Craig Morrison is a Montreal-based ethnomusicologist, author, teacher and musician. Recognized as an expert on popular music, he has released 11 CDs, written two books and many articles on music, contributed to documentary films, and regularly gets calls from the media for comments.
Since 1998, guitarist Craig Morrison, “the Rockin’ Professor,” has been inviting music lovers to an unforgettable evening of rock and roll and related music at Concordia University’s Oscar Peterson Concert Hall in NDG (7141 Sherbrooke St. West). Each year, the concert tackles a different musical theme.
The 22nd Annual Roots of Rock and Roll Concert : "Legendary Music Festivals - Newport Folk, Monterey Pop, and Woodstock"
MAY 17 & 18 (Friday and Saturday). Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30pm, plus a matinee Saturday afternoon at 2pm. TICKET INFO BELOW - look down a few paragraphs
This year’s Roots of Rock & Roll Concert is more anticipated than ever. Not only is the theme timely, with the 50th anniversary of Woodstock in the air, but for the fans, the wait time for the annual concert is three months longer than usual. For 21 years, Concordia University’s “Rocking Professor,” ethnomusicologist and musician Craig Morrison has held the event in early February, but this time it will be May 17 and 18.
This is a shift from winter to spring, from snow to flowers, to a time of growth as well as the opening of the festival season. Thus, the long weekend in May is an appropriate time to underline the theme of festivity. The concert, with live music, stories, and images, will show the evolution of 1960s popular music, from the folk revival to flower power.
This year’s theme celebrates three iconic festivals. Key moments in music and cultural history are associated with each, especially as all are well documented (on film, on record, and in print). These festivals have stayed in public consciousness, and still resonate today. For music fans at least, many of the performers are household names.
Throughout the 1960s, the Newport Folk Festival featured folk artists such as Peter Seeger, Joan Baez, Peter, Paul and Mary, Ian and Sylvia, and Joni Mitchell, plus traditional acts and rediscovered blues legends. The controversial Bob-Dylan-goes-electric moment, mentioned in every history of popular music, happened in 1965.
The Monterey Pop Festival of 1967 helped usher in the Summer of Love. Headlined by the Mamas and the Papas, it is where the Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, and Simon and Garfunkel sang their hits, Otis Redding found a new crossover audience, Janis Joplin emerged as a star, the Who smashed their instruments, and Jimi Hendrix burned his guitar.
The Woodstock Festival of 1969 had an unprecedented audience of 450,000 and indelible performances. Besides Joplin, Hendrix, the Airplane, and the Who, two other acts who had also appeared at Monterey were Canned Heat and Country Joe and the Fish. Additional stars were Joe Cocker, Santana, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
Each festival performer named above will be represented by a song or two in the concert. Some of the songs you will hear are :
• Where Have All the Flowers Gone
• California Dreaming
• Purple Haze
• Piece of My Heart
• Both Sides Now
• Evil Ways
• Homeward Bound
• Bad Moon Rising
• With a Little Help From My Friends
The on-stage ensemble, collectively called Craig Morrison & the Momentz, includes the popular retro party band Vintage Wine (Morrison, Gary Sharkey, Ryan Fleury, Alex Nesrallah), and special guests – guitarist George Bowser (of Bowser and Blue), bassist Ray Farquhar, vocalists Samantha Borgal, Angela Galuppo, Melina Bikhazi, and Rosalie Cerro, plus multi-instrumentalists/ vocalists Terry Joe "Banjo" Rodrigues and Pat Loiselle – 12 performers in all.
One popular aspect of these concerts is Morrison’s spoken introductions to the songs, putting them in context. At Concordia University, Dr. Morrison teaches courses on the Beatles, Soul Music, Rock and Roll and Its Roots, Psychedelic Music, British Popular Music, and regional styles (in a course called Musical History Tour).
Show times : Friday May 17 at 7:30pm ; Saturday May 18 at 2pm and 7:30pm.
TICKETS are $18 (students), $25 (seniors), $30 (regular), and can be purchased without service charge at Vintage Wine performances (see craigmorrison.com), or via Michael Cooper at firstname.lastname@example.org. Special price for the Saturday matinee : children 12 and under are $10.
At the Oscar Peterson Concert Hall, 7141 Sherbrooke West (in NDG), H4B 1R6. This is on Concordia University’s Loyola Campus.
Please note that the concert is typically sold out. It is strongly recommended to purchase tickets in advance.
We get lots of nice feedback from these concerts, such as these from last year : "We so enjoyed the show on Saturday evening at Concordia. As first time viewers it was quite a treat to sing along with each and every tune." - PT
"What a gift of an evening ! Never stop playing music and singing. Thank-you so much." - FF
"I had the pleasure of attending your concert at the Oscar P. last Saturday. Third year in a row and I cannot wait for next year’s. The shows are super, the atmosphere great, and again - Thank You and all the musicians for the wonderful music." - GR
The 21st Annual Roots of Rock and Roll Concert : "Heartbreak Hotel" : Nashville - Music City USA.
some songs in the show
Only the Lonely by Roy Orbison
Stand By Your Man by Tammy Wynette
Don’t Be Cruel by Elvis Presley
I Fall to Pieces by Patsy Cline
All I Have to Do Is Dream by the Everly Brothers
Jolene by Dolly Parton
Be-Bop-A-Lula by Gene Vincent
Your Cheating Heart and Hey Good Looking by Hank Williams
Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash
The on-stage ensemble, collectively called Craig Morrison & the Momentz, includes the popular retro party band Vintage Wine (Morrison, Gary Sharkey, Ryan Fleury, Alex Nesrallah), and special guests – guitarist George Bowser (of Bowser and Blue), pianist John McDiarmid, vocalists Samantha Borgal, Angela Galuppo, Melina Bikhazi, fiddler Jeff Deeprose, and multi-instrumentalists/ vocalists Terry Joe "Banjo" Rodrigues and Pat Loiselle – 12 performers in all.
