ESP Greensboro, NC - 12/19/01
Dannny Morris surfs Keegans
Danny Morris took the blues to the beach. But while strolling the shoreline, the former Nighthawk guitarist picked up a few more genres. Morris incorporates some ska, jazz, flamenco, samba, and '50s rock into his surf-rock sound.
Morris developed his R&B chops in Greensboro in the '80s with harpist David "Driveway" Moore's band the Messengers. The band, which features the "2 CC rhythm section" of Chris Carrol on bass and Chuck Cotton on drums, along with Morris on guitar, played every Tuesday night at a Walker Avenue bar, and the band developed a huge local following with their mix of classic R&B covers. Morris's next venture was Blue Note Special, which concentrated more on blues and won the Piedmont Blues Society's Talent Contest in '88.
While playing area venues, Morris's talents impressed the former Muddy Waters sideman Bob Margolin and Sapphire's Ann Rabson, who recommended Morris to the Nighthawks' cofounder, harp ace Marc Wenner. Wenner had looking for a guitarist to replace original guitarist Jimmy Thackery, who left in '87.
Morris had some big shoes to fill. Thackery spent 15 years touring the world with the Hawks, and his sound was indelibly imprinted on the band and their fans. To raise the "follow this if you can" stakes higher, Morris's predecessors had included Warren Haynes, former Dickie Betts Band guitarist, then Allman Brothers ax man before forming Gov't Mule. Margolin had also held down the slot for a while, as had Jimmy Nalls, formerly of Sea Level. Nalls quit the Hawks to work with T. Graham Brown, leaving the opening that Morris filled.
Nighthawk Wenner remembers that Morris was "quite right for the situation ‹ musically and visually. But, I think that one of the things with Danny was the he was in his 20s and we were in our late 40s. We always wanted to go back to the hotel and chill and he always wanted to hang."
In '95, Morris decided that he needed more hang time and went out on his own. The guitarist started his namesake band as a side project while still with the Hawks, playing around the Virginia/DC area whenever he had time off. The trio...was already stretching out from straight-ahead blues. Morris told the Charlotte Observer that performing the same blues changes on a nightly basis was "like going in and reciting the same conversation over and over."
He released his first album in '96. (I Won't Worry) was a mix of surf, jazz and old-school rock and roll. Two years later, he came out with Storm Surge, pushing the envelope even further, bring onboard a couple of Cuban mixes to add to his now-familiar fusion of blues and surf.
His latest, The Golden Prize, mixes ska ("No One Knows Virginia"), samba ("You're Mine," "Our Moon") and '50s era rock ("Twintin Kristin") with surf classics like "I Only Have Eyes For You" and "Pipeline." Morris even throws in a little soft core punk with "All I Think About." The framework thrashes about in the best spiky-haired punk tradition while the lyrics discuss the possibility of Morris getting married and sending the kids off to school. "Ooh Wee" is lament to a lost love presented in the rockabilly persuasion. The Beatles get a turn in "Please, Please Me" done as an instrumental with Dick Dale flourishes. Morris finally gets down and dirty with some nasty blues on the closer, "Stop Teasin' Me," ripping off some pretty tasty, nasty, greasy Texas-style slide with Jimmy Thackery and the Drivers sax man Jimmy Carpenter blows a sack full of back alley bump and grind.
If you came to get the blues, you may have to redefine your priorities. But if you keep and open mind, Danny Morris will bring along a truckload of replacement genres to help you fill it.
The Danny Morris Band
Saturday, December 2