Michael Murphy grew up near Dallas, Texas and spent a great deal of time riding horses on ranches belonging to his uncle and grandfather. The early exposure to the cowboy life would later be reflected in many of his songs.
His first paying job in the music field was acting as a singing cowboy at campfires at a summer camp. After high school, he formed a band and began singing in Dallas clubs. In 1964 he was in a group with Mike Nesmith (who later became a Monkee). Mike asked Michael to write a song for a Monkees album, and What Am I Doing Hanging Round was recorded by the Monkees on their fourth album. He continued writing songs that were recorded by a number of prominent singers.
In 1971 he signed a contract with A&M Records and recorded his first album. Michael’s first chart record Geronimo’s Cadillac was released from that album in 1972. The record just barely got into the Top Forty and none of the other singles from his first three albums ever got onto the charts.
In 1975, when it appeared his next album might be his last, he reached back for a song he had written back in 1968 and recorded it the way he wanted to. While it may not have seemed like a commercial move, that recording of Wildfire went on to sell over two million copies and put him back on the radio for good. The record peaked at #3 on the pop charts and hit the top of the Adult Contemporary chart.
There was an actor named Michael Murphey whose career was taking off, so Michael started including his middle name on his work, becoming Michael Martin Murphey.
England Dan and John Ford Coley recorded the song What’s Forever For on their Dr. Heckle And Mr. Jive album in 1978. They released two successful singles from the album but did not put that song on a single. Michael recorded the song in 1982 and it was released as the second single from the album that first used his “new” name.
The record only got up to #19 on the pop charts but went on the reach #1 on the Country charts. He pivoted his career after that success: he never again reached the Hot 100, but he had a long string of Country hits through the nineties.