One popular aspect of these concerts is Morrison’s spoken introductions to the songs, putting them in context. At Concordia University, Dr. Morrison teaches courses on the Beatles, Soul Music, Rock and Roll and Its Roots, Psychedelic Music, British Popular Music, and regional styles (in a course called Musical History Tour).
Oscar Peterson Concert Hall at Concordia’s Loyola campus in NDG :
7141 Sherbrooke West. February 9 and 10 (Friday and Saturday), 2018, 8 pm.
"Many thanks once again Craig, this is an annual tradition that we all enjoy and look forward to very much !" - GB
"We really loved your show last Friday evening. Great music, and memories !!" - JK
"We loved the performance. Really great music and musicians ! The audience was very involved as well." - KB
"I was at your concert Saturday night. It was fabulous. You and your musicians were enjoying the concert as much as we were loving it in the audience." - CS
"You and your band and guests always put on an amazing show. I’m looking forward to the first class entertainment and musical excellence that you provide." - RL
"We love your concert and it truly brightens this bleak time of year. Thanks for the great memories." - EP
"Your upcoming show promises to be an evening of wall-to-wall delight. Can’t wait !" - JK
"Thanks so much and we so enjoy and look forward to this annual Show ! Keep up the amazing work !" - FF
The 20th Annual Roots of Rock and Roll Concert : Oh Canada ! Songs in the Key of Eh ?!
The concert featured Craig Morrison & the Momentz, Vintage Wine, and special guests Bowser and Blue, John McDiarmid, Samantha Borgal, Terry Joe "Banjo" Rodrigues, Angeline Gosselin, Pat Loiselle, Rosalie Cerro, and Gerry Kandestin.
We played pop, rock, folk, country, and blues from a wide range of artists, including Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, The Band, Paul Anka, Anne Murray, Hank Snow, Ian and Sylvia, Steppenwolf, the Guess Who, Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, Harmonium, Michel Pagliaro, the Diamonds, and many more ! Plus some other songs some people didn’t know were by Canadians !
Some songs in the show :
Big Yellow Taxi
Born to Be Wild
Both Sides Now
Farewell to Nova Scotia
Heart of Gold
I’m Movin’ On
Moments to Remember
Pour un Instant
Sweet City Woman
You Needed Me
The 19th Annual Roots of Rock and Roll Concert : Blueberry Hill - Music From New Orleans and Louisiana
Featured Craig Morrison & the Momentz, Vintage Wine, and special guests. Here is the cast :
Terry Joe "Banjo" Rodrigues
Little Frankie Thiffault
Mathieu "Moose" Mousseau.
We played some
gospel (Mahalia Jackson)
girl groups (Dixiecups, Labelle)
rock n’ roll (Bill Haley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino)
blues (Bessie Smith, Slim Harpo)
soul (Aaron Neville, Irma Thomas)
dixieland (Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton)
rhythm and blues (Dr. John, Clarence “Frogman” Henry, Huey “Piano” Smith)
plus a dash of folk, country, and Cajun
The 18th Annual Roots of Rock and Roll Concert :
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow - Music From New York City
featured Craig Morrison & the Momentz, with Vintage Wine, and special guests. On stage : Craig Morrison, Gary Sharkey, Alex Nesrallah, Ryan Fleury, Amelia McMahon, Angela Galuppo, Samantha Borgal, Pat Loiselle, Terry Joe "Banjo" Rodrigues, Gerry Kandestin, Scott Kingsley, and Little Frankie Thiffault. MC : Sarah Geledi.
The 17th Annual Roots of Rock and Roll Concert :
"She Loves You" - The 50th Anniversary of the British Invasion
featured Craig Morrison & the Momentz, with Vintage Wine, and special guests. On stage : Craig Morrison, Gary Sharkey, Alex Nesrallah, Ryan Fleury, John McDiarmid, Amelia McMahon, Angela Galuppo, Pat Loiselle, Terry Joe "Banjo" Rodrigues, Gerry Kandestin, and Cantor Gideon Zelermyer.
songs by the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Dave Clark Five, Herman’s Hermits, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Hollies, Searchers, Kinks, Manfred Mann, Animals, Yardbirds, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, Petula Clark, Dusty Springfield, Peter and Gordon, and others.
"I Want to Hold Your Hand," "She Loves You," "I Can’t Get No Satisfaction," "Glad All Over," "House of the Rising Sun," "Downtown," "Ferry ‘Cross the Mersey," "Just One Look," "Groovy Kind of Love," "Do Wah Diddy Diddy," etc.
"Last season was the first introduction for me and my husband to your Annual Roots of Rock and Roll Concert and I must say we were in awe of the quality and length of the performance. Subsequently, we raved about it to our friends and they now want to experience this amazing concert in 2014 !" - F.M.
"As usual, I’m looking forward to your show." - P.C.
