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Tommy Morgan

Tommy Morgan


(As a seventeen year old, Tommy Morgan played his first professional date in 1951 fan Andrews Sisters record], and since then, thanks to his work on television themes like "Green Acres" and on over 500 feature films, he has become probably the most heard harmonica player in the world. From scoring episodes of "The Twilight Zone" to solo performances with symphony orchestras to studio work with the likes of the Carpenters and Simon & Garfunkel, he has become a true musical legend.)

TOMMY: You walked in, and Brian was glad to see you. You talk about vibrations, but in that studio, there were 'Good Vibrations.' He liked what he was getting from us, and we loved working with him.

"Basically, there were no charts. He had everything in his head, knew what he wanted, so you would wait until he got to you, wait until Brian came around. I was generally added later, after drums, bass, guitars and piano, so sometimes, a couple of hours would pass if you were the last guy in line.

"He was very focused. When he gave you a pattern, it pretty much stayed the same throughout the different verses or choruses. You didn't say 'Brian, do you want me to build this?' On other dates, you might do three figures the same time in a piece. The second time you would add things. Not with Brian. You didn't play variations. He established every pattern and note he wanted you to play. We were playing rhythm, and he put his variations in the background vocals.

"I mentioned notes, but it's what you do with them. With Brian it was 'get the feel of the line: What impressed me about Brian is that he knew. It was in his head. It wasn't like on other sessions where they would say 'Let me see what you can do with it He knew exactly what he wanted and how he wanted it to feel.

"Of course, there are certain limitations to a bass harmonica. If he asked me to play something that couldn't be played on a bass harmonica, he would vary the exactness of what he wanted into what was playable or possible. Small little grace notes here and there...he would adjust to that. And once I showed him what I could and couldn't do, I didn't have to do it again. I didn't have to teach him each time.

"When he was working out our parts, the bass harmonica is kind of soft, so he would lean over to hear it. I can remember him turning his head, but his being deaf in his right ear was a non-issue.

"I always have had a tremendous respect for his ability. He is special, unique, bordering on genius. If a man studies orchestration, he can write it. But Brian developed it in his head. To me the ability to write music was a technique, not a limitation. It just meant Brian worked differently. His not being able to write notes wasn't a limitation.

"Pet Sounds was very imaginative, new areas in which we really explored bass harmonica. That hadn't been used much in the studio; it was somewhat new, especially within the confines of the rhythm section. Pet Sounds used the bass harmonica before the Beatles did. Pet Sounds, of course, was the big trigger in those days.

"The bass harmonica solo I did [on 'I Know There's An Answer'] was improvised, but if what I was playing was part of the rhythm section or a bass line, no. I played what he told me to.

"I played chromatic harmonica on 'Good Vibrations.' I'm told there were eighteen sessions, and that I played on nine of them. It was the only time I ever saw him fighting the battle in that there were so many sessions for the basic track until he got the feel right.

"I feel incredibly lucky. My attitude is you give one hundred per cent. I have total concentration when I go in to do a session. Pet Sounds, 'Good Vibrations' whatever I played on, the effort was always the same for me. That it became legendary after the fact, there's some luck involved. You give what you have to give.

"I've done some sessions with Brian recently, on Van Dyke Parks' Orange Crate Art and some new tracks of Brian's, and I was real happy to see that he's getting back to being the same guy."
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