Walkin’ in a western wonderland | VailDaily.com

Walkin’ in a western wonderland

Sarah Dixon
Special to the DailyMichael Martin Murphey brings a cowboy's take on Christmas to the Vilar Center Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

It may have been some time ago that Vail was considered the “Open Range,” but a true Cowboy’s performance at the Vilar Center Thursday should bring some of the Wild West ambiance back to town.

Michael Martin Murphey brings his family-oriented Christmas show to town, and with it, all the charm of the Cowboy way of life.

“This is a traditional, wholesome family Christmas show,” said Murphey’s manager, Luis Codone. “And, Michael is a true Cowboy, which is one thing that makes the show so special and entertaining.”

Perhaps best known for his singing and songwriting talents, Murphey’s claims to fame include authorship of “Wildfire,” one of the most played songs in the history of radio and TV.

Valley locals may also recall a little show called Westfest – occasionally hosted in Vail – which, in its 17th year, attracted more than 30,000 fans. Yet, the Cowboy’s story goes much farther back than that.

Murphey first learned to make music on a plastic ukelele and, by the age of 16, had his own local music show in Dallas. He later attended UCLA, where he and friends – including the Eagle’s Don Henley – developed the Alternative Country and Western scene in Southern California.

But, it wasn’t until he moved to Austin, and helped develop its renowned music scene, that he gained national attention.

With the company of friends like Willie Nelson and Jerry Jeff Walker, Murphey honed his unique style. In what is perhaps the ultimate recognition, Rolling Stone heralded Murphey’s first CD, “Geranimo’s Caddilac,” as “a classic,” and dubbed him “the best new singer-songwriter in America.”

The “Cowboy Christmas” production is very much in keeping with the Western roots and wholesome charm of Murphey’s life experience. The show is inspired by the Cowboy Christmas Ball, a longtime, holiday tradition in Anson, Texas.

“The Cowboy Christmas Ball has been around forever, but there has never been a travelling Cowboy Christmas show,” explained Codone. “It’s a traditional production, with Cowboy Christmas music and poetry. It’s really a great family show.”

And, fret not diehard Murphey fans, Codone assures that the Cowboy mixes his traditional hit songs with the more festive holiday anthems.

“Some of his hits are tied into the show,” Codone said. “But on the whole, it is a holiday production.”

Among the classics-with-a-western-twist are a version of “Joy to the World” sung as a banjo solo, as well as a festive performance of “Texas Two Step.”

Codone also assures that no holds were barred on the production of the show.

“We have a full set,” he said. “There’s a cabin on the stage with smoke coming out of the chimney, and a backdrop with footage of the traditional Cowboy Ball in Anson.”

The production promises to be fun for the whole family.

“Children will be really entertained by the visuals,” Codone said. “And, the music gets an audience of all ages involved in the show.”

Murphey is no stranger to the Colorado Rockies.

Westfest productions in Copper, Vail and Steamboat – to name a few – have regularly brought the Murphey clan to town.

But, Codone says that there’s more to Murphey’s love of the mountains, and it involves something we locals are all too familiar with.

“He’s an avid cross-country skier, hiker and horserider,” Codone said. “He loves the outdoors.”

Codone also says that Murphey has a special connection to the state of Colorado.

“It’s the birthplace and home of Westfest,” Codone said. “So, the Beaver Creek show will be somewhat like a homecoming.”

By all accounts, this is a homecoming you won’t want to miss.

Bring your Cowboy hat and $38 Thursday to the Vilar Center at 7:30 p.m. Call 845-8497 for more information.

Sarah Dixon is a freelance writer based in Vail.

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