"My husband and I saw the show last year, and loved it !" - S.D.
"I’ve attended six or seven of your Rock and Roll annual concerts and don’t want to miss this year’s. You and your band and guests always put on an amazing show. I’m looking forward to the first class entertainment and musical excellence that you provide. I’m 76 - but immature for my age !" - RL
The 16th Annual Roots of Rock and Roll Concert :
"Jailhouse Submarine : Music From the Movies"
DD writes : "This will the third year our group attends your show. Your shows are always appreciated."
RL writes : "I’ve been attending your annual shows for 9 or 10 years now and they’re first class entertainment !"
WT writes : "We always enjoy your shows."
KM writes : "I’m a faithful concert goer who’s looking forward to hearing you and the great musicians you put together !"
SH writes : "Your concerts are always wonderful - I have been going for the last few years !"
songs from Elvis Presley and Beatles movies as well as songs from Grease, American Graffiti, Easy Rider, The Blues Brothers, Hair, Woodstock, the Wizard of Oz, the Jazz Singer (the first movie with sound, 1927), Saturday Night Fever, and many other films.
The 15th Annual Roots of Rock and Roll Concert : "California Dreamin’ : Music From the Golden State"
February 10 and 11 (Friday and Saturday), 2012 at the Oscar Peterson Concert Hall at 8pm
with Craig Morrison & the Momentz, Vintage Wine, the Never-be Brothers + guests Pat Loiselle, Danielle Lebeau-Petersen, Gerry Kandestin, Terry Joe Banjo, Melina Bikhazi, Amelia MacMahon, and Rosalie Cerro
songs from the Beach Boys, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Jefferson Airplane, Linda Ronstadt, Grateful Dead, Doors, Ricky Nelson, the Mamas and the Papas, Byrds, Big Brother & the Holding Company, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, the Eagles, and many more
The 14th Annual Roots of Rock and Roll Concert : "Blowing In the Wind : A Tribute to Bob Dylan and his Musical World"
13th Annual Roots of Rock and Roll Concert
"Stand By Me : Blues, Rhythm & Blues, Motown, and Soul"
Thanks to all for another sold out show !
Revelling in roots of rock ‘n’ roll
By Bill Brownstein, in the Montreal Gazette February 4, 2010
“(He) may be the hippest prof around.”
Craig Morrison is an ethnomusicologist, which may conjure up a dry image of some researcher operating on vintage 78 RPM discs in a cluttered basement lab. Not quite. This ethnomusicologist may be the hippest prof around and reason enough to go back to school.
While he steadfastly continues to do research on the evolution of certain musical genres, Morrison has also been teaching three courses at Concordia for years : Rock & Roll and Its Roots, Pop/Soul and Its Roots, and The Music of the Beatles. And while he probably knows more about the music he teaches than almost anyone in the city, he also plays the music he preaches about as well as anyone in the city.
"I’m a rock ’n’ roller who has delved deeply into the roots to the point of being able not just to hear it, know it and understand it, but also to be able to play it to some extent," explains Morrison, who was born in Victoria but has lived, performed and taught here since 1984.
Morrison will furnish ample proof of his musical acumen in his 13th Annual Roots of Rock & Roll Concert : Stand by Me, tomorrow evening at Concordia’s Oscar Peterson Concert Hall. As the concert title suggests, Stand by Me is a tribute to the great blues, R&B and soul artists of yesteryear. Morrison will be centre stage, accompanied by 10 musicians - including a three-man horn section - made up from his various combos : the Momentz, the Never-Be Brothers and Vintage Wine.
Unfortunately, there’s no dance floor in the venue, for patrons will certainly have the urge to get down and get hoofin’ to performances of the best from Chuck Berry, Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, Ben E. King, Smokey Robinson, the Temptations, Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin and James Brown - and to grope to Morrison et al’s rendering of Percy Sledge’s When a Man Loves a Woman.
Though the music from the aforementioned rates as some of the finest feel-good or feel-bluesy of all time, the reality is that much of it gets very little airplay these days.
This concert could be the next best thing to a trip back in time - almost a half-century back, to the late great Esquire Show Bar on Stanley St.
"When I teach my class, the students know some of these tunes from catching Blues Brothers movies or California Raisins commercials," says Morrison. "But this music has played such an integral role, not just in the industry but in the lives of so many for so long.
"This music was born out of hardship, yet resounds with a spirit of perseverance and affirmation. It touches such a range of feelings and emotions : desperation and hope ; love and praise ; accusation and reconciliation. And it also just makes you want to dance ! Many R&B and soul singers took songs from country and pop sources and did them in their own way. Likewise, lots of rock and pop artists borrowed from R&B and soul."
Morrison the ethnomusicologist is also putting together his third book, a two-volume affair called Pioneers of Rock and Roll and Its Roots, which will be based on interviews he’s conducted with more than 100 veteran singer/songwriters. His most recent interview took place in New Orleans with Roosevelt Jamison, who wrote That’s How Strong My Love Is. An indication of just how strong that song has been is that it was first recorded by O.V. Wright, then Otis Redding, then the Rolling Stones and now will be performed by Morrison and his merry minstrels in concert tomorrow.
And for those who feel like shaking it up, Morrison and Vintage Wine hold their next monthly Rock and Roll Dance Party Feb. 12 at the Wheel Club, 3373 Cavendish Blvd.
