The beginnings of Murphey’s own Cowboy Christmas Show date back more than two decades, but 19 years ago, he discovered the annual event held in the town north of Abilene. He fell so in love with its songs, dances, and customs that he incorporated as much as possible into his own presentation.
“We’re able to take the spirit of what goes on there – a great Texas tradition – all over the country,” enthuses Murphey. “We have two big projection screens, some special props that we use, and a backdrop. We have some interesting people in the band, including a Native American flute player. We use hammered dulcimer, fiddlers, steel guitar, bass, and ...”
He pauses to chuckle, “No drums.”
Lack of drums might indicate some bluegrass, another of Murphey’s recent passions, but that isn’t the case here.
“There’s some banjo in the clawhammer style,” he explains. “We try to re-create the spirit of the tradition of the Ball, which is heavily steeped in frontier music. It’s highly scripted, so it comes across more as a play, but there’s room for improvisation. This is the most organized show I’ve ever done since I started Cowboy Christmas.
“I think a lot of people like cowboy music, but they don’t know that they like cowboy music. Some people think it’s country music or think it’s somehow connected to modern country music. Cowboy music is much older than the phrase ‘country music.’ Older than hillbilly music. Older than the Grand Ole Opry.
“It comes right out of the working man’s and working woman’s tradition of being out on the land. How you connect that with Christmas is the point of the whole show.” – Jim Caligiuri