors, with a strong commitment to issues regarding farmers and ranchers, open space, and management of natural resources.
Although Murphey did have some love song-related hits, most of them were penned by other writers such as Rafe VanHoy's "What's Forever For?", Jesse Winchester's "I'm Gonna Miss You, Girl" and the Overstreet/Schuyler composition "A Long Line Of Love", most of his own work involves nature and his respect for all things living and the universe at large. And let's not forget that his biggest hit, "Wildfire", was about a mysterious dream horse on the vast American heartland prairie. While others sang about the urban street life and hip discos, Murphey was singing about the stark beauty of the "dark, flat land" of Nebraska.
After briefly attending North Texas State College, Murphey moved to California to go to UCLA, where he studied classical literature, medieval and renaissance history and literature, with an emphasis on poetry and creative writing. He remained almost completely self-taught as a musician, and by 1964, he had not only become a folk club favorite in California, he had signed a songwriting contract with Sparrow Music. It was around that time when Murphey and pal Castleman hooked up with other musicians they had known in Texas - John London (bass player for James Taylor's first album), and Michael Nesmith. They formed a band called the New Survivors. They recorded one album that never saw the light of day, but the association with Michael Nesmith proved to be fortunate when Nesmith became one of the hugely successful Monkees and recorded one of Murphey's songs, "What Am I Doing Hangin' Around?". This led to a lifelong career as a songwriter whose songs are recorded by others, from the Monkees to John Denver to Lyle Lovett.
Next came a short-lived duo with Owen "Boomer" Castleman known and Travis & Boomer (Murphey went by the name Travis Lewis for that period of time), which evolved into the Texas Twosome, backed up by banjo master, John McEuen. By 1967, Murphey, along with Castleman, formed The Lewis & Clarke Expedition. Just like the explorers of the early West whose names they adopted, they were musically blazing new trails by combining country, pop and folk with a western flair. They made one self-titled album on Colgems (coincidentally, the same label as the Monkees) from which comes "I Feel Good (I Feel Bad)”, the earliest cut on this collection. In 1972, Kenny Rogers and the First Edition recorded Murphey's idea for a concept album revolving around a ghost town in the Mojave Desert. Consisting of 19 tracks that he wrote with Larry Cansler (co-writer of the essential Murphey classic, "Wildfire"), the album, entitled The Ballad Of Calico, was critically acclaimed and won Murphey some notice.
In 1970, he moved back to Texas, this time settling in Austin, where he founded a "Texas music scene" that became world famous. Though others like Willie Nelson and Jerry Jeff Walker followed in his footsteps, Murphey was the first singer/songwriter of this Austin scene to be signed to major record label while operating out of Austin, Texas. Others couldn't help but take notice. When Willie Nelson visited one of Murphey's performances in Austin, he got rid of his suit and tie, grew long hair and a beard like Murphey's, and played the Armadillo World Headquarters as Murphey's opening act. In fact, Murphey inspired many more Texas-based musicians to stick to their home state while playing to the world. As Lyle Lovett put it, "Michael Martin Murphey is one the main influences on my career. He is among America's best songwriters".
In 1972, A&M released the debut album by Murphey entitled Geronimo's Cadillac. The first album was produced by Bob Johnston (who discovered Murphey at his old coffee house stomping grounds, the Rubiayat, in Dallas, Texas) who also produced Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Simon and Garfunkel, and Leonard Cohen, which made the critical world pay attention to Murphey as a serious songwriter. Written as a protest song after Murphey saw a photograph taken of the Chief being paraded in a Cadillac convertible, the single not only made it to the Top 40, but was used at the occupation of Wounded Knee in 1974. sealing his lifelong association with the Lakota Nation in South Dakota. "Geronimo's Cadillac" was later recorded by such artists as Hoyt Axton, Mary McCaslin, Cher, and Johnny Rivers. Rolling Stone Magazine immediately proclaimed, "On the strength of his first album alone, Michael Murphey is the best new songwriter in the country," Murphey was also called "brilliant" in a London Times review of the album. Some people called his music Progressive Country, some called it Redneck Rock, and some called it Outlaw Music. The fact is, no one could quite figure out exactly what to call it- they were struggling with trying to label a songwriter who could morph from the blues, to country, to pop ballad, rock and roll, bluegrass, western- swing, cowboy music and jazz.
After moving to Epic Records and releasing the album titled Michael Murphey, he was ready to employ a completely different process in the studio. In May, 1975 Murphey's story song, "Wildfire," reached No. 1 on the Radio and Records charts, No.3 on Billboard's Pop Chart, and No. 1 on all Adult Contemporary Charts, giving the artist vast commercial exposure. Musically, it stood out, due, in part, to the unique harmonies supplied by the Dirt Band's Jeff Hanna and Jimmy Ibbotson, and the beautiful piano intro based on a classical piece by Russian composer Alexander Scriabin, played by master jazz musician Jac Murphy. As members of the superstar band Lonestar put it, "Murphey's Wildfire was one of the songs that inspired our sound." All of the members of Alabama have echoed that statement.
