I heard a booming sound echo out of the front door and onto the busy thoroughfare. Someone was taking their bass guitar for a stroll, as the kick drums, pedal steel and guitar chugged along with a fiery presence. Stepping across the threshold of the Double Crown, I turned to the corner stage as a larger-than-life voice howled from the microphone. It was Whitey Morgan & The 78s — a honky-tonk band of honesty, grit and soul, everything Jennings represented.
With a tone that would steal your girlfriend and drink all of your beer in a single song, but also give you the shirt off their back, the Flint, Mich., group has been traversing the country for the better part of a decade. During that time, they have attracted legions of fans who thirst for something more Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson and less Luke Bryan and Blake Shelton.
Morgan and his boys will be releasing a new album before year’s end. Filled with the usual helping of razor-sharp pedal steel and backcountry rock-n-roll, the record is just another step in an already bountiful career, one seemingly destined to achieve their goal of simply bringing good music to good people.
The Smoky Mountain News caught up with Morgan during a recent performance in Western North Carolina. He spoke about being on the road, why Kickstarter was the way to go for launching his next album and why Jennings would be rolling over in his grave if he tuned into a modern country radio station.
Smoky Mountain News: What’s your definition of country music?
Whitey Morgan: It’s a sound, a way of life, mostly. That’s the way it started out in the old days when my family was up around here in these mountains. It’s definitely what it’s not today on the damn radio. I don’t even like the label “country” music anymore. I hate the label “outlaw,” it doesn’t mean today what it meant back then. People today think an outlaw musician is someone who is loud and an asshole onstage, that’s not an outlaw, that’s just an asshole. We’re a honky-tonk band.
SMN: If Waylon Jennings were alive today, what would he say about modern country music?
WM: He said the same stuff back in the day when he was alive. He knew it back then, it was changing. The thing is, today I’d even take Garth Brooks over any of these guys on the radio any day of the week. I don’t get it. I don’t come from that world. I call it “frat country.” It’s just pop music that they throw a little twang in it, a fiddle, and call it country. I don’t get it. I get so tired when people say there isn’t any country music anymore. It’s like walking out of the Olive Garden in the middle of Manhattan and saying there’s no good Italian food in New York City. Go look for it. It’s not going to be there right for you. Go find it.
SMN: You’re using Kickstarter to get the new album released?
WM: I got sick of my label. They weren’t doing for me what I wasn’t already doing on my own, and I was giving them money. It got kind of old. They are a good label for other artists, but I expect more. I come from a hard working background. I work hard for every dollar and I don’t just give it away to someone that just claims they’re doing their fair share. I just love to tour and make fans that appreciate what we’re doing, and appreciate the old types of music and genres I like.
SMN: What has a life playing music taught you about being a human being?
WM: I’ve grown up a lot on the road, that’s for sure. It’s taught me to not take shit for granted, to appreciate every day. There are people out there that will never see a tiny fraction of the things I’ve seen and the places I’ve been. I used to be a real introvert, real quiet and shy in public. Now, I just fall in love with every town we go to. A lot of hard work has happened so far, and there’s a lot of hard work that it’s going to take to bring it to the next level. The shows are getting bigger. I’ve never felt a downhill. It’s always going uphill, slowly, but always going uphill.
1: Owner of the Sun will perform at 8 p.m. June 14 at Nantahala Brewing Company in Bryson City.
2: The Sunburst Trout Farms “Summer Solstice Soiree” will be at 5:30 p.m. June 21 on Route 215 in Lake Logan.
3: My Highway will perform at 9 p.m. June 21 at No Name Sports Pub in Sylva.
4: The Village Square Art & Craft Show will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 14-15 at Kelsey-Hutchinson Park in Highlands.
5: Dominic Frost will perform at 7 p.m. June 13 at The Classic Wineseller in Waynesville.