Roger Murrah—who was elected to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005 on the strength of country chart-toppers such as “Don’t Rock the Jukebox,” “High Cotton,” “I’m in a Hurry (and Don’t Know Why),” “If I Could Make a Living,” “Life’s Highway,” and many others—talks about his musical and songwriting career during this 2010 program, part of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s Poets and Prophets series.
Alabama native Murrah moved to Nashville in 1972 and scored his first #1 country hit with Mel Tillis’s “Southern Rains” in 1980. A year later he provided jazz singer Al Jarreau with the international pop hit “We’re in This Love Together.” Also a successful publisher, Murrah served as senior vice president of Bug Music.
Murrah’s Poets and Prophets interview begins with discussion of “High Cotton” (a hit for the band Alabama) and how it draws directly on his experiences growing up on a small family farm in Athens, Alabama. The song offers an apt example of what makes Murrah’s work special: His lyrics repeatedly draw on images and sounds from his experiences growing up in the South, while providing philosophical statements about the values of living a simple, loving, spiritual life. Drawing a comparison, Murrah also speaks of how, as a longtime music publishing executive, he tries to employ that same ethic of honest, hard work described in many of his songs to his career as a businessman.
Murrah also talks about his early days; working as a staff songwriter for Rick Hall at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and later for Bobby Bare’s publishing company in Nashville; the inspirations behind his biggest hits; co-writing with Keith Stegall; and writing a concept album with Waylon Jennings (“A Man Called Hoss”).
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