What would you be doing if you didn’t have to make a living?
For Linda Morgan, the answer is easy.
“Whether anyone was listening or not, I would be singing in a field looking at what God created. I would be singing for that connection.”
Fortunately, Morgan never had to sing in a field. She has been entertaining audiences since she first got out of high school and went on the road with a popular north Texas band. It was a time when there weren’t a lot of girls doing that.
“I knew only a few girls making a living on the road at the time,” she said. “One sang with James Brown, one with Wayne Newton, and one sang with Elvis.”
They all had two names.
“So they called me Linda Ann. We made up our own rules.”
Her travels took her around the country, where she met and performed with countless well-known entertainers, from Steve Martin to the early Eagles to Gary Mule Deer, whose show she’ll open on Saturday, Jan. 19, at the Rockbox Theater in Fredericksburg.
Morgan’s musical resumé is too long and convoluted to fit in a column. Suffice to say that many Hill Country residents know her by her alter-egos — Bette Midler, Janis Joplin, Stevie Nicks, and others — assumed during her days as an original cast member at the Rockbox. But the real Linda Morgan is more interesting than the personas she portrays.
In addition to living on the road in a show band, Morgan at various times recorded demos, hosted a radio music show, and sang jingles. She knew she wanted to be a jingle singer since she was a young girl.
It came naturally, as her father was a band director and her mother a vocal and piano teacher. She got her chance while growing up in Abilene.
“They were very talented people, and I was all they could come up with,” Morgan joked about her talent. “I knew I wanted to be a jingle singer. You don’t have to look great, and you can sing forever.”
Her life in music has let her do just that. Unlike many young musicians who start out seeking fame, Morgan never had such illusions.
In fact, her brushes with “the famous” often confirmed that being famous was not a panacea.
“When we had the radio show, we interviewed all ‘the names,’” she said. “There was not one of them that didn’t think this could end at any second, that the world would find out I’m a regular person and take this away from me, tour bus and all.”
Linda Morgan simply loves to sing.
One mentor who christened her Little Bird gave her a memento that still hangs on her wall.
It’s a picture of a bird captioned, “A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”
“That’s me,” she said. “There are so many songs to sing, and so little time.”
For this show, Morgan’s goal is to warm up the audience for Gary Mule Deer, who may be the most famous person you’re not sure you’ve heard of. He’s appeared on television 350 times, in everything from “Johnny Carson” to “David Letterman,” “The John Byner Comedy Hour,” “Midnight Special” and, my favorite, as a judge on “The Gong Show.” He’s been in movies such as “Annie Hall” and “Up In Smoke,” and was once roommates with Steve Martin.
“I’ll do three or four songs before he comes out,” Morgan said. “I’ll do a little of the old with the new. People kind of think I’m a one trick pony, doing Tina Turner, Bette, and Janis, like, oh, whatever is loud and obnoxious, that’ll be the blonde. I intend to not be loud and obnoxious. I hope to break the ice, get everyone relaxed and snuggly for a date. I’ll leave ‘em smiling so they are ready to laugh.”
Linda Morgan and Gary Mule Deer perform at Fredericksburg’s Rockbox Theater on Saturday, Ja. 19, at 4 p.m.
Tickets and information available online at www.rockboxtheater.com, or by calling 830-997-7625.
Phil Houseal is a writer and owner of Full House PR, www.FullHousePR.com.