Gary James' Interview With
Lorrie Morgan

Her father was a Country Music Legend. She was just 13 when she made her Grand Ole Opry debut with her famous father. After he died at age 51 in 1975, she took over his band and went on the road. She performed at Opryland U.S.A. and at a number of Nashville nightclubs before becoming the opening act of George Jones. In 1994 she was inducted into the cast of The Grand Ole Opry. she had her first Top Ten hit in 1989, "Dear Me" and "Out Of Your Shoes". In the 1990s, she achieved super-stardom with songs like "Five Minutes", "A Picture Of Me (Without You)", "I Didn't Know My Own Strength" and so many others. By 2003, she had earned more than 20 major radio hits, a CMA Award, 7 Gold records and 4 Platinum Records. In 1999, her "Greatest Hits" album was certified for sales of more than 2 million copies. Her autobiography was a top-seller in 1997. In 2010, she will star on Broadway in Pure Country. The musical is based on the hit 1992 George Strait movie of the same name. Joe Nichols will portray "Rusty", the George Strait character. She will have the role of the devious manager "Lula", who was played by Lesley Ann Warren in the film. Her newest CD is titled "A Moment In Time".

Yes, we are talking about the one and only, Lorrie Morgan.

Q - I like the way you recorded this latest CD of yours. You and the band went into the studio and recorded 'live'. That's the way Frank Sinatra used to record.

A - Oh, I know. Being a daughter of that era, my dad used to record the same way. Being one of the great vocalists of all time, my dad, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, they all fall into that of great singers. This is the only way they would record or that they did record until we got so technical. I know that you know and I know how records are recorded these days, but a lot of times I don't think the people have even a concept of how technical making records has become. It's like the band goes in one day. Then the singer comes in the next day and the background vocalists come in. It's just so woven together, piece by piece, that it's lost its heart and its soul and what music is made of. So, when we decided to do this album, myself and the producer of this album, Wally Wilson, we decided we would make it; if we were gonna cut a country classics record, we wanted it to sound like a country classics record. That is that we would go in, myself, the band, the string section, the background vocals, everybody in one big room together. No vocal booths. No drum booths. The producer standing in there with us. And we documented all this on DVD too. If the readers don't know what overdub is, it's when you can go in after you lay your guitar track down or your vocal track and you don't like it, they can go back in and re-do it along with the track. There was on over-dubs at all on this album. We went in, rehearsed each song, ran it once or twice, put the song down, went to the next song. It was this magical experience that I can't tell you. It wasn't just with me. The musicians felt it. Nashville has the greatest musicians in the world and for those guys to consent to no over-dubs was a conquest in its own right, because these guys are perfectionists. So when we went in and recorded all these songs, some of these guys were actually on the first original records. Some of the Patsy Cline, Brenda Lee and Roy Orbison records. So, we all went in and did 14 songs in 2 days and it was absolutely magical.

Q - In the past, a recording session was blocked off at 3 hour periods. How many hours did it take you and the band to record those 14 songs?

A - Quite a long time. It did take a long time back then. We were at the studio from morning 'til night on those 2 days. But a lot of these songs the guys were familiar with. They'd grown up on these songs and they played them many, many times. So, it wasn't like new compositions and everybody tryin' to learn. They all knew these songs. There were the songs we all grew up on and made us fall in love with music. These are the songs. It move very fast and very heart-felt. These guys were just gems to work with.

Q - One other thing that Sinatra would do is put bleachers in the studio and invite all of his friends to come in and watch him record. So it was like performing in front of an audience. Did you do that?

A - No. A lot of performers do perform better in front of a 'live' audience and that's a great idea, one that I might think about doing next time. But I didn't do it this time. It's a wonderful idea and I can understand why he did it. You do feed off of that 'live' crowd. It's a great feed for an artist. So I totally get it.

Q - By recording a CD of classic Country songs like this, is the message they're not writing songs like this anymore? As a singer, is it becoming more difficult to find good material to record?

A - (laughs) No, I don't think so. It's not necessarily that they're not writing good songs anymore. But they're limited 'cause they're only writing great songs for a handful, the ones that are right at the top of the charts right now. But that wasn't the reason for recording this album. It was strictly out of love for this kind of music. I think we've got some of the greatest writers in the world, but again, the choice artists are the ones getting those great songs.

Q - Since your father was in the business, was it only natural then that you would follow in his footsteps? Did you ever entertain the idea of doing anything other than singing?

