Deep Dive: Michael Martin Murphey
Michael Martin Murphey may have three names, but for the average radio listener, it only takes a single name to jog their memory about who he is…and it isn’t even one of his!
That name, of course, is “Wildfire.”
Mind you, for any Monkees fan worth his salt, it’s not a name that helps to identify Mr. Murphey but, rather, a question: “What Am I Doing Hangin’ Round?”
It was asked back in 1967 on the album PISCES, AQUARIUS, CAPRICORN & JONES, and the musical query was composed by Murphey and his co-writer, Owens Castleman. It isn’t the only Murphey song to have found its way onto a Monkees album over the years – others include “Oklahoma Backroom Dancer,” from THE MONKEES PRESENT, and the initially-unreleased, eventually-issued "(I Prithee) Do Not Ask for Love" – but you likely won’t find anyone arguing the premise that “What Am I Doing Hangin’ Round?” is the most popular of his contributions to the Monkees’ catalog.
In celebration of Mr. Murphey’s birthday, we thought we’d spotlight the five albums from his Warner Brothers tenure that are currently available for your listening pleasure on Spotify, and one of the biggest reasons we want to do this is because none of them contain “Wildfire.” Virtually everyone knows that song, but the material from these records is strong stuff that’s really only known by country fans. We’d like to remedy that.
RIVER OF TIME (1988): Hey, what do you know? Murphey does a new version of “What Am I Doing Hangin’ Round?” on this album, so it’s already got that going for it. Beyond that, though, it has “Talkin’ to the Wrong Man,” a duet with his son, Ryan Murphey, which hit #4 on Billboard’s Hot Country Singles chart and topped Canada’s RPM Country Singles chart. Two other singles, “I’m Gonna Miss You, Girl” and “From the Word Go,” were actually even bigger hits in the States, both hitting #3 here, while the former stopped its ascent at #4 in Canada and the latter didn’t chart there at all.
LAND OF ENCHANTMENT (1989): Murphey secured another top-10 country hit in America with “Never Givin’ Up on Love,” which hit #9, and found minor success with “Family Tree,” which stalled at #48,” and a cover of the classic “Route 66,” which only made it to #67.
COWBOY SONGS (1990): This is where Murphey’s career took a turn, and since making that turn, he hasn’t veered off of his path. The first collection of cowboy songs to go gold since Marty Robbins’ heyday, this album wasn’t definitely not guilty of false advertising, with Murphey turning in covers of songs like “Tumbling Tumbleweeds,” “The Yellow Rose of Texas,” “The Streets of Laredo,” and “O Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie.” And if you don’t think it closes with “Happy Trails,” then you don’t understand this project at all.
A COWBOY CHRISTMAS: COWBOY SONGS II (1991): What, like cowboys don’t celebrate Christmas? This album is arguably more of a novelty than a proper sequel to its predecessor, especially since the material doesn’t lend itself to being spun all year round, but it’s still a lot of fun to break out during the holiday season.
COWBOY SONGS III: SONGS OF THE RENEGADES (1993): This time around, Murphey delivers more originals than classics, turning in compositions about guys and gals like Billy the Kid, Jesse James, and Belle Star, but he’s got a lot of great guests joining him, including Hal Ketchum, Chris LeDoux, and – wait for it – the one and only Marty Robbins. You just know that was a dream come true for Murphey, as it would be for any kid who grew up listening to cowboy music. Talk about bringing things full circle…