.. John Gorka .........

Friend of Mine:

November 17, 2011
Somerville Theatre
55 Davis Square, Somerville, MA 02144


..Photos: Dan Tappan ....Fred Koller, Bruce Pratt, Peter Case, John Gorka and Shawn Colvin   ....Bill Morrissey's guitar on stage  


Don't Judge A Life/A Coda for Bill ..>

John wrote this song just after Bill Morrissey passed away.
Click here if you want to hear an early version of this song in "Live at Noon" (WMUB, 32 minutes, July 29, 2011)









The two videos made
Leigh-Ann Pellerin

She's That Kind of Mystery ..>

John Gorka singing Bill Morrisey's song as part of the "Friend of Mine" Tribute Concert held at the Somerville Theater.







Friend of Mine
The Bill Morrissey Tribute Concert
Somerville Theatre, Somerville, MA November 17, 2011

Photo: Susan Bibeau

The show was set to start at 7:00 pm , but at 6:45 the on stage video screen lit up with Bill’s infectious grin. The footage was of a performance at a small arts festival in Massachusetts from 1991 and included an interview with Acoustic Café host, Brad Paul. Bill was his usual witty self, joking that his then upcoming “new” album (“Inside” released in Jan. 1992) would be all polka songs. This video was the perfect opening to the evening that would follow, an outpouring of love & feelings of loss for one of our finest singer-songwriters.

Bill Morrissey passed away in a Georgia motel room on July 23rd, 2011. Almost immediately after learning of his death, his friends and fellow musicians began discussing how to not only mourn his death but more importantly, how best to celebrate his life and music. This November night was chosen because eight days later, November 25, would have been Bill’s 60th birthday.

A who’s who of thefolk music scene was on hand to pay tribute to a man who was their friend, their touring companion, their mentor, and musical guru.

David Dye. longtime host of World Café on NPR, began the evening with a welcome to all and proceeded to introduce his co-host for the evening, Cliff Eberhardt. Cliff started out with one of the many “Morrissey” stories that would be shared with us throughout the evening. He told how Bill convinced him to move to Northampton, MA, where Morrissey was then living. Six months later, Bill moved away, but they knew there would always be a spare room for the other, wherever they later lived. Each artist this evening had agreed to perform one of Bill’s songs along with one of their own, which they would dedicate to Bill. Cliff gave a strong and heartfelt performance of “Handsome Molly”, the leadoff cut from Bill’s 1989 album, Standing Eight. Next was Cliff’s song “The Long Road” with John Gorka providing the duet part. This established a trend throughout the

Bill Morrissey's Mother .......Photo: Dan Tappan



Cliff Eberhardt with John Gorka sing "The Long Road" at the "Friend of Mine" Tribute Concert for Bill Morrisey." Recorded by Leigh-Ann Pellerin

evening including Peter Keane playing guiter to accompany David Johansen, and Pete Nelson getting harmonica support from Cormac McCarthy and guitar licks from Mark Erelli. Later in the show, during his own two song set, Mark would provide one of the many highlights of the evening. Mark sang a wonderful song that he had written specifically for the evening, a song expressing the love and respect that he had for Bill while also acknowledging the flaws (ie: a passion for bourbon) that were also part of Bill’s personality. The song mentions a gig where he opened for Morrissey, and Bill told him to perform “Birches”, one of Bill’s best loved songs. This night, Erelli proceeded to blow us all away with an outstanding take on that song from Bill’s 1993 album, “Night Train”.

Other highlighted performances of Bill’s songs included Peter Case singing “Night Train” accompanied by his ringing 12-string guitar, and Peter Keane’s gentle version of “Barstow”. He was then joined by David Johansen on harmonica for Mississippi John Hurt’s “Louis Collins”, a song recorded by Bill for his Grammy nominated, “Songs of Mississippi John Hurt” (1999). Patty Larkin’s rich vocal & exquisite guitar work graced ”Love Song/New York 1982” another great song from Bill’s “Standing Eight” album. David Johansen, aka Buster Poindexter, former New York Doll, sang the title song from “Inside” and was joined by Peter Keane on guitar. Shawn Colvin topped off the second half of the show, with a great performance of “Texas Blues”, from Bill’s 1984 debut album, “Bill Morrissey”.