A - Yeah, I did. I wanted to be, believe it or not, every girl's dream, a hairdresser, a cosmetologist. I was about on my last leg when I got my deal at RCA. I said I'm gonna try this one more time. If I get turned down this time, I'm going to cosmetology school. Then I got my deal. Then I got a little older and I thought, you know what? If this someday doesn't work out for me, I want to go to law school. I love the law. I would love to be a prosecuting attorney, but God's blessed me with my dream. I'm very thankful for that.

Q - You could have gone to Belmont University and studied Music Law. That would've really helped you out in your music career, wouldn't it?

A - (laughs) Yeah. I couldn't have gotten into Belmont. I ain't smart enough. (laughs)

Q - You first set foot on the Grand Ole Opry stage when you were 13 years old. What was that experience like?

A - Well, it was very frightening for a 13-year-old. My dream at that time was to be a singer and of course I'd been at that stage practically every Friday and Saturday night with my dad. Then it came my time and all of a sudden it was like I choked. All my idols standing in the wings of the stage, watching me. It was very, very nerve-racking, but at the same time I knew if I didn't do it now, right now at that moment, I would never probably do it again. My dad understood my nervousness very, very much. He gave me the opportunity that night to either shake my head yes or no when he was gonna introduce me on the stage. When he looked over at me, I just froze. I just kind of shrugged my shoulders like I didn't know. He introduced me and thank God he took the initiative, because he kind of gave me a nudge. He knew I wanted to, but he knew I was afraid. He nudged me out there and I got the first standing ovation in 20 years on the Opry. I said, OK, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.

Q - I can see why. You might get a tip as a hairstylist, but you don't get a standing ovation.

A - (laughs) No, you don't.

Q - When you were backstage at the Opry, what would you see? Would people be rushing around, getting ready to go onstage?

A - Oh, of course, and all these people were friends of my dad and had been to the house for dinner. They weren't strangers to me by no means and I wasn't to them. I was the Opry brat. I would see all the great ladies getting ready real quick. And back then, the ladies only had one dressing room. They were only allowed one dressing room and that was the women's bathroom. So, everybody was together in that one room. Stars. Fans.

Q - Who was there? Who would you see?

A - Jeannie Seeley, Jeannie Pruett, Barbara Mandrell, Dottie West, Dolly Parton. These were women that controlled women's music back then. They were standing there talking, laughing. It was like a little girl who wanted to become Cinderella an get to go to Disneyland every weekend. I mean, it was magical.

Q - Dottie West, now there's a Country music legend.

A - Oh, yes. Well, she was a true icon in this business. Dottie was a chance taker like me. Dottie wore things that people didn't totally agree with. To me, she was very sexy, very showy and a very good friend of my dad's. A very gracious woman.

Q - Would you say it gave you an advantage to start your career at 18 or 22?

A - Well, while it was somewhat of an advantage because people loved my dad and they were friends with him, he never met an enemy in this industry, if you ever hear anything about George Morgan, it will be he was such a nice man. So, he made a lot of friends in this industry. That, very fortunately, is what opened the doors for me, not so much because my dad was in the business, but because he was such a nice, good man who, if he gave you his word, it was his word. And a handshake meant a contract. He was just a great man. Because of that, I was able to kind of walk in some doors that I normally wouldn't have been able to walk in to. On the other hand, the downside of that was that people looked at me like, well, she's been around since dirt. So, I wasn't one of those fresh, young faces that have just popped into Nashville and came onto the music scene and everybody was excited. I had to prove myself and I had to work double-hard to do it. It was like I had to prove I was makin' it on my own and not just because I was dad's daughter.

Q - Your idol was Tammy Wynette. What did you like about her?

A - Tammy, to me, was the all around good woman who had been through heartache and love and the birth of her children and a career when it wasn't cool, when a lot of women weren't out there working and having to leave their children. Tammy and Loretta, they paved the path for us. Growing up, she became a very good friend of mine. (I) went to her house many times for chicken and dumplings and sat around and just talked and listened to her stories. She was very supportive of me. I loved the fact that she was an abused woman, yet persevered. She was beautiful. She was a great songwriter. There wasn't too much Tammy Wynette couldn't do. I miss her everyday. I think about her everyday.

Q - In your bio it says you were trained at the legendary Acuff-Rose Publishing Company. Trained at what? How to write a song? How to place a song?

A - You know what? I don't have any idea what the hell that means. (laughs) I never read that part of the bio. I don't have any idea what that means. That stumps me.

Q - Do you play an instrument?

