“Good mornin’, America, how are ya?”
The words should be familiar — they kick off the chorus of the pop-and-country classic “City Of New Orleans” — and Michael Martin Murphey puts the train the song was named after to good use beginning this Fourth of July weekend. Starting Friday, Michael plays three straight days at the Fir Amphitheater, a mountain-top venue in Colorado that can only be accessed by riding the rails through La Veta Pass. And the train that fans take to reach the Fir is indeed the City of New Orleans, the same train Steve Goodman rode through Illinois when he was inspired to write his best-known song. “City Of New Orleans” became a pop hit in the early ‘70s for Arlo Guthrie and a No. 1 country hit for Willie Nelson in 1984.
Michael, who recently purchased some land to live on in Colorado, will repeat his three-day performance series every weekend during July for the third straight year as a part of the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad Roots & Boots Summer Concert Series.
“I’ve always gone out of my way to perform cowboy music outdoors on the mountains and prairies,” Michael says, explaining why he keeps returning. “And I love trains!”
The concerts are accompanied by western barbecue meals and a range of Michael’s music, including cowboy songs and some of his biggest hits. He was a regular presence in country’s Top 10 during the 1980s with “What’s Forever For,” “A Long Line Of Love” and “Carolina In The Pines.” His 1975 pop hit “Wildfire” was also ranked in the Top 20 this month when the Western Writers of America named the 100 best Western Songs.
Even after the Roots & Boots shows are concluded, Michael has another major concert event on tap in Colorado. After a five-year hiatus, he’s reintroducing his Westfest celebration Aug. 12-15 at the Garfield County Fairgrounds in Rifle, Colo. The festival features cowboy poetry, Indian entertainers and a range of other performers, including Craig Morgan, James Otto, Elvis Presley guitar legend James Burton, bluegrass player Peter Rowan, Trailer Choir and Grammy-winning Native American musician Bill Miller. Also appearing will be Ryan Murphey, who joined his dad on the 1988 hit “Talkin’ To The Wrong Man” and shared a Grammy nomination with Michael for producing the album Buckaroo Blue Grass.