The banjo wasn't your typical commercial instrument on pop radio in the mid-'70s. But "Carolina In The Pines," Murphey's follow-up single, actually contained a banjo solo by McEuen (who also played mandolin on the song), helping to raise the profile of the instrument. That, and the piano solo by Jac Murphy, creates a magical track that you will want to listen to over and over again. The timelessness of the song is evidenced by the fact that it went to No. 21 on the pop charts in 1975 and a re-recorded version with McEuen and Ricky Skaggs went Top 10 on the country charts ten years later.
Colorado crony John Denver sang background on Murphey's next album Swans Against The Sun, also recorded at Caribou. He sings background on the title track, as well as on one of Murphey's greatest compositions, "Renegade." John McEuen is on electric slide guitar, Charlie Daniels plays electric guitar and adds his vocals to those of Denver, Jeff Hanna, Willie Nelson and Tracy Nelson.
Also in '82, Murphey's treatment of Rafe VanHoy's beautiful ballad "What's Forever For?" went Pop Top 20, but it marked the beginning of a significant change in radio and for artists such as Murphey.
In the early 1980's, Murphey recorded a watershed album called "Michael Martin Murphey" for Capitol Records, produced by fellow-Texan, Jim Ed Norman, architect of the cross-over country sound of the time. Murphey's self-penned "Still Taking Chances," released that same year, was, according to Murphey, one of the first love songs he ever wrote. It also went high on the charts, solidifying his relationship with country radio as a singer-songwriter, which exposed him to an entirely new audience. Ironically, 12 years after his first hit in Pop music, Murphey was awarded Best New Artist by the Academy of Country Music in 1983 (beating out George Strait!), and he continued to enjoy hits on country and pop radio throughout the decade. In 1987, his "A Long Line Of Love," reached No. 1. "I'm Going Miss You, Girl" (written by Jesse Winchester) and "From The Word Go," from his 1988 album River Of Time, both went to No. 3. His last single on the charts was "Cowboy Logic" in 1989.
In 1985, Michael performed with the New Mexico Symphony in a concept show he titled, "A Night in the American West". This performance led to hundreds of performances with American and Canadian symphonies (including- The National Symphony Orchestra of Washington, D.C.), and was the harbinger of things to come, when Murphey would go down a lonesome trail of cowboy music, against the trends of his time.
His now-gold "Cowboy Songs" album, the first gold album of Cowboy Music since Marty Robbins, sparked a whole series of albums. Murphey has received many awards for his accomplishments in the Western and Cowboy Music field, including 5 awards from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum and Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City. Murphey founded and trademarked a Western cultural festival in Colorado called Westfest in 1987, which has been called the best festival in America by many critics. He has expanded Westfest to other states, and like the Buffalo Bill and his Wild West shows of old, Murphey has become synonymous with American West showmanship, culture, lifestyle, and scholarship. In fact, Murphey was appointed an Adjunct Professor of Music and American Studies at Utah State University by a group of scholars who predicated in creating the Oxford History of the American West. Michael has been chosen as the recipient of the Buffalo Bill Award by the State of Nebraska, given at Nebraskaland Days in North Platte, where Buffalo Bill lived, and began his Wild West shows.
Michael also broke ground with an innovative concert concept called "Cowboy Christmas™" in 1987, which has become a trademarked touring show and musical concept for him. The tour now spans 40 cities per holiday season, and has led to three Cowboy Christmas™ albums and a Cowboy Christmas™ DVD. Again, Murphey was reviving a tradition from Texas. The Texas Cowboys' Christmas Ball in Anson, Texas, was a little-known event outside of West Texas, until Murphey discovered and recorded Larry Chittenden's 1880's classic song, "The Cowboys' Christmas Ball" in 1985. The event is now world-famous, due to Murphey's tireless praise for this tradition. Murphey now plays the original location of the ball in Anson every year. Murphey has been a guest of honor and performer at virtually every important Western event and festival of his time: Grand Marshal of Cheyenne Frontier Days, the Reno Rodeo, the San Antonio Livestock Show, and many others. He has performed while singing on horseback at many prestigious Western Events: seven years at The National Western Stock Show of Denver, Colorado; the San Antonio Livestock Show in Texas; The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo; The New Mexico State Fair; and the American Quarter Horse World Show in Oklahoma City. Murphey has appeared at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, Calgary Stampede, Rodeo Finals in Oklahoma City, The Colorado State Fair and Rodeo, The Utah State Fair and Rodeo, the National Festival of the West, the Festival of the American West, and many others. He serves on the advisory board of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Western Folklife Center in Elko, Nevada, and is a much-loved performer there.
