Singing a New Christmas Song

Published 8:23 am Saturday, December 12, 2015

Commentary by Dr. Don Newbury

Craig Murphy chased dreams for a quarter-century–partly behind the wheel of “big rigs,” but mostly in the 1991 Chevrolet pick-up he bought new and still drives despite an odometer north of 263,000 miles.

Some were short-lived pursuits, including automotive school and master mechanic certification, training to drive 18-wheelers across the country and a police academy program for a short stint in law enforcement. He’s been a “mobile mechanic,” and continues to maintain his own whistle-clean pick-up, as well as vehicles of relatives and friends.

Then, restlessness set in a few years back.

For a time, he felt fulfilled with karaoke and emcee assignments, realizing early on that in some venues, he faced elements contrary to his values.

He’s now more selective for engagements, and continues part-time employment at Fort Worth’s HANK FM (92.1), hoping for eventual DJ opportunities.

Craig added still another “chase” in 2013, singing in area care centers and retirement homes. He started at Arlington Villa, where he continues to entertain monthly.

To the mix he’s added another 40 centers, sometimes booking four in a single day–a “chase pace” that challenges.

“I love it,” he said, delighted that his western and Christian songs are gaining traction. A while back, after he’d loaded his equipment at a gig, a care center attendant yelled, “Come back. A song-writing resident wants to talk to you.”

   Ever trusting and a good listener, Craig went to the room of Aubrey Freeman, now 92.

“I was Lefty Frizzell’s barber, and I wrote many of his songs–you can check out my bio on music publisher’s website. I’ve written a new western Christmas song, The First Christmas Day, and I want you to see what you can do with it.” Craig snapped to attention when Freeman added, “Your voice range is better than Lefty’s.” (Frizzell was a popular vocalist in the 1950s-60s.)

That my path would cross with Craig’s seems more than coincidental.

In 1978, Craig remembers riding his bike to Buddy’s Supermarket in Everman, where the late Verdis Pack was store manager. Often, Pack handed him a coin–often a big one. He also gave Craig his first job–sacking groceries at age 16.

I knew Verdis Pack well; he was my father-in-law. When he died in 2003, a man none of us knew asked to make graveside remarks. “He was the nicest man I ever met, and the best boss ever,” he said.

My wife and I remember the moment, but we never saw the man again.

Until recently. Move the calendar forward to October, 2015. Brenda and I were at her only sibling’s bedside. Near death, Terry Pack was succumbing to a hard-fought 50-year battle with diabetes.

She mentioned listening briefly to a vocalist in the lobby. “I think you should go hear him,” she suggested. I did, and was much impressed. He mentioned his “new Christmas CD would be available soon.”

At program’s end–after he’d visited with residents who clamored to chat–I asked about ordering a CD.

It was no priority for him. “I’m not sure when I’ll have it,” he said. “I’m not a writer, know nothing about art work and I don’t have a CD duplicator.” I offered my help; he accepted it.

Craig was breathless a few days later when he read Terry’s obituary. “Do you mean Terry was Mr. Verdis Pack’s son?”

Surprised–no, shocked–he provided details beginning in 1978, when a grocery man gave him coins, and later, his first job.

Coincidence? Maybe. More likely, it’s a thread running through God’s sprawling tapestry of our lives.

Wind-up. The First Christmas Day is a seasonal hit on HANK FM. Craig has found his way, and our family has a new friend. Maybe you’ll hear him on the radio, or ministering in song at care centers throughout the Metroplex.

Or, you might spot him on the freeway in a flashy blue, flame-accented Silverado pick-up–just a year away from antique status. Sunday mornings, you may see it on the Edge Park United Methodist Church parking lot. After all, it was through encouragement of fellow choir members there that he mounted his singing career

Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Send inquiries/comments to: Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: Columns archived at, newbury blog.