Morris at the 2014 ARIA Music Awards
Sydney, 26 November 2014
|Russell Norman Morris|
|Born||31 July 1948|
|Musician, singer, songwriter, guitarist, bassist|
Russell Morris Band
Russell Morris & the Rubes
Burns Cotton & Morris
Cotton Keays & Morris
Russell Norman Morris AM (born 31 July 1948) is an Australian singer-songwriter and guitarist who had five Australian Top 10 singles during the late 1960s and early 1970s. On 1 July 2008, the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) recognised Morris' status when he was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame.
Morris' career started in September 1966, when Morris was 18 years old with the formation of the Melbourne group Somebody's Image, together with Kevin Thomas (rhythm guitar), Phillip Raphael (lead guitar), Eric Cairns (drums) and Les Allan (aka "Les Gough") (bass guitar). Somebody's Image quickly developed a strong following at Melbourne's premier venues. It wasn't long before the band came to the notice of Go-Set staff writer Ian Meldrum and the group had a local hit version of the Joe South song "Hush", which peaked at number 15 on the national chart. (the song reaching #2 on the local Melbourne charts)
Meldrum's support and hard work promoting the band helped them to secure a firmer recording deal with EMI Records. The result was their third single "Hide And Seek" which peaked at #32 in Melbourne. It was their last release with their original singer with Russell leaving Somebody's Image in September 1968.
Morris' debut solo single was a near seven-minute production extravaganza around a song called "The Real Thing", released in March 1969. "The Real Thing" was written by Johnny Young, produced by Molly Meldrum and engineered by John L Sayers. The backing track was performed by members of Melbourne soul band The Groop, which included Brian Cadd, Richard Wright (drums) and Don Mudie (bass) as well as Zoot guitarist Roger Hicks (who developed the acoustic guitar riff) and backing vocalists Ronnie Charles (The Groop), the Chiffons (including Maureen Elkner) and Marcie and The Cookies' Sue Brady and Judy Condon.
"The Real Thing" is one of the classic psychedelic singles of the 1960s. The release unsettled radio programmers, who had never been asked to play such a long Australian single before, and a shortened version which omitted the extended coda was often played. At around six minutes and thirty seconds, it was the longest pop single recorded in Australia at that time, although The Beatles' "Hey Jude" at nearly 7 minutes had appeared the year before and is an obvious influence on the song's extended structure. The single reached Australia's Number 1 spot in June 1969, and number one in Chicago, Houston and New York, despite international distribution difficulties. It was the biggest selling Australian single of 1969.
The song was followed by "Part Three into Paper Walls" was released in July 1969. The track was co-written by Johnny Young and Morris and arranged by John Farrar. The single received extensive airplay making it a double number one recording, the first time an Australian artist had scored consecutive number ones with their first two singles. Many radio stations also began flipping the single over and playing the lush B-side ballad "The Girl That I Love", thereby lengthening the single's shelf life -- and revealing to radio listeners another facet of Russell's singing talents. "Morris Mania" was in full swing, with a demanding schedule of live appearances and the continued invaluable support from Uptight and Go-Set.
Morris, in the meantime, travelled to the United Kingdom to help promote "The Real Thing" but the song didn't perform well. Morris returned to Australia in December 1969 and performed a concert in Brisbane which was attended by 5,000 people, of which more than 100 were taken off in an ambulance due to 'advanced hysteria'. Morris began recording new tracks with Howard Gable. Morris recorded English songwriter's Raymond Froggatt's "Rachel" which peaked at #23, in May 1970. The song become a big hit in New Zealand, where it reached #1 in July 1970. "Mr America" followed, which was a riff-heavy, gospel-flavoured number with a soaring female choral backing. Coupled with the equally strong self-penned B-side, "Stand Together", the single returned Russell to the charts, hitting the national Top 10 in January 1971. "Mr America" also won Morris the TV Week's Music Awards accolade for "Composer of the Year".
Morris concentrated on his own songwriting and with the cream of Australian musicians including Brian Cadd, Rick Springfield, Beeb Birtles and Marcie Jones, spent almost a year painstakingly recording and re-recording what became the Bloodstone album. The album was recorded at Channel 9's TCS Studios and produced by Howard Gable. "Sweet, Sweet Love", backed with the funky, Band-ish album cut "Jail Jonah's Daughter" was released in June and peaked at #7 in July 1971, while the album made the national Top 20, peaking at #12 soon after its release in September and earning great praise from critics as well. "Live with Friends" and "Wings of an Eagle" were also released peaking within the top 20. In March 1973, EMI Records released the first hits compilation called, Wings of an Eagle and Other Great Hits which peaked at number 12 in Australia.