A - I do. I play guitar and piano.

Q - Is it true that at one time you recorded with Frank Sinatra?

A - I did. I didn't record with Frank. I recorded a duet on the "Duets" album. None of actually on that album recorded with Frank. Phil Romone, his producer, came into town and produce my side of that, well, and his side, but produced that record. That was a treat itself. When Frank came on singin' in the studio, I thought I was gonna drop my dang teeth. I'm telling you about passed out. It was the most incredible moment of my singing career.

Q - I would imagine that you crossed paths with quite a few legends. Did you meet Elvis?

A - Oh, God, if I'd have met Elvis, I'd have probably married him whether I was 2 or not. No, didn't meet Elvis. My dad of course knew Elvis. But I got to meet people like Andy Williams, Frank Sinatra. I got to finally meet Johnny Mathis and lots of Presidents. I've been pretty blessed.

Q - How many Presidents have you met?

A - Let's see...5.

Q - Did you perform at The White House?

A - I did. Oh, and I met Tony Bennett too. I loved him.

Q - What was Sinatra like?

A - He was very gracious. I think you get to an age as a star that they were, that he was, you know, the thrill that people feel when they meet you. If you're really a good person, you stop for a second and just say "Thank-you" and you mean it sincerely. And you could tell that those people are sincere people. They know they're legendary. They're not snobs. I think we all can be snobs if we're pushed to the limit, but I think you have to respect start like that. When they know they're respected, they pretty much are gracious.

Q - You didn't meet any of The Beatles, did you?

A - Oh God, I loved John Lennon so bad. I wish so much I could have met him. I loved him so very much. I have his collection. I'm a huge John Lennon fan...huge. But no, I never had the opportunity to meet him.

Q - It says in your bio "The stage is the place in my life where I am most comfortable. It's my space, my happy place. Once I am on that stage, everything is fine. That is where I am truly at home." I've heard that said by someone else. Do you know who I'm talking about?

A - I do not.

Q - Michael Jackson.

A - Really?! Well, I got to go last night to see This Is It. Have you seen it?

Q - Yes I have. What did you think?

A - I was on a magical journey. Being a singer and an entertainer, I was totally...and his choreographer and director, Kenny Ortega, is also my choreographer and did 3 of my tours. He's just a wonderful friend of mine. He called me and told me before this movie came out, and said "You've got to go see Michael Jackson in this wonderful creation." And of course Kenny was devastated for weeks. He was getting ready to go as the rest of them were to London to start this tour. Kenny's been his friend since Michael was little-bitty. So it really tore him up. When I went there last night with my daughter, I was in a magical wonderland, because being an entertainer and having that much power and that much rhythm in one's body and calm and never condescending of any of the musicians, any of the dancers... The doctor should be punished beyond words. We lost truly a legend in music. We actually lost a musical instrument.

Q - I'll tell you what I thought of This Is It: Michael Jackson looked emaciated. He looked like a guy who had just been released from a concentration camp.

A - Yes, he did.

Q - He would never have been able to perform 10 concerts, much less 50 concerts looking like he did.

A - OK. Well, here's my opinion. He did not look like a picture of health at all. I know, being the age I am, I'm the same age as Michael. I told my daughter last night going to the show, she said "Mom, thank-you for coming out and doing this with me. I know you're tired." I said "You know Morgan, I am tired, but I just don't bounce back like I used to when I was in my 20s and 30s." The road really plays a hard part in my life. Even though it's a fun place and a great place for me, it's also a place that takes my energy away from me. After the shows, it's like I've just run 75 marathons. So with the bad publicity and everything that Michael has gone through, I couldn't imagine. He must've been a hundred year old man in his body. So, he might not have made 50 shows, but I love the fact that he was willing to try. He didn't give up. As embarrassed as he was about a lot of accusations, whether they're true or not, I don't know. I'm not even going there. To say, you know what? I got to go out here. I have to do this for me. I just admired him, I did.

Q - Michael's father, Joseph, has said body doubles were used in This Is It.

A - I don't believe, with all my heart, that they used a body double. I don't. With all my heart I don't believe that because each day in all these rehearsals he wore different outfits. Some days he was in sweat pants. When it came closer to the actual time for everybody to kind of be in dress rehearsal, he dressed up a little bit. I don't know Michael, but I know Kenny Ortega and there's never been a more honest, good man and I don't think that Kenny Ortega would ever try and fool Michael's public like that. Ever.

© Gary James. All rights reserved.

Lorrie Morgan