Will Arthur Morris

Will Arthur (Artie) Morris

Will Arthur (Artie) Morris is the son of Elijah, Jr. and Anna (Hunt) Morris.  Artie grew up in Temple, Texas, wanting to be a country singer and it was Hank Williams who inspired his passion.   Upon graduation from high school and a stint in college, Artie auditioned for the popular radio show “Stars of Tomorrow” in Dallas, Texas, aired over KRLD, and was later chosen as a regular on the Big D Jamboree.  He went on to appear on the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport, Louisiana, and The Saturday Night Jamboree in Houston, Texas.

One of the pioneer black country music singers in the 50’s Artie Morris went to Nashville in 1955, a decade before Charley Pride became the first black superstar of country music. Doors opened for him when record executives heard his tapes but closed just as quickly when he showed up in person.  Though he met resistance, Artie stuck to his guns and insisted on performing the music that spoke to his soul, the music of the American heartland.

He left Texas for California and stayed there 30 years, working as a television host and producer of “Continental Country”.   Bands and solo artist were interviewed by Artie and the popular show was taped during a live audience.  The show won the Renaissance Award given by Continental Cable.  Artie’s real dream came true when he signed a recording contract with Vic Adkin’s Adkrop Records.  He toured with his band making personal appearances throughout the United States becoming a successful country & western recording artist.

Over the years Artie has done many interviews where he has shared his early experiences trying to break into the country & western music scene.  Record executives told Artie they were afraid 'blacks won't buy it because it's country and country won't buy it because you're black,'" he said of one record executive in a 2001 interview. Things weren't any better at home. "Even in Temple, you go into a club, one club had two stages and two bands," he said. "One stage was where the white musicians played, and the other side was where the blacks played, and they couldn't play on the same stage together.",

His landmark 2001 CD, Goodbye Old Paint includes the title track, a Western classic that is important in Artie’s own family history.  His ancestor (great-great-grandfather Charley Willis) is credited with preserving the song and inserting it into American culture.  The CD also includes such classic Western tunes as Streets of Laredo, Red River Valley and O Bury Me Not On The Lone Prairie.  Artie tried to put himself in the mindset of his great-grandfather, on a 2,000-mile trail drive up the Chisholm Trail.  "I always wanted to be a cowboy, but I was afraid of cows, so I thought it was best to sing about it," he says.  

Artie Morris has also aided scholars with their chapters on his ancestor’s contribution to cowboy music history for the books Black Cowboys of Texas (Texas A&M University Press, 2004) and Black Cowboys in the American West: On the Range, on the Stage, Behind the Badge.  Artie and his wife Lorie (Baker) Morris live in Lakewood, California. His adult children include Andrea Merrill, Danye Morris and Christopher Morris.


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