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MUSIC: Ventura County | ROCKTALK

High on the Blues

Teddy Morgan mixes Californian, Texan influences to create music all his own.

January 29, 1998|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Randy Rich & the Ravens, the premier local blues band, usually plays the first Monday of the month at Cafe Voltaire in Ventura. But this week, Rich will have some company in the shape of the Teddy Morgan Band.

Good thing they're not calling this gig Geography Night. This may be Texas Blues Night, but with Rich hailing from Camarillo and Morgan from Minnesota, the Thomas Brothers could get the blues, or at least get confused.

Since leaving Minnesota, Morgan has lived in California as well as Texas. Neither place, it seems, has changed him much, since nary a "y'all" nor a "hey, dude" entered his conversation when he discussed his version of the blues.

"Well, California and Texas have the strongest blues scenes of the two, and California, in a way, is better because there's just more of it," he said. "There are some great players there, but I'm glad I've lived in both places. California has the blues tradition, but also that swing thing, too."

And Texas just has, well, all those tall tales, sad Cowboy fans, famous guitar players and even a famous blues label in Austin, Antone's, which released Morgan's last album, "Louisiana Rain."

"There's all this history in Texas, plus a lot of guys like me have moved there," he said. "Looking at all the blues there is just amazing. There's Anson Funderburgh & Sam Adams, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimmie Vaughan--all those guys. And Antone's Records is there, too. [Clifford] Antone brought guys like Howlin' Wolf and Eddie Taylor to Texas a long time ago, and everyone learned from them."

When he was still a teenager, Morgan heard the call, and it didn't say "college." By the time he was 17, he had dropped out of high school and was living on his own and playing music. He joined the Lamont Cranston Band and later played in California with James Harman as "Kid" Morgan. Kim Wilson from the Fabulous Thunderbirds (by way of Goleta) discovered Morgan and, along with Antone, encouraged him to relocate to Austin.

"Blues is just the music I loved since I was a kid," he said. "I just liked the sound of it, and once you get into it, you can't get out. Then you dig deeper about different artists, different regions, different periods and different styles that are and were being played. I'm open to zydeco, Cajun, old-time country, or any sort of American roots music, really. I'm still trying to figure it out. I'm not an authentic blues man, but just a mixture of all sorts of stuff. Yet I don't feel like I have to go out and prove myself."

At least Morgan is himself. He shed the "Kid" part of his moniker after reaching the ripe old age of 26.

"When I moved to Texas four years ago, I decided I didn't want to be called 'Kid' anymore. At first, it was Teddy Morgan & the Sevilles; now it's just the Teddy Morgan Band. I can't think of a better name right now but I do like Sevilles."

Morgan, like most working blues men, works and drives a lot. "In Europe, it's a special thing to them because we fly all the way from the States to play. There's not as many freaks about music here as there is there. And I mean 'freaks' in a good way. That's what music should be."

The eternal tour for blues musicians, the majority of whom make their living by playing live rather than by record sales, can get old, but so far, not to Morgan.

"Life is good and I'm doing what I love," he said. "I'm still young at 26, and I just want to keep improving and being on the road does that. I love to travel, but the road can be hard. Traveling from two to eight hours between gigs a day can make for a terrible drive. Then you get to the hotel, check in, play, sleep a little bit, then hit the road again. But I'm not complaining--we're just paying our dues. It's all good."

BE THERE

Concert--Teddy Morgan Band and Randy Rich & the Ravens at Cafe Voltaire, 34 N. Palm St., Ventura. Monday, 7:30 p.m. $7 advance, $5 at the door. (805) 641-1743.

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