There are a lot of reasons that iconic singer-songwriter Michael Martin Murphey, 71, likes to return to Red River as often as possible. In fact, he loves it so much, he, along with Red River businessman Steve Heglund, opened the Rocking 3M Amphitheater, where Murphey will perform twice weekly beginning in July and continuing through Labor Day weekend, a press release states.
“Red River is my spiritual home,” Murphey said in a prepared statement. “It’s absolutely stunning here. I went there several times when I was still in high school,” he continues. “I was hooked on the sheer beauty of the area then and decided that it would always be a part of my life.”
Murphey’s Rocking 3M Amphitheater is the perfect backdrop for songs from his new release, “High Stakes: Cowboy Songs VII.” The album is already being celebrated for its strong environmental message. On “High Stakes,” released on Earth Day (April 22), Murphey pleads on the Australian cowboy song, “Campfire On The Road”: “We must never let ‘em take this life away/ Old stock routes belong to one and all/ Drovers, dreamers all agree/ Poets, Aborigines/ We have a right to light a campfire on the road.”
The lyric underscores the dramatic tone of Murphey’s return to his Texas cowboy roots at a time when we are facing the rapid deterioration of our crowded world’s most precious resources : land and water. The song joins his longtime favorites, such as “Wildfire,” “Carolina In The Pines,” “Cowboy Logic,” “Geronimo’s Cadillac” and many more.
“This generation of the human family is witnessing the emergence of their home as a desert planet,” states Murphey, a lifelong rancher-poet. “Two-thirds of the Earth’s land surface is grassland plain. Eighty percent of its soil is dying. This is due to a lack of grazing animals — cattle, sheep, buffalo, deer, elk, goats, even free-range chickens and pigs. We need vastly more split-hooved grazing animals that turn up the soil — managed by the world’s stockmen and stockwomen — to replicate the rotational-grazing habits of wild herds to restore grasslands for the creatures and life-forms that thrive there. As we develop cities and urban sprawl, we run off animals that cannot be replaced by technology. You can’t eat computer chips.”
Best known for a genre-busting career that includes topping the pop, country, bluegrass and western music charts, “High Stakes” spotlights the singer’s philosophy of staying humble to his musical and traditional roots. “It may sound like an oxymoron, but ‘cowboy culture’ is real and relevant,” Murphey states. “I celebrate men and women who love dirt, grass and water. Truth is, cowboys and cowgirls can save the planet.”
Murphey himself has been a longtime activist and outspoken supporter of caring for land and water. According to the release, he was inspired by the work of Dr. Alan Savory, a noted Zimbabwean ecologist who was a consultant to his ranching partnership with Holistic Grazing pioneer Bert Madera, of Jal, New Mexico.
“Grasslands sequester carbon,” Murphey states. “Too much carbon in the atmosphere instead of the grass and soil is the real cause of climate change. Ranchers around the world are fighting leaving ground bare, and managed grazing is a key way to do that. Real environmentalists are the men and women who spend their days working the land responsibly to ensure its health for generations to come.”
The message is so potent that when Murphey appeared at Earth Day Texas last year, the founder of the event, Trammel S. Crow Jr., asked Murphey to become the official ambassador for the 2016 event. With Murphey Western Institute, they created the Grazing Land Restoration Initiative.
Situated in heart of the American West, The Rocking 3M Amphitheater opened in the summer of 2013. The stage stands against a backdrop of a quiet lake situated in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. “I can literally walk to the back of the stage and throw in a line to fish,” Murphey laughs. “I’ve not actually caught a fish during a performance, but there’s always hope.”
In addition to a concert from Murphey, guests to the Rocking 3M Amphitheater are treated to a chuckwagon-style dinner featuring Southwestern food and ambiance.
Located at 178 Bitter Creek Road, the Rockin’ 3M Amphitheater was part of the old Lazy H Guest Ranch in the 1920s and 1930s.
The open amphitheater allows the cool mountain air to float through, so guests are encouraged to bring blankets or a warm coat on most nights. “It’s the ‘open sky experience’ I’ve always loved,” Murphey said. “This is what I’ve always wanted to do. This is a dream come true for me.”
For tickets, reservations or additional information, call (575) 754-6280 or visit michaelmartinmurphey.com.