The 12th Annual Roots of Rock and Roll Concert
That’ll Be the Day : Buddy Holly & Friends Remembered
The concert marked the 50th anniversary of the death of Buddy Holly in a plane crash that also killed Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper. At the time they were on tour with Dion and the Belmonts. The music of Holly and the others were highlighted, along with some of their early influences. Some songs by later artists, including the Beatles, who took inspiration from Buddy Holly were also featured.
Concert Review : That’ll Be the Day : Buddy Holly & Friends Remembered
By Bernard Perusse 02-07-2009. Published on the Montreal Gazette website
Sold out ? Please. They were turning people away at Craig Morrison’s Buddy Holly tribute show in Concordia University’s Oscar Peterson Concert Hall last night. Disappointed Holly fans expecting a rocking evening out stood forlornly in the lobby as their plans for the night receded like the fade-out on an old single.
While it’s logical to conclude that the utter perfection of Holly’s two-and-a-half minute masterpieces was the big draw, let’s not sell the band short. Morrison and a revolving-door ensemble made up of members of the Momentz, Vintage Wine and the Never-Be Brothers rocked up an insightfully-chosen set of classics by Holly and his contemporaries. It was a night of songs from one of the most enduring bodies of work in rock n’ roll history, delivered with self-effacing devotion by true believers playing the hell out of them. And, hard as it may be to comprehend, Morrison was actually running a fever.
The presentation was scholarly — with clearly-defined sections like Holly’s Country Roots, Rock n’ Roll Stars and Hit Records — and the audience was, perhaps, subdued by the overly-polite setting (This would have made a killer bar show !), but That’ll Be the Day : Buddy Holly & Friends Remembered was a joyous celebration in which toe-tapping and quiet singing along were reluctantly standing in for howls of delight.
Standouts during the first set included rockabilly slappers like Midnight Shift and Blue Days, Black Nights and instantly-recognizable Holly standards like Everyday and Oh Boy, but it was the early part of the second set — an attempted reconstruction of highlights from Holly’s last show at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa — that was the masterstroke. The historical accuracy was impressive (How many people know that Holly opened his set that night with Gotta Travel On ?), but a dramatic sense of doom set in as hits by the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens were exhumed. Songs influenced by Holly, covers that were hits for other artists and some of his final compositions drew the night to a conclusion, with touching, spirited versions of Wishing and It Doesn’t Matter Anymore among the highlights.
When I saw the Holly-bio stage play Buddy in London, Eng., 10 years ago, I bought a T-shirt commemorating the musical (which, by the way, was superb). I left it untouched all these years, thinking it was too sacred to be worn casually. Figuring there would never be a more appropriate occasion to take it out of its plastic-bag container, I wore it to Morrison’s tribute show. And my hunch was right : there’s no room for museum pieces when it comes to music this vital.
11th, 2008 : "Great Balls of Fire : Memphis Blues, Country, Rock and Soul" Craig Morrison & the Momentz, Vintage Wine, the Never-Be Brothers, and guests.
Jay Whiting : master of ceremonies
Jeanne Bowser : master of ceremonies, vocals
Craig Morrison : piano, guitar, vocals (CM&Mz, VW, NBB)
Gary Sharkey : drums, vocals (Vintage Wine)
Ryan Fleury : upright & electric bass, vocals (Vintage Wine)
Alex Nesrallah : guitar, keyboards, vocals (Never-Be Brothers)
Bill Bland : fiddle (Hillbilly Night)
Rod Booth : fiddle (Momentz original member)
Steve Solo : vocals (Momentz original member)
Guillaume Ozoux : guitar, vocals (Rockabilly Filly)
Eddy Blake : upright bass (the Cockroaches)
Angela Galuppo : vocals
Meghan Proudfoot : vocals
BellA : vocals
Dave Turner : alto sax
Franco Proietti : tenor sax
Melissa Pipe : baritone sax
Laurent Menard : trumpet
more photos and a film clip from this show are here (click on "photos" and "video")
Memphis, Tennessee, a port city on the Mississippi River, faces the state of Arkansas with the state of Mississippi close by to the south. It is renowned for its blues heritage, from W.C. Handy, The Father of the Blues (“The Memphis Blues” of 1912 and “The Beale Street Blues”), to The Memphis Jug Band and Cannon’s Jug Stompers, and big stars like Memphis Minnie and Memphis Slim.
In the 1950s, the legendary Sun record label launched rhythm and blues musicians like Ike Turner and Rosco Gordon, and country and rockabilly artists, including Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Warren Smith, Charlie Rich, and Jerry Lee Lewis. In the 1960s rock bands such as the Box Tops and Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs recorded in Memphis, while the soul labels Stax, Atlantic, and Hi made classic records with Rufus Thomas and his daughter Carla, Wilson Pickett, Eddie Floyd, Sam and Dave, Otis Redding, Ann Peebles, and Dusty Springfield. The concert featured songs by all of them.
by Pina Luscri, published in The Concordian, February 5, 2008
As Craig Morrison proudly walked on stage and sat at the piano, it was apparent the audience was in for a treat Friday night at Concordia’s Oscar Peterson Concert Hall.
It was the Eleventh Annual Roots of Rock and Roll concert featuring a whole team of players - Craig Morrison and the Momentz, Vintage Wine, The Never-Be Brothers and a slew of other guests. They were there to perform classics from the early 20th century to the 1970’s, from early Memphis blues to Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley and Dusty Springfield.
