Nov 29, 2017–For Michael Martin Murphey, changing up his Cowboy Christmas Show would be “like coming to town and not singing Wildfire.”
“The audience would kill us if we changed it,” said the American music legend during an interview about his Dec 2 show at the Rockbox Theater in Fredericksburg. Not that he hasn’t tried.
“There are eight to ten songs in the show that we do every year,” Murphey said. “I’ve tried cutting them out, but the audience won’t stand for it. They’ll pass notes up to the stage saying, ‘will you play that for your encore?’”
Those songs include the hits Murphey is known for since his breakout song Wildfire in 1975, along with Carolina In The Pines, What’s Forever For, Cosmic Cowboy, Geronimo’s Cadillac, and Cherokee Fiddle. He is a multiple Grammy nominee and has had six gold albums.
Since his early Cosmic Cowboy era, Murphey has morphed into a conservator of the true cowboy and western lifestyle and philosophy. As a working cowboy who is also widely read, a keen historian, and insightful writer, Murphey’s Cowboy Christmas Show is the perfect vehicle for sharing the cowboy culture. He has been doing it for 25 years.
The production is based on the idea of an old time cowboy remembering back to a simpler time. Murphey considers it to be a concept show, more like a play, in which he is both narrator and performer.
“I’m a cowboy, the universal cowboy who comes on stage and remembers Christmas in a simpler, warmer time,” he explained. “I go in and out of that character, then being Michael Martin Murphey so I can comment on it. We do both contemporary as well as traditional material from the 19th century. That doesn’t change.
The show includes songs, poems, and stories, and video of cowboys and western images, and even a campfire on stage.
He does change up about 30% of the material every year. But “new” is not critical for the shows he refers to as “Christmas with the family.”
“It’s kind of like the Christmas Carol,” he said of the Dickens classic. “You know that Scrooge is going to be there, and the spirits will show up, and you know how it’s going to end. You don’t go to see something new. You go because you want to see the same things that inspired you about Christmas last year. There may be a different actor, but the essence and format are the same.”
That fits Murphey’s higher purpose in producing this show.
“I want it to be something that when I die, someone else can step into my boots up there. It may not be my music or my persona, but the show will go on.”
With Murphey’s multi-threat talents, I had to ask when he was going to write a novel. After all, he already writes songs, cowboy poetry, and stage productions. His answer surprised me. Turns out he is working on a novel right now.
“I met with the producer of some great movies that I admire,” he said. “We’ve come up with a concept. There is no target date–that’s always dangerous to set–but I can tell you it will be based on the song Wildfire. I’m taking my best-known song and turning it into a novel and hopefully a film.”
Murphey had more news to break.
“I also have another project I’m working on,” he confided. “It’s kind of top secret, but I will contact you as soon as we are ready to make a press release on that. But it will be partly a book and partly a song, and very Texas based.”
Murphey’s show in Fredericksburg will be the first of a major artist to perform under the new Gatlin Brothers partnership with Rockbox Theater.
“Larry and I are close friends, and I’ve known him for years,” Murphey said. “I really admire him as a songwriter and businessman–he’s just a 10 all around as an entertainer. I think it’s great to have them managing the venue. This will be great for the Gatlin Brothers and I think you are going to see an increased amount of creativity. [Read article about Gatlin Brothers and Rockbox Theater]
Starting with the Cowboy Christmas Show.
Michael Martin Murphey will present his Cowboy Christmas Show at the Rockbox Theater in Fredericksburg on Saturday, December 2 at 4 p.m. Tickets and information at www.rockboxtheater.com.