Born and raised in Texas, Murphey and his younger brother learned how to live the cowboy life when his family took frequent trips to visit his grandfather, a cattle ranch owner. His summers off from school were often spent on his grandfather's ranch riding, steering, farming, singing traditional cowboy songs, and hearing stores of the legendary Old West.
By the time he graduated from high school, he was on his way to Los Angeles where he would form a band with a Dallas buddy named Mike Nesmith. The band would eventually break up, but Nesmith would become one of the greatest pop stars of all time as a member of the Monkees. He never forgot his friend Michael Martin Murphey, and asked him to contribute material to the popular TV band. The Monkees recorded his country-rock song, "Why Am I Going Round," which appeared on the band's fourth multi-platinum album.
Writing a hit for the Monkees led to requests from artists such as Kenny Rogers, Flatt & Scruggs, and Roger Miller. By 1971, Murphey had been signed to A&M Records by former Dylan/ Simon & Garfunkel producer, Bob Johnston. Together the team produced "Geronimo's Cadillac," a hit album and single, and one of the unofficial anthems for the Native American Indian movement.
Murphey would try balancing himself on the fence that separates pop and country music with limited success through the first half of the '70s. He would move over to Epic Records, where he scored a massive hit with the adult contemporary smash, "Wildfire," the story of a female ghost and her horse. It evolved from one of the many folklore tales his grandfather had taught him as a young boy.
After the success of "Wildfire," Michael Martin Murphey moved primarily into the country music world, where he has remained as an active performer since.