Music is obviously a big part of Morrison’s life : he sings, plays the guitar and piano, composes and teaches music history at Concordia.
"It’s a passion that started in my youth," he said. "It comes from my mother. She collected records, which is unusual for a woman. She always loved music. It was a way for me to have something nice in common with my mom. We still get together to talk about music."
The atmosphere was light as Morrison led the band throughout the evening. He joked with the audience and educated them with a mini history lesson of the songs he was about to perform. He has a natural knack for interacting with a crowd, even encouraging them to sing along. His sincere delivery seemed to give more meaning to the already profound lyrics of the songs.
The bands alternated, with a total of 18 musicians taking the stage in groups. It was nice to see veterans of the music scene performing side-by-side with up-and-coming young talents. There seemed to be a genuine connection between all of them as they were playing and singing to each other, as well as the audience. Each song was sung with precision, paying homage to the original artists.
Guillaume Ozoux, a member of the band Rockabilly Filly, was a clear highlight. His Elvis Presley covers were earnest and authentic. Still, he made the covers his own, shaking his hips in a way that would have made Presley proud.
Bella stood out when it came to vocals. Her wailing performance made you wonder why she wasn’t yet topping the album charts with her soulful renditions.
Morrison is clearly proud of all the hard work and dedication he puts in year and after year.
"It’s partly the love of music [that keeps me going]. It’s partly what music can bring. It can create a sense of community. That’s what these annual shows are about. They’re about building and fostering a sense of community, not just among the musicians, but among the audience too. Because I see the power of music, I’ve become somewhat of an ambassador," he said.
The audience was clearly pleased : dancing throughout and laughing as the musicians exchanged playful banter. Christopher Franco, a student of Morrison’s rock and roll history class, was impressed with the set.
"It’s great to see him in a different light and in his element. It’s what he does best. He’s able to play all these different genres and bring them together effortlessly."
Vicki Rossi, also a student of Morrison’s, enjoyed the performances as well. "It was fun and upbeat. It’s exciting to see a community come together, especially in such horrible weather."
When asked what feeling he would like the audience to get as they’re listening to his music, Morrison simply said "joy."
10th, 2007 : "Blue Moon : Pop and Rock Through the Decades" Craig Morrison & the Momentz, Vintage Wine, the Never-Be Brothers, and guests.
Craig Morrison : vocals, guitar, piano (Momentz, VW, NBB)
Pierre Gauthier : drums, percussion(Momentz)
Ryan Fleury : bass (Vintage Wine)
Gary Sharkey : drums, vocals (Vintage Wine)
Alex Nesrallah : vocals, guitars, keyboards (Never-Be Brothers)
Dave Turner : sax
Bet.E : vocals (formerly of Bet.E and Stef)
John "Lew Dite" Parsons : vocals, ukulele
Jeanne Bowser : MC and vocals
Wray Downes : piano
Madeleine ThÃ©riault : vocals
Meghan Proudfoot : vocals
Angela Galuppo : vocals
by Chelsea Oliver, published in The Concordian, January 31, 2007
Buddy hiccupped his way to stardom. Elvis rocked out in his blue suede shoes. John, Paul, George, and Ringo started a revolution.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for - well - your entire life, you’re at least somewhat acquainted with these song legends. Their timeless sound will carry on for generations and generations to come. They are some of the most influential figures in the history of pop-culture, having developed rock and roll, forever changing the way we listen to music.
But where did their influence come from ? How did this incomparable style of music come about ?
Forget your conventional history course when you register for Craig Morrison’s Rock & Roll and its Roots, where musical foundations are explored and it’s not an uncommon trend to break out into song at any given moment (musically-challenged students need not fear ; this course is designed for those outside of the Music Program).
Morrison brings his own passion for music into the classroom, a passion that enveloped him when he was a young child growing up in Victoria and has shown no sign of letting him out of its grasp. Intrigued by the pumping of the pedals, like "watching a ghost play," on the family’s player piano, he became familiar with a collection of old songs. Though he’s managed a rare feat by turning his love of music into a livelihood, he says that back in his adolescent days, it was simply the trend.
"The high school band movement was much stronger than it is now and we [joined] the high school band because every kid [joined] the high school band. And when The Beatles came ... I picked up a guitar because everybody picked up a guitar. So it didn’t immediately present itself as something I could do for a living."
Once the time came to choose a path, however, Morrison stuck to what he knew best. "When I got to be about 18 I started to think more about what excited me the most and what direction I wanted to go in and I was able to go to music school in Boston. That’s one thing I’m really thankful for."
Morrison, who finally emerged from York University as an ethnomusicologist, says of his job, "I’m interested in not just what the music sounds like but why it sounds the way it does."
With two books under his belt, the Rock and Roll volume of the encyclopedia set American Popular Music Collection and Go Cat Go ! Rockabilly Music and its Makers, which functions as a required reading for his class, Morrison may just know a thing or two in his field.
And evidently, you really can’t have too much of a good thing. Morrison is involved in not one, not two, but three different bands. You can imagine his discography.
He joined Vintage Wine several years ago, a party-playing retro band that specializes in music from the 1950s to 1980s.
