Hurley's debut album, First Songs, was recorded for Folkways Records in 1965 on the same reel-to-reel machine that taped Leadbelly's Last Sessions. He was "discovered" by blues and jazz historian Frederick Ramsey III, and subsequently championed by boyhood friend Jesse Colin Young, who released his 2nd & 3rd albums on The Youngbloods' Warner Bros. imprint, Raccoon. In the late 70's, Hurley made three albums for Rounder, all of which have since been reissued on CD. His 1976 LP Have Moicy, a collaboration with the Unholy Modal Rounders and Jeffrey Frederick & The Clamtones, was named "the greatest folk album of the rock era" by the Village Voice's Robert Christgau.
In 1996, Koch Records released Wolfways with Hurley backed by Mickey Bones - Drums, Gus Ziesing - percussion, Jill Gross - Harmony Vocals, Jim Harvey - Trombone, Dan Archer and Bob Jordan - Guitars and Mike Boise - Bass. Tours with Son Volt and high praise from younger performers like Lucinda Williams, Vic Chesnutt, Calexico, Cat Power and Robin Holcomb followed.
In 2001, Locust Music reissued Hurley's debut under the new title Blueberry Wine with new artwork contributed by Hurley.
Gnomonsong released a new Michael Hurley album titled Ancestral Swamp on September 18, 2007. Gentle backing was provided by longtime Hurley associate David Reisch of the Holy Modal Rounders and new friends Tara Jane O'Neil and Lewi Longmire.
Michael Hurley is known to have four children. Three with a girlfriend he called "Pasta". Their names are Daffodil, a girl, and two boys, Jordan and Colorado. His first born, Daffodil, also is a singer, songwriter and guitarist. Michael later had another son, named Rollin, with a girlfriend named Kim.
Hurley has done much of the artwork for his own albums, and the two oft-featured cartoon wolves, Jocko and Boone, have been something of a theme across Hurley's musical career, even appearing in their own comics. Both were based on real dogs that Hurley owned.
Hurley currently resides in Astoria, Oregon.
Covers and plays:
Barry Dransfield did an a capella version of "Werewolf" on his first solo album.
Hurley's song "Hog of the Forsaken" is featured in two episodes of the HBO series Deadwood.
A version of the Hurley song "Blue Mountain" appears on the Espers' covers album The Weed Tree.
Cat Power covered "Sweedeedee" and "Troubled Water," from his 1971 album Armchair Boogie, in her 2000 album The Covers Record. She also covered "Werewolf" on her album You Are Free.
The Violent Femmes have also covered "Werewolf" on the album Something's Wrong (2001).
The Have Moicy! track 'Slurf Song' was used on the USA map bonus disc of Where in the USA is Carmen Sandiego? 'Enhanced Edition' as the theme song for the state of Maine. It only sampled the second verse on repeat however.
"I Paint a Design" is played at the end of the movie The Accountant (2001).