Family members were also on hand to participate in the celebration of Bill’s life. His second wife, Ellen Karas, was one of the organizers of the evening concert. She joined Cliff Eberhardt on stage to extend her thanks to everyone involved, and to announce that Bill’s papers / writings would be archived would be archive at the University of North Carolina. She also pointed out two of Bill’s guitars, sitting on the front corners of the stage, each one bathed in a soft spotlight. Bill Morrissey’s mother came out on stage after the brief intermission, to read a short eulogy for her son, but to also thank everyone for the love they were showing for him, by sharing their “Bill” stories and singing his songs. Other close friends of Bill were able to attend and shared their memories. New England political satirist


Barry Crimmins stated that “Morrissey revealed more in few lines than the average Russian writer could in 1,000 pages.” Bruce Pratt, a songwriter, poet, and University of Maine professor, read two very funny entries written by Bill in the guest book at Bruce’s fishing camp in Maine. He then read his poem , Ashes In The Eyes of The Trout, which was a favorite of Bill’s. Fred Koller told of how Bill spent the few days before he passed away, visiting with Fred in Nashville.

If given a chance, I believe most, if not all, of the evening’s participants would have made a pilgrimage on hands and knees to the top of the highest peak to once again be able to gather and hear the wit & wisdom of Bill Morrissey. As a finale, they all joined on stage the sing one of his songs. Ellen had asked Cliff to pick something up tempo, nothing too dreary. Cliff replied that left them with one choice. So the evening concluded with the group, armed with two mandolins, a banjo, a couple harmonicas, and several guitars, together singing “Long Gone”, a standout cut from Bill’s album “Inside.”

The Tribute finale .....Photo: Susan Bibeau

It was a fitting end to an evening that reminded all in attendance what a phenomenal talent we had lost, and how lucky are to have his music to remember him. This tribute concert raised $12,000 for MusiCares, an organization that provides a safety net of critical assistance for music people in times of need.

Bill’s Songs

.Cliff Eberhardt - Handsome Molly
.Pete Nelson - These Cold Fingers
.Peter Case – Night Train
.Anais Mitchell - Harry's Last Call
.Peter Keane – Barstow
.John Gorka – She’s That Kind Of Mystery
.Patty Larkin – Love Song / New York 1982
.Fred Koller – North or Night Train (?)
.David Johansen – Inside
.Mark Erelli – Birches
.Cormac McCarthy – Small Town On The River
.Shawn Colvin – Texas Blues
.Ensemble – Long Gone


Rehearsal of "Don't Judge A Life/A Coda
for Bill
" .....Photo: Thom Wolke
Rehearsal of the finale song "Long Gone " on this photo: Bruce Pratt, Fred
Koller, Cliff Eberhardt, Shawn Colvin, Barry Crimmons and John Gorka.
Photo: Thom Wolke
Rehearsal Bill's song "Long Gone". On this photo: Patty Larkin, Anais Mitchell, Cliff Eberhardt en John Gorka..... Photo: Thom Wolke

Rehearsal "The Long Road" ......Photo: Thom Wolke Soundcheck "The Long Road".....Photo: Thom Wolke "The Long Road" during the Tribute Concert.Photo Cara Lynn Bussa

Friends of Bill Morrissey gather to honor his legacy

Who’s who of songwriters gather to honor a New England folk icon

  By James Reed
Globe Staff
November 11, 2011

He was the epitome of a troubadour, a man who lived the adventures and struggles, the humor and heartache he chronicled so elegantly in songs that unfolded like short stories. When Bill Morrissey died on July 23, unexpectedly and too soon at 59, his loss was profoundly felt in the New England folk community he had nurtured since arriving on the scene in the early 1980s.

As heartfelt anecdotes and memorials streamed online, it didn’t take long for his contemporaries and admirers to pay their respects. “Friend of Mine: The Bill Morrissey Tribute Concert’’ - a staggering lineup of singer-songwriters including Patty Larkin, John Gorka, Barry Crimmins, Shawn Colvin, Peter Case, Cormac McCarthy, Peter Keane, Fred Koller, Pete Nelson, and Mark Erelli - will salute his work Thursday at the Somerville Theatre. They will interpret Morrissey’s music while sharing stories of how he mentored and inspired them. Already his legacy looms large.

“We met in the early ’80s at a time when there weren’t that many people doing acoustic folk music and songwriting,’’ says Larkin, a longtime friend who had toured with Morrissey and shared a record label with him at one point. “He kind of arrived fully formed by the time I met him. We were a group of songwriters who were drawn to the genre and to what had gone before us. Bill just plumbed that form and really went deep with it and perfected it.’’