He is also involved in a harmonious duo called the Never-Be Brothers. "We’re like the Everly Brothers, but not quite," chuckles Morrison of the group’s clever title. "The duo is for the love of singing and harmonies. Our record has a bit of the old standards, a bit of The Beatles kind of era and some of the country classics. If you trace a line, The Beatles sing the way they do because the Everly Brothers and groups like that sang like that from the country tradition. We’re kind of putting all that back together," a choice he says came naturally, especially since they often play at The Wheel Club, specifically, the club’s successful Hillbilly Night.
Then there is The Momentz. Morrison co-formed the band in 1985 after becoming tired of playing the "wedding circuit" and wanting to play more original material, the new group functioning as his creative outlet.
"We concentrated on just original music but of course we didn’t get too much work so little by little we started introducing other types of music. But The Momentz always had a more artistic side. We played either our own songs or songs that we felt like doing but didn’t feel obligated to do and we could do them any way we wanted."
They have since stopped playing regularly, but reunite once a year for the annual performance.
On top of that, Morrison does volunteer work once a week singing and playing music for patients in the Palliative Care Unit of the Montreal General Hospital, a gesture he says is rewarding not just for the patients. "I think any kind of volunteer work is very rewarding. I think society needs all it can get."
"I’ve been in rooms where you can feel like death is right there ; it’s coming tonight or tomorrow. I’ll just try to play something that they know and they like. One of the most touching things I’ve ever seen was a man literally dying today or tomorrow ... and at one point I actually saw his toe moving in time to the music. The power of music [goes] right to the end. [All the volunteers] are experiencing something extremely poignant and that brings us together too."
And in addition to the classroom he occupies at Concordia, Morrison offers courses for fun, and private music lessons. "It’s a busy life. It has its ups and downs, but it’s the life I chose and the life I enjoy."
The Momentz’ annual concert will take place at Concordia’s Oscar Peterson Concert Hall this Friday, Feb. 2, a date that holds great significance in the music world. "The first [concert we played on that date] was just total chance but every one of them has been the first weekend of February and I very quickly realized, this is the day when the music was supposed to have died," says Morrison of the anniversary that provoked Don McLean to write American Pie, the anniversary of Buddy Holly’s death.
9th, 2006 : "ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK : Rock and Roll’s Golden Age" Craig Morrison & the Momentz : John McDiarmid (keyboards), Pierre Gauthier (drums, percussion), Daniel Hubert (bass), plus guests :
Gary Sharkey (drums, vocals) of Vintage Wine
Steve Solo (vocals, Momentz co-founder)
Alex Nesrallah (of the Never-Be Brothers)
Jeanne Bowser (vocals)
Dave Turner (sax).
review by Luc Landry
Friday, February the 3rd, 2006, the Oscar Peterson Hall hosted the 9th Annual Roots of Rock n’ Roll Concert. This year’s event entitled “Rock around the Clock : The Golden Age of Rock n’ Roll”, was organized once again by Craig Morrison. The decor was simple, yet sufficient, and the sound was appropriate ; not too loud nor too soft.
From the first notes of Ritchie Valens’ “Come On Let’s Go,” the crowd knew it was in for a trip back to the old days. Other titles performed included Buddy Holly’s “Everyday” and “That’ll Be the Day,” as well as Elvis Presley’s “She’s Not You” and “Don’t Be Cruel,” ending with the title song of the concert, “Rock around the Clock” from Bill Haley and the Comets.
Craig Morrison was backed-up by John McDiarmid and Pierre Gauthier of the Momentz, as well as Daniel Hubert and Gary Sharkey from Vintage Wine. Other performers were Dave Turner on the saxophone, Jeanne Bowser, Steve Solo, and Alex Nesrallah on vocals. Dancers complemented the musical performance.
Immediately after the first song, you could see Craig Morrison’s ease and earthiness. He performs naturally, and intimately. Craig’s relationship with the crowd is instantaneous and amusing. It is obvious that he is at home on the stage. One left with the impression that he/she had just participated in a close, intimate concert for 20 people ; however, the concert hall was full. One of the strongest moments of the night was Craig’s interpretation of Buddy Holly’s “Raining in my Heart” dedicated to... Buddy Holly. Before the song, Craig Morrison talked about how the performance of this song from one of Holly’s band mates inspired him to integrate the song to the program.
Both Morrison and the band played with energy and a sort of nostalgia. The professionalism of the performers peaked through. The variety of singers enhanced the concert. It enabled the audience to hear several styles of singing. From Jeanne Bowser’s innocent voice in “My Boyfriend’s Back” to Gary Sharkey’s powerful and romantic singing on “Unchained Melody.”
The audience liked every moment of the night. Two sets full of their favourite Rock n’ Roll tunes played just like in the good old days. The crowd sang along to the songs they knew well and hummed to the ones they could not remember the words to. In all, the show was great. The tickets, averaging between five and ten dollars, were quite affordable and worth more than the price paid, the performance energetic, and the songs well picked. The concert is definitely among the best that Montreal has to offer in the roots genre. And as it was pointed out at the concert, the music has not died.
review by Simon Gee
The intimate concert hall was filled to seating capacity, with an audience ranging from students to seniors. Craig Morrison took center stage with a rousing performance of Ritchie Valens’ “Come On Let’s Go” and ended with a rendition of Bill Haley and the Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock” as an encore.
