Michigan-based Whitey Morgan plays in Steamboat tonight
November 11, 2010
Steamboat Springs — There's not much of a honky-tonk scene in Flint, Mich.
In the late 1980s, a young Eric David Allen knew about his grandfather's vinyl collection and the Gibson J-200 guitar he left behind, but he knew nothing about country stardom in Nashville, Tenn., or Austin, Texas.
What he did know was the auto industry, and the grit with which his ancestors worked at the General Motors factory for generations.
He knew that jobs were becoming scarce and that he was going to have to find another way to get by, as the once-booming town began to empty of its totem industry in the 1990s.
So Allen turned to that Gibson guitar.
Now 34 and known as Whitey Morgan, the guitarist and singer fronts the band Whitey Morgan and the 78s, which is set to play a free show at 9 p.m. today at Ghost Ranch Saloon.
The band's rough-edged country rock sheds light on the Flint lifestyle, if not through the lyrics, through the attitude and sheer volume.
"I'm definitely very proud of where I'm from," Morgan said. "I've been known to have a few drinks and get in arguments about the auto industry and everything. But, even though people know of Flint and how horrible it is there, there's a large amount of pride that comes from being from there."
Pride in the fact that one of the largest American industries ever created was born a few blocks away.
Pride in the knowledge that Flint is the real "Motor City."
But when he travels to Nashville and Austin, he said it's tough, being from the North, to get respect from the pure country bands.
He responds, in typical Flint fashion, simply by saying, "I don't give a …," just like he did at the Continental Club in Austin when he was told his band was playing too loudly.
"I'm not there to be a perfect little country band you're used to hearing," he said. "I don't want to blend in.
"Being nice and quiet never got anybody anywhere. If you want to kick down doors, you can't do it quietly."
The live band includes Allen (Morgan) on guitar and vocals, Tamineh Gueramy on fiddle, Brett Robinson on pedal steel, Jeremy Mackinder on bass and Travis Harrett on drums.
Morgan, usually clad in a leather vest and a T-shirt showing off his tattooed forearms, said he doesn't do a lot of talking between songs, "unless there's a heckler out there that needs to be dealt with."
The songs range from two-stepping honky-tonk anthems to twangy outlaw rock, led by Morgan's gritty and robust vocals.
Many of his songs are just about "drinking and having a good time," he said, because hopefully that's what's happening in the crowd.
"You have to try to give it that same energy every night," he said about playing in Steamboat, where he's never been before. "But it's not out of control. It's very honest. We're not forcing it."