Michael has also received awards for his accomplishments in many fields. The award for which he is most honored is the Golden Smoky Award, given to him by the Department of Interior for his tireless work in conservation and wildlands fire awareness. Other awards in include: Gold Albums for COWBOY SONGS VOL. I, BLUE SKY NIGHT THUNDER, WILL THE CIRCLE BE UNBROKEN, Charlie Russell Award for Western Heritage, 5 "Wrangler" awards from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum and Cowboy Hall of Fame, National Day of the Cowboy Keeper Award, Academy of Country Music, Rock Music Awards, Academy of Western Music Award for Best Album and Song, Governor of New Mexico's Outstanding Achievement Award, Honorary Lifetime Membership in the American Quarter Horse Association, Honorary Paul I. Harris Award from Rotarians International, Outstanding Citizen Award by the Town of Taos, New Mexico, Outstanding Son of Texas Award by the Texas Legislature, BMI Awards for Radio Airplay, and special citation for Outstanding Contribution to the State of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for his work on public awareness of Wisconsin Trails.
Pat Flynn Guitar & Vocals
Pat Flynn is a well-known name, in one way or another, to music fans all over the world. You may recognize him as a member of a groundbreaking musical group, New Grass Revival, or a first-call Nashville recording session player, or a producer, songwriter, and artist. One thing is for sure: in the last couple of years, Pat has found a way to combine all of these talents and showcase them for you on his latest CD releases.
As guitarist/singer/songwriter for New Grass Revival, Flynn, along with Sam Bush, John Cowan, and Béla Fleck, influenced many of today's best-known artists while building New Grass Revival's own loyal audience to near cult status. Attesting to the group's continuing popularity and influence, Capitol-EMI Records has released a very special two-CD New Grass Revival 20 year retrospective, entitled ‘Grass Roots’. This historic collection features previously unreleased live, TV and studio tracks.
During his tenure with NGR, Frets magazine’s National Readers Poll voted Pat as “Best Acoustic Guitarist” for five consecutive years. For winning five years in a row, Flynn was inducted into the Frets "Gallery of Greats" alongside Chet Atkins, Doc Watson and Tony Rice. Flynn has also been a session guitarist on more than 400 CD projects, including 32 Gold and Platinum records, as well as CMA and Grammy award winning projects with a wide array of top artists. Flynn wrote and performed on Garth Brooks' hit single “Do What You Gotta Do,” which has recently been reissued in the new Garth Brooks box set.
In recent years Pat has been involved in some very special musical events. The Greencards invited Pat, who had contributed to their debut recordings, to accompany them as they opened a national tour for Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson. Legendary singer songwriter Tom T Hall chose Pat as his musical director for his turn as Artist-in-Residence at the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Pat also teamed up with Raul Malo, Rob Ickes, and Dave Pomeroy to record the acclaimed 'Nashville Sessions' CD, an award winning Americana Project, and later joined Minton Sparks to contribute a duet to the 'Songs of America' CD, an all star artist tribute to Americana Music, under the direction of former Attorney General Janet Reno, that received much national attention.
Most recently, Pat joined Michael Martin Murphey in the studio to direct Murphey's first foray into modern bluegrass. The CD, Buckaroo Bluegrass, featured Murphey and bandleader Flynn in new musical territory. Their efforts were rewarded with a Grammy nomination for Best Bluegrass Album of 2009.
Lately, Pat has added the role of producer to his resume with up and coming acts such as Cadillac Sky, Tim May, Alan Thornhill, Joe Nolan, Tyler Flowers, and Candace Corrigan, and Amy Benton.
Pat's first CD, reQuest, was released to enthusiastic reviews and attention world-wide. Appearing with Pat on this project are Béla Fleck, John Cowan, Rob Ickes, Stuart Duncan, Jim Hoke, Buddy Greene and others.
Recent festival seasons have found Pat performing again at many of the country's most prestigious festival stages: MerleFest Americana Music Celebration, Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, Rocky Grass, Walnut Valley Festival (Winfield), Rocky Mountain Folk Festival, Strawberry Music Festival, as well as a slot at the International Bluegrass Music Association’s World of Bluegrass event. Flynn’s signature line-up of “Pat Flynn & Friends” featured some of his best friends and musicians he most admires: John Cowan, Tim O'Brien, Darrell Scott, Stuart Duncan, Buddy Greene, Michael Card, Charlie McCoy, and Danny Wheetman.
Gary Roller Bass & Vocals
Having toured with Michael for over 25 years, Gary "Smoothie" Roller is the longest-standing member of the Rio Grande Band and a southwestern artist of great renown. Gary is known for depicting the various cultures of the rugged southwestern landscape. His art often focuses on the spiritual life of the Native American as a powerful symbol which expresses universally understood life experiences. Gary creates art prints, sculptures, and fountains. The idea of enriching lives through the visual and entertainment arts provides the vital pool of inspiration from which Gary Roller draws his dynamic creative energies. Like the various spokes of a wheel, reaching in all directions from its hub, he expresses that energy through a variety of creative mediums which touch the lives of people throughout the world. Gary believes that the goal of art should be to touch the viewer. ..”Successful art imparts deep personal insights, awakens love, and gives a deeper understanding of life.”