From Ron Jacobs
My friend and colleague, Robert W. Morgan, signed off three years ago today. Bob was 60, but he achieved, articulated and accomplished about 100 Radio Years of good work during his five decade-spanning career. Lucky for him radio was still un-corporate corrupted, non-bean-counter driven, soulful and fun for all but near the end of his shift.
In April 1962 I rode north with Frank Terry in his Corvair. All our possessions were in the U-Haul bouncing about in the rear. Destination: Fresno, to re-do a station, much as we had just 90 days earlier in San Bernardino. By sunset "Sunny Jim" Price was the new PD. His enthusiasm and experience at KOBY (truly the first Top 40 station in San Francisco) convinced me on the spot. Jim then did a major career favor for me. "There's a guy who just got out of the Army," he spewed, "named Bob Morgan. He's on KMBY in Monterey. You gotta hear this guy!"
The next day Morgan and I peered suspiciously at one another through the double glass windows between studios in the small brick blockhouse on McKinley Avenue that passed itself off as a radio station. This was not just a first impression. It well may have been for both of us a look in the mirror. To start, we each kept verbally under wraps. Sumo check out, very Zen. But our monosyllabic grunts and nods signaled the start of as intense a relationship I have ever had with anyone, in or out of radio.
We immediately had fallen in Love/Hate. We sat around Fresno dreaming of The Bigtime. Three years later we had our shot. When we were in a total groove -- say cutting tracks with Bill Mouzis at the board in what was ridiculously called "the KHJ production room"-- we were always on the same page, literally. By then, as I wrote copy, I knew his rhythms and heard his incomparable voice in my head. Morgan read the words and emphasis like a virtuoso soloist, performing them as intended, usually on the first take.
There was the other side. Our arguments ignited sessions of violent screaming behind closed doors. KHJ had thick walls a ruckus still sent people running down the halls, away from what sounded like pending mutual homicide. What was the blood-chilling conflict? Oh, usually it would be Morgan demanding that we use eight seconds off a production bridge from the "Bridge on the River Kwai" movie soundtrack in place of a cut from "Fire Down Below" that I called for. Or perhaps we disagreed on the merits of Jackie DeShannon's singing style. Whatever our melodramatic disagreements, 99% of them dealt with a mutual passionate concern for putting out on the air only the very best.
No one in the business is unfamiliar with Morgan's deejay work. Know that he was just as meticulous as a production man. He never turned down an assignment to go out on the funiest remotes on a day off. When it came to monitoring KHJ outside the morning show I trusted only his ears. He was the funniest fucking Devil's Advocate I ever knew. We would spend days planning "ad libs" to top the other guy. And it was Morgan who convinced me to call Bill Drake about the KHJ PD job when I arrived in L.A., just out of Halawa Jail. I refused to do it for several days. Who needed more rejection? Morgan persisted, as only he could, until I did call Drake. And thus the Fresno radio guerillas from both sides were joined together to kick ass in Boss Angeles. We'd sat around Fresno dreaming of doing it. Three years later we had our shot. When the first ratings came out that certified we were indeed #1, Morgan and I merely looked at one another and said nothing. Just like Day One, we KNEW where it was at.
You were the best, Bob, and I will never forget you, ever.
May 22, 2001
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