Michael Martin Murphey is an iconic country-western singer and songwriter. As a self-styled “outlaw” musician, he was a key figure in the burgeoning Austin music scene of the 1970s. Murphey has long called Red River and Taos “home,” and he is particularly fond of the Enchanted Forest Cross Country Ski Area. When Murphey learned that the popular Nordic ski and snowshoeing area was in danger of closing due to financial difficulties, he volunteered to perform a benefit concert.
“Michael Martin Murphey’s Bootstraps Concert” is planned Saturday (Jan. 6), 7 p.m., at The Motherlode Saloon, 406 Main Street in Red River. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased by calling (575) 754-6280 or by visiting outhousetickets.com/Event/Event9901.
At press time, Colorado artist Carin Mari and Taos musician Max Gomez are scheduled to perform sets. Both are younger than Murphey and have a history of performing with the Grammy Award-nominated singer. A 2009 YouTube video shows Mari and Murphey performing a moving duet of his classic hit “Wildfire” (1975). Gomez and Murphey have appeared together countless times on local Taos County stages.
About the benefit at The Motherlode, Gomez said, “It’s an honor to play with Murphey. He’s a true troubadour and one hell of a songwriter.”
The Motherlode is a historic music venue that has put Red River “on the map” for Americana and county-western musical acts. Its lineup is booked year-round. When asked how Murphey secured a coveted Saturday night spot at The Motherlode, he said, “[Owner] Steve Heglund is my partner at the Rockin’ 3M Amphitheater [also in Red River]. When I said: ‘What about a performance benefit at The Motherlode?’ He said: ‘I’m in.’”
Murphey has a hearty affection for Red River. He points out that one of the reasons why he built his cabin and the amphitheater at the top of Bobcat Pass was to have easy access to the Enchanted Forest Cross-country Ski Area. Nordic skiing (another term for cross-country) on groomed trails is available, as well as snowshoeing. The Enchanted Forest is known for being family- and dog-friendly. Its visitors are often multi-generational families with grandparents, parents and kids enjoying a fresh winter’s day outside together.
“I’ve been skiing there since the day it opened in 1985. I love cross-country skiing. I learned it before downhill skiing. With my kids, I got into downhill. But over the years, I’ve done way more cross-country skiing. I’ve enjoyed it for years and years; I’ve used it to keep in shape,” Murphey said.
Murphey is a prolific writer and active performer. In fact, he just concluded a multi-week “Cowboy Christmas Tour” and performed a sold-out benefit concert at Holy Angels Mission Church in Angel Fire.
About this “Bootstraps” benefit for the Enchanted Forest, Murphey said, “We hope to raise between $10,000 to $15,000, so they can open their doors whether they have snow or not. Enchanted Forest is an essential part of the community from an emotional, fitness and economic point of view. It is one of New Mexico’s assets.”
To help with fundraising, an Indiegogo campaign has been established at indiegogo.com/projects/save-enchanted-forest#. Enchanted Forest has a new master development plan that includes improving current trails, building new trails and expanding mountain biking and hiking trails. The plan is awaiting U.S. Forest Service approval.
Looking to the future, Murphey said, “My nonprofit foundation may rent some space from Enchanted Forest to do events.”
Enchanted Forest founders, Judy and John Miller, have a legendary personal history in Taos County. The Millers honeymooned at The Taos Inn in 1957, moved to Red River in 1963 and owned the now-defunct Powder Puff Ski Area during the 1970s. The couple started the Enchanted Forest Cross-country Ski Area in 1985.
“Enchanted Forest has long been a part of Taos,” said Ellen Miller-Goins, their daughter and present owner of the ski area. Miller-Goins noted that they have long-time employees from Taos County as well as numerous visitors who come from all over the county and beyond.
Murphey said, “John and Judy Miller are probably some of the best- loved people in the history of the state. Everything they gave to the community was never about money but about interacting with people and giving them a nice time. They had to make a living, but you never got the sense that it was a money thing. This is why it’s worth saving this business. There are some who may say: ‘Humbug. If they can’t make a profit, why help them?’ Well, the Millers have always been good business people. It’s that sometimes, it just doesn’t snow.”
Murphey has many memories of skiing with his children at Enchanted Forest. He laughed recalling how his little daughter didn’t take a liking to Nordic skiing and instead became a snowboarder.
“I am not even taking out expenses for this performance. My nonprofit supports a western lifestyle and heritage –– and skiing and snowshoeing are parts of that. This is a real benefit,” Murphey said.
Red River is located in northern Taos County along State Road 38. For more information, call (575) 754-6280.