Singer, songwriter Gary Morris talks success with Get Out
Jennifer Lee Preyss
April 23, 2014 at 3:03 p.m.
Updated April 22, 2014 at 11:23 p.m.
Gary Morris has performed for six U.S. presidents and Queen Elizabeth II.
He's released 12 albums since 1980 and produced five No. 1 hits, including one of the most popular songs of all time, "Wind Beneath My Wings."
The Fort Worth native has traveled the world and moseyed his way through every aspect of the entertainment business.
Get Out caught up with Morris, 65, to talk about why he wouldn't change any part of his three-decade-long music career, even the fumbles.
Morris is the second performer of the 2014 Charity Concert Series at the Leo J. Welder Center for the Performing Arts.
He's performing May 8, with proceeds benefiting the Bluebonnet Youth Ranch, the Victoria Lions Club, Theatre Victoria and the Welder Center.
Did you know "Wind Beneath My Wings" would turn into one of the most recognizable songs of all time?
I just thought it was this incredible song. You know, as a songwriter, you're always looking for different ways of saying "I love you" without saying "I love you." I knew from the start it would be a big song for someone. And it was a tough song to get played on the radio in the beginning.
At this point in your career, you covered the gamut of entertainment: recording artist, songwriter, Broadway, acting. What do you enjoy most?
Most of the stuff I did in New York on Broadway was all centered around music. And I tried television in L.A. for a short while, and it was not my cup of tea, but really, the tie that bonds all the ventures together is music. It's the music that's universal.
How did you start writing music?
I was writing a poem in high school; my English teacher told us to write a poem and turn them in on Monday. She was going to read them on Friday. So on Friday, she starts reading all the poems, and the bell rings; I thought, "Why isn't she reading mine?" I was called to her desk after class, and she asked me where I plagiarized the poem from. I told her I didn't, but she said there was no way I could have written this. She said I could admit to plagiarizing and get a C or claim it as my own and take an F. I took the F. Years later, I saw her at a concert and asked her, "Do you think I probably wrote the poem now?"
Do you ever get writer's block?
Yes, in sort of a big way in that I'll go for a period of time and not write anything at all. And then, I'll pick it up again, and songs start coming back to me. I have a few songs that have taken me three or four years to write, but most of them come pretty easily, in about five or 10 minutes.
Which U.S. president did you enjoy performing for the most?
That's a tough one. I've played for ... (Gerald) Ford, (Jimmy) Carter, (Ronald) Reagan, both Bushes, (Bill) Clinton and (Barack) Obama. I'm the only guy in the music business who can claim that. I played the most for (George) Bush Sr. . I did probably 85 or 90 performances with Carter. I had some fun times with (George) Bush Sr.
Did you really pass on a show to play for Queen Elizabeth?
She had come to America for a first ladies luncheon, and I was playing a show for her in Austin. I got a call from the White House and was asked to play a second show in Washington D.C., but since I'd already played for her, I passed on the second show.
Did you get to meet her?
Oh, yes. She's a little bitty thing. I was at the luncheon, and this lady with a British accent came over to me and said, "The queen wishes to speak with you." I couldn't really understand her, but I said, "Oh, OK," and I followed her. The queen told me, "I just wanted to put a face up-close to that beautiful voice." You're not supposed to touch her, but I put my arm around her, and everyone was just freaking out.
You've made a lot of different moves in your career. If you could go back and change anything about your life, would you?
I would not. And I have screwed up so many times. But every screwup brings you closer to where you are. And I like where I am. If any one of those things had been different, maybe I wouldn't be here today. I wouldn't change anything.