In 1973, Morris moved to London to record an album, only to discover there was no record contract waiting for him. He relocated to New York City and worked on an album there. He released Russell Morris in 1975 on Robie Porter's Wizard label in Australia and on RCA for US release. "Let's Do It" / "Don't Rock the Boat" peaked at number 30 in Australia. A second American album appeared in 1976, called Turn it On. It was two more years before Morris was granted his green card, enabling him to tour America. But by then, any chance of an American career had remained unfulfilled. Instead, Morris returned to Australia
Once Morris had returned to Australia, he formed the Russell Morris Band. The band signed with Mushroom Records and commenced live performances, writing songs designed to be played live rather than chasing radio airplay, but scoring a couple of minor hits on the way. Eventually, the band played and recorded as Russell Morris & the Rubes. Morris also fronted The Lonely Boys throughout the 1980s and he also branched out onto the musical stage, appearing as 'Riff Raff' in a Melbourne production of The Rocky Horror Show and a few years later taking on the role of Simon Zealotes in the hit 1992 arena production of Jesus Christ Superstar alongside John Farnham, Kate Ceberano, Angry Anderson and Jon Stevens. In November 1991, Morris released another solo album, A Thousand Suns, which peaked at number 98.
In 1996, Morris joined fellow 1960s singers Ronnie Burns and Darryl Cotton and began touring under the name Burns Cotton & Morris. The group released three albums. In 2000, Jim Keays replaced Burns and the group called themselves Cotton Keays & Morris. They released five albums over the next 5 years. The trio toured until Darryl Cotton's death in 2012.
Also in 2000, Morris' "The Real Thing" and "Wings of an Eagle" featured prominently in the Australian-made movie The Dish and Midnight Oil released their version of "The Real Thing" as a one-off single, the first time this highly regarded band had chosen to record a cover. In 2002 Russell took a place of honour among his peers as part of the hugely successful Long Way To The Top concert tour. Rouseabout Records released the definitive 2CD Russell Morris anthology, called The Real Thing, covering his entire career.
In 2007, Morris teamed up with longtime friend Brian Cadd and released a live album titled Live at the Con. The duo performed irregularly for the next three years and released a studio album in 2011 titled Wild Bulls and Horses .
On 1 July 2008, Morris was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame. He was joined on-stage by guest musicians Steve Kilbey, Tim Powles, Jak Housden, Clayton Doley and Lachlan Doley to perform "The Real Thing". According to Andrew Murfett of The Age, "Russell Morris, whose classic "The Real Thing" was performed with a supergroup comprising members of The Church, The Whitlams and Powderfinger, was inducted with a tribute from Midnight Oil drummer Rob Hirst. Morris proved to be a revelation on the night, stirring the crowd with a terrific performance."
In October 2012 Morris released the first of his trilogy of Australian story albums. Sharkmouth is a collection of tracks about the Australian of the 1920s and 30s and includes songs about Phar Lap, Les Darcy and The Great Depression. The album features appearances by Mark Lizotte, Troy Cassar-Daley and Renee Geyer. The album reached No. 6 on the ARIA charts and was certified platinum.
In April 2014, Morris released Van Diemen's Land which focused on larger events rather than individuals, from the prison ships that began Australia as a penal settlement to the union strikes, the First and Second World Wars as well as paddle steamers on the Murray River. Van Diemen's Land was nominated for Best Blues and Roots at the 2014 ARIA Awards, certified Gold sales and was the highest charting album of Russell's 50-year career to date debuting at No.4 on the overall ARIA Charts.
In 2015, Morris released Red Dirt - Red Heart, the third and final album in the trilogy. Red Dirt - Red Heart is about the Australian Interior. Stories of two bushrangers, a song about a beautiful town, a song about a loner, a recluse, and an escape artist, a snake and the Nullarbor Plain The album peaked at number 21 on the ARIA Charts. At the ARIA Music Awards of 2016, Red Dirt - Red Heart won ARIA Award for Best Blues and Roots Album.
In February 2019, Morris confirmed the release of his next studio album Black and Blue Heart on 5 April 2019. The album, produced by Powderfinger's Bernard Fanning and Nick DiDia, has been described as a rock album.