by Lawrence J. J. Leonard
Years of experience have taught our old time farmers what to expect in a given situation. Pleasant weather turning bad. What is a good tool and what is a better tool to use for a job. How to not let your eyes fool you – so use a measuring stick. And, what it really takes to get from point A to point B. There is always that outlier, that one freak possibility which can cause everything to go wrong. We are instructed to be prepared for that outcome and especially a loss in any case.
In 1968 Michael Martin Murphey was a student at UCLA, working on a concept album for Kenny Rogers. The work meant long hours and little sleep. In his fatigue Michael is said to have dreamed of a song. He woke up and by the next morning wrote it down. He told an interviewer that the song reminded him of a story his grandfather told him when he was a little boy. It detailed a Native American legend about a ghost horse.
Michael was teamed up with Boomer Castleman in 1967 as part of a duo known as the Lewis & Clark Expedition (which had a brief stint on TV). After Michael began his solo career later in 1968 he co-wrote his song with Larry Cansler. They were struggling in southern California at the time.
By 1971 Michael came back to Texas and joined the “Outlaw Country” movement. He was working along side Willie Nelson and Jerry Jeff Walker. Michael created a unique blend of country, rock, and folk music. This caught the ear of Epic Records managers who produced four albums for him, including “Blue Sky – Night Thunder” which peaked at #18 on the Billboard 200 Album chart in 1975. This was the seminal work of Michael’s career. The lead track of the album still brings young girls and old men to tears. It is the tale of a man facing devastating weather, a runaway prized pony, and a lost love.