Time to Take Action
Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.


Michael Martin Murphey slates Klamath concert

February 7, 2005

Country music artist follows Klamath issues


During his 30-plus years of singing around the nation and world, Michael Martin Murphey has seen and enjoyed many places, but Southern Oregon and the Klamath Basin remain special.

"Klamath Falls is a great little place," said Murphey, who will make one of his periodic visits with a 3 p.m. Sunday concert at the Ross Ragland Theater.

"It's a great theater. I remember when I used to come to Klamath years ago - I forget the place - but it really wasn't much. It really sounds great in there, in the Ragland. Years ago I told my agent I want to go to the Ragland every time I can."

Murphey and his band will spend two hours remembering "cowboy" music, including songs from his 1989 classic album, "Cowboy Songs," and his upcoming CD, "Storm on the Range Lands, Cowboy Songs Volume 5."

"All my stuff is old stuff," he said during a telephone interview from Texas. "Even my new stuff is old stuff."

Sunday, he may reprise the title track from his 1976 album, "Swans Against the Sun." The song was inspired by a visit to the Favell Museum and the waterfowl paintings of former Klamath Falls artist Don Hummel. Hummel's "Swans" painting was used on the album cover.

"It's still one of my favorites," says Murphey, who has recorded 37 albums and CDs. "I was just knocked out by this wildlife artist (Hummel). His work - everything in it had this radiance, like he really saw God in those birds. 'Swans Against the Sun' really got me - the luminous quality of light."

He believes the painting, and the song, reflect a belief that, "We're all pretty awkward creatures, but we all have a sacred quality about us."

At the time, Murphey was touring and staying in the area while visiting his brother, Mark, one of the longest-term actors at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland.

Sunday's Ragland appearance is the last stop on a regional tour, so Murphey plans to spend some time in Ashland visiting his brother and watching rehearsals for the upcoming season of plays, which opens Feb. 25.

But Murphey also hopes to update himself on issues involving Klamath Basin irrigators, Klamath Indians and the ongoing water crisis.

"I am familiar as I think you can be as an outsider," Murphey said. "I think things are moving in a direction where the government is realizing it made some mistakes. It's too bad about the battle going on there, but I'm glad the participants are standing up for what they think, for being willing to get involved with the system."

Getting involved isn't something Murphey avoids.

Last month he held a concert in Nashville to raise money for tsunami victims. His upcoming national tour for the Paragon Foundation of New Mexico will raise money to preserve American range land for ranchers and farmers. He's especially concerned about inheritance taxes that force ranchers and farmers and their families to subdivide and sell land.

"As you lose your agricultural base, it's likely no crop or grazing will ever happen on that land again. And that's not healthy for wildlife either."

Murphey, a native Texan, talks expansively and knowledgeably about issues affecting the West, and he enjoys discussing and performing music that traces those cultural influences.

"Texas is a crossroads of culture," he said Murphey. "There was a bit more egalitarian atmosphere down here, and it's reflected in the music."

He traces elements of Western music to Ireland and Scotland, and includes significant influences of blacks with blues and gospel along with the rhythms of Mexican and Latin music.

He also believes Western music was influenced by the 19th century practice of teaching of elocution, which involved memorizing and reciting classic poetry. It was a time, he says, when people wrote poems to each other. That influenced cowboys and Western songs, he said.

"Their experience speaks of loneliness, of wide open spaces, and of the incredible challenge of hard work."


Michael Martin Murphey

Born March 14, 1945 in Dallas, Texas.

Major pop hits in the 1970s included "Wildfire" and "Carolina in the Pines."

Country-western hits include "What's Forever For," "Still Taking Chances," "Will it be Love by Morning," "Disenchanted," "What She Wants," "A Long Line of Love," "I'm Gonna Miss You, Girl," "From the Word Go," "Talkin' to the Wrong Man" and "Cowboy Logic."

First album was 1972's "Geronimo's Cadillac," with the title song an anthem for the American Indians rights movement, followed by "Cosmic Cowboy Souvenir."

"Live at Billy Bob's Texas," released last year, is his most recent CD while "Storm Over the Rangeland, Cowboy Songs Volume 5," is scheduled for release this spring.

Education includes college at North Texas State "where I majored in jam sessions" and UCLA, where he was a member of the folk-rock group The Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Brother, Mark, has performed for more than 30 years at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. Roles this year will include Colonel Craven in "The Philanders" and Villers in "The Belle's Stratagem."


NOTE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, any copyrighted
material herein is distributed without profit or payment to those who have
expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit
research and educational purposes only. For more information go to:




Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM  Pacific

Copyright klamathbasincrisis.org, 2005, All Rights Reserved