/Biloxi’s Bob Morrison a half-miler, a nuclear engineer and a Grammy-winning song writer

Biloxi’s Bob Morrison a half-miler, a nuclear engineer and a Grammy-winning song writer

This is a great story… about how he was raised in Biloxi, Mississippi with music in his ears and sand between his feet. His daddy, who ran jukeboxes all along the Gulf Coast, brought home hundreds records, music from all genres, and he listened to them for hours. A young man drove his Cadillac from Memphis to perform, and how the handsome guy with the long-hair stole the hearts of the young girls in Biloxi. How Morrison was inspired. Young Morrison said, “Mama! I need me one like Elvis.” His mom bought him the “worst guitar in the world” at age 14 and taught him how to play. He was “always good in math and science” and excelled at athletics as well. How he became tall, lean, and fast. How he won the half-mile at the state high school track meet. How he was recruited by Mississippi State to compete in track and field. Also, how he studied nuclear engineering. He was one of the many sophomores who helped State win the 1962 Southeastern Conference track & field championship. He and his track teammates formed a band, and performed fraternity house gigs to make money. Morrison, who celebrated his 78th birthday Wednesday, said that while we didn’t make anyone forget The Beatles, we did make some money and had fun. Morrison spoke of more details. He said that he didn’t use his hard-earned nuclear engineering diploma because his heart wasn’t in the matter. He spoke about how music was his passion and how it took him years to realize that dream. He was a solo folk singer. To make his mark in New York City, he moved to New York City. His agent advised him to move to Hollywood in 1967. He signed a contract at Screen Gems, and he made a pilot TV program that was not bought. How Screen Gems let him go. He describes how he arrived in Nashville in 1973 to focus on songwriting and had far more success than failures. Morrison stated that his first 100 songs were rejected. Nobody wanted them, and he thought he was going to crash and burned. Morrison admits that he was a great writer in retrospect. He just needed to learn how to write Nashville songs. In other words, he had to learn how to tell stories. Olivia Newton John recorded his first hit, “The River’s Too Wide”. It was 1975. Morrison stated, “After that I was rockin’ and rollin’.” Yes. He was named ASCAP’s Country Songwriter of Year by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers in 1978, 1980, 1981, 1982, and 1982. Debbie Huff and his Grammy-winning song “You Decorated My Life”, which was no.1, became No. Kenny Rogers’ No. 1 hit. Patti Ryan, a Gulfport school teacher, and Wanda Mallette were aspiring song-writers. They saw Morrison accept his Grammy for the song on TV. They sent Morrison some songs and he initially rejected them. Morrison was intrigued by the song “Lookin’ for love” and they sent him more songs. He changed some lyrics, cut the chorus in half, and modified the chorus medley. Morrison claims that the song was rejected by several artists more than twenty times before he gave a cassette of it to an old Hollywood friend who dropped it off at Paramount Pictures while filming “Urban Cowboy” starring John Travolta. Johnny Lee recorded “Lookin’ For Love” which became the movie’s theme song and became a No. 1, country music, and reached No. 5 on the pop charts. Morrison spoke out about the unforeseen events that led to this song. “You have to know what you are doing, but you also need to have some luck.” Morrison has also written songs that were recorded by Conway Twittiy and Barbara Mandrell as well as Jerry Lee Lewis, Gary Morris and The Carpenters. Inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, he was inducted in 2016. Tricia Walker, a fellow Mississippi songwriter and performer, said that Bob Morrison was the first person she saw when she first moved to Nashville to pursue songwriting. His writing was unsurpassed and he was a Mississippian. This was an encouraging factor for me.” Morrison’s Mississippi State track teammates remember him fondly, including Jimmy Taylor, his roommate from four years who went on to become a successful banker and college basketball coach. Taylor stated that Bob is “one of the smartest men I have ever met.” He could have done whatever he wanted. I’m sure he didn’t tell you that he scored 44 points in high school basketball games or that he could kick the Mississippi State punters. Morrison was a crucial part of State’s 1962 SEC track and fields championship. State was ranked third behind Auburn and LSU at the Baton Rouge meet as a “dark horse”. Early in the meet, the Bulldogs were hurt when Mike Sanders, one the team’s top runners pulled his hamstring. Sanders was the anchor of State’s mile relay team. The mile relay was the final race for the title, as fate would have it. To win the title, State had to finish ahead LSU. Morrison, who is normally a half-miler was promoted to the Sanders’ anchor spot. Morrison recalls that while we had a large lead when I won the baton, I had to finish ahead LSU’s anchorman who was much faster than me. My strategy was to run the 200 meters first and then pray for the 200 remaining. I managed to do it. Although we didn’t win, we placed third, and finished ahead of LSU.” Morrison persevered, just as he did in song writing. This championship, which was won by State in track and field fifty-eight years ago, is still the only SEC title. *** Bob Morrison will be performing live at the Grammy Museum in Cleveland, August 17, as part of its Words and Music Series. More details here.