Accompanying Morrison on guitar was a small three piece ensemble, with John McDiarmid on piano, Pierre Gauthier and Gary Sharkey sharing drum duties, and Daniel Hubert on bass. Many special guests contributed to the performances throughout the night, including Dave Turner on sax ; local Montreal actress Jeanne Bowser sharing vocal and background harmonies ; Steve Solo on vocals and guitar ; Alex Nesrallah of the duo, Never-Be-Brothers (Craig Morrison is the other member), on vocals and guitar ; and lastly, the riveting jiving dancing performances of The Jivers which brought about a nostalgic feeling with the proper attire and dance crazes of that time.
The musicians were exquisitely competent with their musicianship...the professionalism and enthusiasm of the band was clearly nothing but strong and present. Morrison’s guitar solos and fingering technique was alive and to the mark. A sweet duet between Jeanne Bowser and Morrison with a rendition of Dale and Grace’s “I’m Leaving It All Up to You” brought a flavor of great harmonizing and a great example of duets of that era. Morrison got the audience literally to their feet with the audience’s vocal and dance participation on the song “Come Go With Me” by the Dell-Vikings. It was one of the great highlights of the night ; a refreshing idea, considering most concerts today are just “sit and listen.”
The show was filled with fabulous music from “the vaults.” Instead of rehashing old songs that may already be known too well...Morrison and his band performed a superb set that carried the era to an audience who otherwise might never have experienced it before. It’s an educational experience of a “lost artistry.” A pinnacle point in musical history was shared with a lucky crowd fortunate enough to witness live the “Golden Age of Rock & Roll” !
review by Doug Stephenson
On Friday February 3 2006, Craig Morrison & the Momentz and their guests had the Oscar Peterson Concert Hall hopping to the sound of the 9th Annual Roots Rock and Roll show, called Rock Around the Clock : The Golden Age of Rock and Roll. The concert hall was almost full with over 400 tickets sold. The show featured Craig Morrison on lead (electric) guitar, vocals and piano, Dan Hubert on electric and upright bass, Dave Turner on alto and baritone sax, Jeanne Bowser and Steve Solo on back-up vocals, John McDiarmid on piano, Pierre Gauthier on drums, Gary Sharkey on drums and vocals, and Alex Nesrallah on vocals and acoustic guitar.
The music in the first half of the show included Buddy Holly’s “Every Day,” Big Joe Turner’s “Shake Rattle & Roll,” and Chuck Berry’s “Brown Eyed Handsome Man.” After the brief intermission they proceeded chronologically with hits like Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues” by Eddie Cochran, “I Fought the Law” by the Bobby Fuller Four, and “Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison. During many of the numbers played, there were up to six couples jive-dancing on stage, adding additional ambiance to the show.
The crowd’s response to the show was very positive. The sax playing of Dave Turner was exceptional. Gary Sharkey’s singing was excellent and his enthusiasm contagious, especially when he sang the Righteous Brothers song “Unchained Melody.” Morrison involved the audience in the show by having them sing back-up for the Del Vikings’ “Come Go With Me.” He also entertained the crowd with interesting and informative anecdotes between the songs.
This show was a prime example that even with the death of many of the great artists who made these songs famous, most notably Buddy Holly in 1959, the music didn’t die. There is clearly a desire by many performers to keep playing this music and the full house suggests that there is still an audience interested in hearing it played. Craig Morrison is an ethnomusicologist especially interested in early rock & roll and this performance demonstrated his desire (and achievement) in maintaining this tradition of excellence.
8th, 2005 : "HEY ! MR. TAMBOURINE MAN" Folk and Folk Rock, with Craig Morrison & the Momentz, Vintage Wine, Lew Dite with Terry Joe Banjo, Gerry Kandestin, and Mike O’Brien and Friends. The repertoire included songs by Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, the Byrds, the Lovin’ Spoonful, Simon and Garfunkel, Gordon Lightfoot, and R.E.M. as well as traditional and newly composed songs.
by Sarah Geledi. Published in The Concordian : Concordia’s Weekly Independent Student Newspaper, Wednesday, February 2, 2005
Craig Morrison is many things. He’s an ethnomusicologist, an author, a teacher, and a performer. Recently, he realized that what he really is, an ambassador for music. For the past eight years, he has been presenting his annual Roots of Rock and Roll concert, a showcase of Montreal’s roots musical community, at Oscar Peterson Hall during the first weekend of February.
Since the event’s fifth year, it has had a specific theme ranging from The British Invasion’s 40th anniversary to the 50th anniversary of Hank Williams’ death. This year, the theme is folk and folk rock and its title "Hey ! Mr. Tambourine Man," is a nod to the song, which is known as the first folk rock hit in 1965.
The concert wasn’t conceived as an annual event from the start. Morrison explained the first weekend in February was the anniversary date of Buddy Holly’s death, commonly referred to as the day the music died. "Quickly on, I realized that one of the things I was trying to do was to let people know that the music never died," the organizer said over a cup of Earl Grey in his Outremont home.
In his own way, Morrison is like folk song hunter Alan Lomax and John Hammond, the famed producer and organizer of the Spirituals to Swing concert, which brought black music into the white spotlight for the first time. Interestingly enough, Hammond and Lomax have a direct relation to this year’s theme. Lomax is the most important folklorist of the past century, and Hammond discovered Bob Dylan, the man credited with turning folk music into folk rock in 1965.
