Jack Morris, bopper, D.J. and label bossman in California (1955-1958)

JACK MORRIS had three claims to fame. As a D.J. first on Padena, Ca. KXLA radio station ; then as founder of a successful California country recording label, Toppa (and his subsidiaries Toppette and Fedora). Then he had also 4 records on his own between 1955 and 57 on legendary labels such as Starday, Pep and Sage.

About his involvement with KXLA, he got the honour at least 2 times by the Billboard magazine, which held him up as « one of the five top C&W D..J.s in Southern California » between 1956 and 1958. His show had been going on 6 nights a week from midnight until 5.00 AM, that is in itself an uncommon achievement.

As founder of Toppa, a complete article on this label (the beginnings) is on this site. As a D.J., Morris undoubtly coasted as D.J. along young and unknown musicians out of the rich California state. He chose to record them in a Country vein, not without a more than precise pop touch. Anyway the label had its moments for the hillbilly bop fan : records by Bill Brock, Ernie Andrews, Johnny Leon don’t remove from a late ’50s Country collection. More about that in the article devoted to « Toppa Tops ‘Em All » label.

As an artist in his own right, Jack Morris (his real forname seems to have been « George », according to the credit of Capitol 3311 : Merrill Moore ‘covered’ (or

Merrill Moore « Cooing to the wrong pigeon »

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Merrill Moore

Jack Morris: »Cooing to the wrong pigeon »

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was ‘offered’ « Cooing to the wrong pigeon » (which perhaps reveals the actual forname, « George » of Jack Morris, its co-writer). His partner was Wes DelRoy.

 

 

Jack Morris: »My Pony wants to go »

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This gentleman was to co-write more Morris sides, although he seems moreover unkwnown under this name. « Cooing.. » and « My Pony wants to go » are two Western boppers, not excluding soe pop overtones (with te use of discreet choruses.) This Starday issue (late 1955 or early 1956) was reviewed by Billboard as late as November 1956, by the time Morris had his first record, out of two, on Sage # 228. « White line » is a fast Bopper, backed by the excellent Night Owls (possibly Roy Lanham on lead guitar – he seems to have been the house player, and a long double-bass solo) ; « Stop teasin’ me » is in the same vein, a sort of mix of Western swing (semi-spoken, semi-sung) and Country boogie, again good guitar.

« White line »

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« Stop teasin’ me »

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The second Sage issue (# 232) sees in the same format as previous issue « Four wheel bungalow », a lovely Country-rocker paired with « Glad I’m lookin’ back on you » (again a double-bass solo) : it looks that the 4 sides were cut at the same session.

 


« Four wheel bungalow« 

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« Glad I’m lookin’ back on you »

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Finally in a completely different syle, Morris went early in 1958 on Pep 116 with the frankly poppish « She’s gone, she’s gone » : obstrusive male chorus ; Morris tries to croon. I can’t really figure out who he’s resembling on. Actually the chorus have the better part of the song. The flipside « River San Gabriel » has a « western serie B » type feel, aided by a male/female chorus.

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She’s gone – she’s gone« 

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« River San Gabriel »

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After the Pep issue, Morris has seemingly concentrated his activity on the Toppa label he founded in late 1958, and he disappeared as an artist from then on.

With special thanks to « Armadillo Killer » for the Pep issue.