|"The Danny Morris Band Surfs Into Town"|
With all the rain that was coming down from the heavens, there was more than just a
remote chance of getting splashed this evening, one way or another. It provided the ideal
wet and wild backdrop for a night that would be filled with songs that had us slipping and
sliding through the numerous fashions of surreal sounds that have been the soundtrack to
many a person's life.
Surf guitar guru Danny Morris and his band were preparing to shower us with shiny
drops of nostalgia and sentimental offerings that you would be inclined to associate with the
'60's and their dude mentality. I, unfortunately, have been scarred by the sales & marketing
generation, who have turned some of 'the most memorable signature songs of our times into
the most unforgettable musical vehicles that have been asked to sell the 'new and improved'
Morris, along with bassist Paul Barker and drummer George Johnson, have led a
march up and down the East Coast to recapture the original essence of those compositions
and respectfully translate them. Their most recent stop was at M.R. Doc's in Hockessin last
Originally from the land of the Tar Heels, or should I say Wolfpack (Go State!),
Morris has relocated to the more central location of Annandale, Va. just outside of
Washington D.C. to better make his routine trips up north to New York while still allowing
him to venture far below the Mason-Dixon Line to his regular haunts in both the Carolinas
and Florida. Quite a different itinerary from what he was used to when he was with the
Nighthawks (1991-1995), and toured throughout the United States and the world. Being a
member of the Nighthawks, a group that has long endured with the title of "the best bar band
in the world," Morris was able to experience firsthand what the life of a rock and roil
musician can be like. While some of those factors may have contributed to his leaving the
band, what it really boiled down to was their approach to the music and how they were
losing out on the dynamics of the song, he says. lt was time to get back to the simple life
Much like his music, not easy to tie down into one specific classification or category,
Morris has a wide ranging look at the music he grew up with and what we are all subjected
to in this day and age of computerized enhancements and overdub happy producers.
This stop at M.R. Doc's was the Danny Morris Band's first since March of 1996,
wait that has kept many people holding their breath until the trio's triumphant return, and
Morris himself has a strong memory of that particular performance. During my talk with him,
a patron comes up to greet Morris and asks if he remembers him from the last time they
played there, now close to 20 months ago. Without hesitation, Morris recalls the fan's specific
request for a Santana tune and that it was his birthday at the time. Now if only I can persuade Danny to tell me all about his influences with that same
attention to detail....
Our conversation together ran the gamut from not only his musical influences but college
basketball, mom and pop record shops, running marathons, computers and hairstyles.
When asked what the styles were that had so interested him in the guitar in the first
place, Danny replies that he "grew up listening to British Blues - Page and Clapton. From
there I'd follow that back and say, where did he get this? He would find out from
his brothers that a previous generation of players included B.B. King, Albert King and Bo
Didley had laid the groundwork he was someday to tread across.
Slowly bill surely, Danny would find more sources to incorporate into his own
repertoire. Some of which you'd might find a little, well, a little unusual. "Right now I'm
listening to a lot of Mariachi music and Prince. It's all pretty much tied in." Needless to say, I
was taken by surprise at the latter influence, but Danny reminds me that, "his rhythm guitar is
right out of the Jimmy Nolan and James Brown songbook...and I dig that!" I'd be remiss if I
failed to also mention that some of the other heavy hitters for Danny were Duane Eddy,
Chuck Berry, Dick Dale, and of course that seminal bandleader Henry Mancini.
The trio's much anticipated new CD Storm Surge, chock full of Morris' self-penned
music, is waiting in the wings, and is anticipated to have a late November release. Otherwise,
you can find his debut New Moon Blues recording I Won't Worry in stores.
I ask Morris
perspective and opinion on the music of today as compared to that from when he was
growing up, and he had much to say on the subject.
"It seems to me that today's music is all bass and all treble whereas before they had
more midrange. It had a warmer sound to it." he says. Morris expressed some dissatisfaction
with the way in which present day music is being made and what the contents of those songs
are: "...We could go on for an hour and a half about that stuff," he says. "Rock 'n' roll has
always been about teen-age angst and frustrated teenage boys.
We both agree some of these popular and heavy selling artists could be "starving in a
third world country. "Life's not that bad; at least you're in America,..people cash in on that
and make money," Morris says. "Bob Dylan wrote some of the best commentary songs that
they'll ever be. if you want to turn on your CD player to take you where you wanna
go....that's fine." In other words, some individuals are taking the sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll
thing just a little bit too far and they should avoid biting the hand that feeds them, so to speak.
If you've never heard a guitar virtuoso before, Danny Morris would be an ideal and
educational christening. You might recognize "Miserlou" from the its much lauded presence in
the motion picture "Pulp Fiction."
Playing guitar is a talent, picking at strings behind your back is novel, but playing a
guitar full force behind your back is gutsy. I'm not talking about that Jimi Hendrix style of
royal feedback, because all you need is a set of fingers and an amp for that. I'm
referring to playing a definitive section to a song as though your instrument were right in front
Last Saturday, Morris starts with conventional picking and then,... surprise! Without
missing a beat he pounds his song out note for note with his Strat dangling near his spine.
Quite the showman, without showing off.
You can call me crazy, although I know that I heard "Chattanooga Choo Choo." the
theme to Batman and Robin, and early version of TV's "Happy Days" theme and Prince's
"Kiss." Not to mention visualizing the Brady Bunch on the beach in Hawaii a couple of
times...oh, if only Alice were in a bikini. On the less attractive side I could also envision loads
of dirty clothes being soiled by silly playmates and then piled into a laundry cycle to be spick
and spanned by the newest in detergents. That's what commercialism of these beautiful songs
has done for me.
Morris, however, help to reconcile this supposed image problem by bringing the
tunes back to their primal state. It's an unenviable task to be everything to everybody, but he
pulls it off in grand style.
The Danny Morris band is a vending machine of talent..,drop in a coin, step back (or
pounce on the dance floor), and pull out your selection. This gadget has something for
everybody, and it's all-natural! That's right, no colors, fillers, or fat.
Just 100% traditional fun.