Durango McMurphy began his troubadour journey in his twenties, when he put down his trumpet and picked up a guitar to liberate his voice to sing. Originally immersed in the soul music that horns are such a key part of, he was drawn to the other American types of music. “If I’ve gotta put myself into a bag, it would be Americana,” Durango acknowledges. His definition of Americana employs a big tent, however: “All the traditions of American music—blues, cajun, jazz, rock & roll—all those things, as an amalgam, make up my idea of what Americana is.”
Born just outside New York City in a rough part of New Jersey, Durango grew up mostly in Florida. He’s not the only musician in the family; his uncle was Harold Arlen, composer of the classic “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Durango attended college, then moved to Colorado where he fell in with a scruffy coterie of aging Beat poets, punk rockers like the Ramones and Ken Kesey’s psychedelic tribe, The Merry-Pranksters. He met and learned from poet Allen Ginsberg.
His latest effort is a tune called “The Ghost of James Dean (Line Dancing for Rebels)” and deals with the current world situation. Durango’s Russian-Ukrainian grandmother figures prominently in his thinking. “My grandmother would go to the Ukrainian club on Saturday to dance or something, then she’d go to the Russian Orthodox church on Sunday, so I kind of got a hit of both sides of this equation.” He tries to take an objective approach to the situation and has tried to create some positive music to deal with it. In his estimation, “One of the main problems here is fear. It’s driving all the anger…If we can cut through that fear and have a little more confidence in what’s going on, in the world we live in and the universe, I think things would be better.”
(You can hear “The Ghost of James Dean (Line Dancing for Rebels)” on Bandcamp at https://durangomcmurphy.bandcamp.com/)
By Dan Walsh