Gary Morris: From Nashville to Broadway
By Jay Edgerton with Scott Ross
The 700 Club
Gary Morris’s country-politan music style landed him five number ones and 25 singles on the Billboard country charts in the 1980s. Gary is best known as the first artist to record the award-winning song, "Wind Beneath My Wings", which won both the Academy of Country Music and CMA Song of the Year award.
Scott Ross: When did you realize you could sing?
Gary Morris: I think I sang my first solo in church. I must have been four or five. There was a little kid's choir. So I always sang. But what I didn’t realize until I was in college was that people actually made a living doing that.
Ross: When did the first big record break it open for you?
Morris: The first song charted and went to #40. The second song went to #40. The third song was a little up-tempo song called “Headed for a Heartache”, and it went to 4 or 5 on the country charts. I was pretty much off to the races. A couple of years later, “Wind Beneath My Wings”. I had the first released version of that and won Song of the Year for me. So it was this kind of spiral at that point in time.
Ross: You sang for presidents?
Morris: I’ve sung for every living president today. I played the last Inaugural.
At the height of his Nashville recording career, Gary boldly accepted the lead role of Jean val Jean in Les Miserables on Broadway.
Ross: The experience of standing on stage in New York City, being the first American actor/singer in the lead role of Les Mis... I mean, I can’t begin to imagine what that must have been for you.
Morris: I got three week’s notice on Les Mis that I was going to do it. I met the cast at 10:00 in the morning on Thanksgiving Day. There was no afternoon matinee. We did an invited dress. I had never met them. So we did the invited dress on Thursday. They do a party on Saturday night, and Colm Wilkinson says, "Tag, you’re it." I said, "What do you mean?" And he said, "Well, you’re the lead man now in the number one show on Broadway." I look back now at all of these things along the way and how I got to where I am. That was just another door that was opened for me. It was God going, "Hey, wake up. You can make a difference if you really want to."
Ross: Where do you go from something like that? How did the Nashville community respond to you moving from the country world onto Broadway?
Morris: They loved it. I went from five number one records in a row to do Les Mis to never having a song played on radio again.
Gary’s latest project, Gospel Classics, is a return to his roots of singing hymns in churches as a young boy in Texas.
Morris: About two years ago, I said to my wife, "I want to record three or four songs that I'm going to send to my dad. I am now where I’m supposed to be. I feel like I’m actually accepting God’s grace. That’s what I’m supposed to be doing now." I’m really interested in my family and singing, and if there is a way that I can take my talent and do something that I haven’t done for most of my life with it, then that’s where you’re going to find me.
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