“That's a big change because at times we've got two fiddles and a hammered dulcimer, a steel guitar and a bass going, not to mention what I play, which kind of gets to be an afterthought,” he joked, adding that he still plays banjo and guitar. “We have a much wider range of sounds that we can do this year ... and it's a lot of fun.”
Still, the spirit and format of the show remains the same.
“It's still about a cowboy remembering back to a simpler time, to cowboy Christmas balls on the frontier. And the older I get, the better I play that part, which is kind of clever planning, I think, on my part,” he said with a laugh.
The Cowboy Christmas Ball is an all-ages event, and after two decades of performing it, Murphey enjoys seeing teenagers and young adults who have grown up with the holiday tradition. Watching children learn the old dances like the Cotton-eyed Joe, Paul Jones and schottische means so much to Murphey, who has dedicated much of his career to exploring and preserving the musical heritage of the West.
“To see these young people getting into it ... they're totally locked into their heritage musically because this is a heritage show. We do dances that were done 150 years ago in Texas,” he said.
“My favorite thing that happens is great-parents, grandparents and parents — it's several generations of families — bringing their little children to the ball, dressed up in traditional clothes of the West and dancing these traditional dances. You know, it's an unbroken line back to our heritage.”