Cliff Eberhardt, an old friend and fellow musician, will host the tribute concert with David Dye, host of the NPR radio program “World Cafe.’’ There’s also an unlikely act on the bill: Yes, it’s that David Johansen, who first made his name as a member of the proto-punk band the New York Dolls and later as his alter ego, Buster Poindexter.

“I was just a fan of his. I went to some place where he was playing and introduced myself. We kind of hit it off,’’ Johansen says casually of his friendship with Morrissey. “I dug his songs a lot. They spoke to me.’’

As the only non-folk artist in the lineup, Johansen says that’s a testament to how far Morrissey’s music transcended genre.



Bill Morrissey died in July at 59. He will be remembered at a concert Thursday at Somerville Theatre.

He’s got a different kind of songwriting than I have, but that doesn’t stop me from really enjoying what he did,’’ Johansen says. “I do folky kind of stuff, like folk-blues, but the kind of rock music that I do, especially with the Dolls, I don’t really listen to a lot of that kind of music. I listen to a lot of other kinds of music besides the genre that I work in.’’

Although often noted as a New England songwriter, Morrissey skewed toward universal themes. He heeded the advice all fledging writers are given: Write about what you know. Living in New Hampshire, he made sure his music was rooted in that landscape, that state of mind. Look no further than the titles of some of his earliest songs: “Small Town on the River,’’ “Live Free or Die,’’ “Snow Outside the Mill.’’ Others would allude to his demons: “Little Bit of Whiskey,’’ “He Drinks Alone.’’ Morrissey had a long, rough battle with alcohol abuse, which sent him to rehab a few times. His official cause of death was complications from heart disease.

Morrissey had near brushes with national fame, but they were fleeting. At times he seemed close to achieving it, but he was conflicted. Ellen Karas, who was Morrissey’s manager at the time of his death and, once upon a time, had been married to him, remembers those moments.



“Bill made choices that stayed true to his craft. He had options to work in a more commercial medium, and he made a very deliberate choice not to,’’ Karas says. “We had a lot of interest in the early ’90s from major labels, and Bill rejected them out of hand. He took a couple of meetings in New York, but they wanted him to work with other people to help him be a more commercial writer. Bill didn’t reject that idea, but he rejected the idea that in order to be heard, he would have to make his writing different.’’

Karas, who put together the tribute concert with help from Eberhardt and Brad Paul from Rounder Records, says there are plans underway to ensure Morrissey’s legacy will thrive. “His work is going to be archived at the University of North Carolina,’’ Karas says. “They’re going to have all of his papers, unfinished works, recordings, sketch pads of Bill’s art, the complete catalog.’’

Larkin, for one, thinks Morrissey’s stature will only grow in the years to come.

“I think he’s going to be [known as] the preeminent New England songwriter who really stayed true to the form,’’ she says. “He was brilliant in his simplicity and his clarity.’’

And while Morrissey is beloved by his peers, his influence on newer generations has been harder to discern. At 37, Erelli says he is the youngest artist performing at the tribute, which is not all that surprising to him.

“Unfortunately, I’m not sure he’s had the degree of influence on my generation that I feel he should,’’ Erelli says. “In part because by the time we came along and started paying attention to highly literate folk music, he was already in a pretty bad way - laying a little bit low, doing fewer concerts, a few more years in between records.

“I happened to find him when I was in high school, and he really struck a chord with me,’’ Erelli adds. “A lot of my friends, they obviously know who he is, but I don’t really know anybody who feels the same way and to the same extent that I do. That’s a real tragedy and a real shame, but one that we can rectify with this concert. People need to know about this guy.’’

James Reed can be reached at jreed@globe.com.


Photo: Matthew Muise (Click here for a very good serie on Matthews Blog) Photo: Matthew Muise Photo: Matthew Muise


..... .....
A part of the finale song
Friend of Mine..>

Recorded by jusshi33

John Gorka, Shawn Colvin, Patty Larkin, Cormac McCarthy, Cliff Eberhardt, Mark Erelli, Anais Mitchell, Fred Koller, Peter Case, P. Keane, P. Nelson, Barry Crimmins, David Johanssen and David Dye


Click here for the article "Bill Morrissey, 59, folk troubadour passed away""


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    Bill Morrissey's mom came downstairs to the dressing room to greet the artists and say hello to friends. ..Photo: Thom Wolke