For the 18th year, Michael Martin Murphey is bringing a yuletide cowboy tradition to “the cowboy capital of our country.”
“I know that Texans would like to claim it — and I'm a Texan, so I'm embarrassed to say this — but Oklahoma City is the cowboy capital of our country. And that's why I like playing there because we get the real-deal people showing up there,” he said in a phone interview last week.
The Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter/musician will keep the customs of an old-fashioned western holiday with his popular Cowboy Christmas Ball at 7 p.m. Friday at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Murphey, 67, helped start the ball at the Oklahoma City museum, where it is celebrating its 18th anniversary.
“To do it at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in their event center, the people that show up from Kansas, from Texas, from Arkansas, from Missouri, from Colorado, next to the Anson ball, it is the central location for cowboys and cowgirls,” he said. “That's why I love playing there, because I'm just completely steeped at all times in cowboy tradition. And that's what this ball's for.”
Murphey modeled his Cowboy Christmas Ball, now in its 20th year of touring the Southwest, on a more than century-old tradition started in Anson, Texas. In 1885, an Anson couple got married at Christmastime and invited all the ranching families. Famed East Coast journalist Larry Chittenden was in town and wrote a poem about the event.
The poem was published in the London Times, The New York Times and many other newspapers, and the ball became a yearly tradition. People began coming from thousands of miles away to take part in the Cowboy Christmas Ball, and images of people dancing at the Anson event over the years are compiled into videos incorporated into the show.
“This year we have a lot of new video, a lot of new images,” he said. “We have about 25 percent new material in the show ... and 50 percent of the videos are new.”
His band also has a popular new member, Mei-Ling Felten, 22, a recent graduate from McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul, Minn., who is playing on her first major tour.