The "music ambassador" has assembled a line-up of some of Montreal’s finest roots musicians. These include Lew Dite, Gerry Kandestin, Mike O’Brien and Vintage Wine as opening acts. Craig Morrison & the Momentz will take care of the second half. The night’s musical repertoire consists of songs by Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan, The Byrds, Lovin’ Spoonful, Simon and Garfunkel, Gordon Lightfoot, R.E.M., as well as traditional and newly composed songs. "It’s evolved into a community event and I’m very, very happy about that," Morrison added enthusiastically.
Although the annual event’s first audiences were students from the teacher’s roots of rock and roll class, it always attracted outside people as well. Today there are multi-generational families in attendance, from "the grannies with their walkers, to six year-old kids." "I’ve been concerned over the years that little kids can’t hear live music. [Also] where music used to be, it’s not there anymore and where it is now is always associated with alcohol," said Morrison. "So that’s a part of the momentum...to make an all ages show."
Other than performing and talking about music (he is like a walking music encyclopedia), Morrison loves informing others about it. "I love to turn that light bulb on for somebody, because I did a lot of it myself by putting the pieces together." Being the music advocator he is, Morrison is in the process of editing his rock and roll encyclopedia. "Who could imagine music would need an ambassador ?"
7th, 2004 : "BRITISH INVASION 40th ANNIVERSARY SHOW" with the Craig Morrison & the Momentz, the Lew Dite Skiffle Group, Ian Cooney & the Rockafellas, and Vintage Wine. The 7th annual concert celebrated the music of the British Invasion, 40 years after, almost to the day, that the Beatles first appeared on television in America on the Ed Sullivan Show.
6th, 2003 : "THE MUSIC NEVER DIED" with Jitterbug Swing, the Lew Dite Skiffle Group, Bob Fuller & the Wandering Hillbillies, Slim Sandy & the Shady Rhythm Cats, Blind, Ronnie Hayward, Craig Morrison & the Momentz. A showcase of Montreal musicians, proving that roots music traditions are alive and well.
by Hanna Munneke, published in The Concordian : Concordia’s Weekly Independent Student Newspaper, February 5, 2003
The Oscar Peterson Concert Hall was transformed into a swingin’ back porch-style jam session last Friday, as music enthusiasts gathered together for the sixth annual Roots of Rock and Roll concert, an eight act jubilee featuring some of the top players in Montreal’s roots scene.
Craig Morrison, the concert’s organizer, is an ethnomusicologist who teaches a class at Concordia called "Rock and Roll and its Roots." The event began as an opportunity to bring the music of his class to the ears of his students. After three years the event grew from a one-act piece with Morrison’s band The Momentz into a multi-band spectacle of down-home sounds.
"This is my missionary work in its own way," he said. "First to let the people of Montreal know that this great music exists, and second to build a sense of community." That sense of community was precisely what was unique about Friday night. The hall seemed to shrink as it filled with people. A spontaneous aural communication arose between musicians, instruments, and audience, allowing a head bobbing, knee slappin’ excitement to permeate the air from beginning to end. Performers joked with their audience and called them by name. The theatre cheered, stomped and sang along from their seats.
Jitterbug Swing’s Danielle Lemieux tapped her tiny toes atop a washtub bass, singing out of the lazy side of her mouth, as she plucked the blues from a single string, accompanied by a sunglassed Brian Edgar on his blinding chrome resonator guitar.
Ron Hayward cradled his stand-up bass as though it were a slow-dancing lady, dipping it as he leaned over to whisper "Whiskey Kisses" into the microphone. Bob Fuller and the checkered shirt Wandering Hillbillies belted out darlin’ old ballads and hay bale jigs in round jolly voices that tickled a temptation to two-step.
Also dedicated to preserving the tradition of the roots of rock and roll were performers from The Lew Dite Skiffle Group, Craig Morrison’s The Momentz, Slim Sandy, and Blind. The musical conversation was soulful and concise, while the harmonic storytelling of lost loves was enough to make a hound dog howl.
Morrison feels that the human element is what is so special about Roots music. "I think it’s important to maintain the tradition of musical communication," he said. "There’s always an element of chance, a spontaneity. Audiences feel the sincerity. It touches them, that’s what it’s all about."
Commemorating the deaths of Buddy Holly, the concert’s "patron saint" and Hank Williams, "the king of country music", the concert always falls on the first weekend in February. The theme, "the music never dies", is a rebuttal of the song "American Pie", which claims that music died with Holly, at the end of the 1950s. After the last act, Morrison exclaimed to the cheering audience, "We’re here to tell you and show you that the music never died, folks !" Not with these guys around. Next year the Oscar Peterson Concert Hall may want to clear space for a dance floor.
5th, 2002 : "FROM SKIFFLE TO PSYCHEDELIC" with Craig Morrison & the Momentz, Jitterbug Swing, and the Lew Dite Skiffle Group. A journey through musical genres and styles.
4th, 2001 : "THE ROOTS OF ROCK AND ROLL" with Craig Morrison & the Momentz, Lew Dite, and Bob Fuller and the Wandering Hillbillies. The CD Live at the Oscar by Craig Morrison & the Momentz is from this show.
3rd, 2000 : "OLD NEW BORROWED AND BLUE" with Craig Morrison & the Momentz
2nd, 1999 : "OLD NEW BORROWED AND BLUE" with Craig Morrison & the Momentz. Parts of this show can be heard on the Rocket Radio CD.
1st annual, 1998 : "OLD NEW BORROWED AND BLUE" with Craig Morrison & the Momentz