Birthday Boost for Heartthrob
Local Musician Lays Down Tracks for Hollywood Horror Film
By Susan Maxwell Skinner
Homegrown star Todd Morgan poses for a 24th birthday portrait in Carmichael Park.
Photos by Susan Maxwell Skinner
CARMICHAEL, CA (MPG) - It might be a great leap—nobody ever heard of Steppenwolf before Easy Rider—or a small step toward fame for baby-faced heart throb Todd Morgan. One way or another, having original songs in a movie is a super 24th birthday gift for the young performer.
“It all came out of the blue,” says the Rio Americano graduate. “The movie producers needed original music in the 1950s style. Someone I met at an LA industry trade event told them about me.”
The upcoming movie is called All American Horror. It is independently produced and stars Julia Robert’s brother, Eric Roberts. YouTube has the official trailer. As credits roll, Sacramento rock fans will recognize Morgan hammering at keyboards and singing.
“I had to re-record the tracks; I worried that my voice might be different (he cut parts of the album at 16) but I think I sound better now.” Evidently in accord, the film makers selected six songs for the score. No one will become rich from the deal. “It’s not a big-budget movie,” Morgan admits. “I’m not banking on anything huge from this. I’m just happy it’s happening.”
Billed as a “Rock & Roll Earthquake,” Morgan became a State Fair draw at 15.
He and his back up group, the Emblems, have more than 2000 regular followers who will be equally elated. Morgan has been a star and a pro musician since he was 15. The teenage phenomenon paid dues at fairs, park concerts, street festivals and car shows. Although parishioners seldom see him on Sundays (he usually sleeps late after Saturday gigs), American River Community Church goers cheered his recent Carmichael concert. “I may not get to church but I’m still a believer,” he asserts. “Even if I make it really big, I’ll still do things for people around here. I enjoy feeling I’m part of a community.”
From his childhood debut, the community has supported Morgan. Girls screamed when he danced at Garfield Elementary talent shows. Screams continued at Winston Churchill Middle School. By then, the dancer augmented his act with boogie-woogie piano. “My parents got me a little keyboard when I was five,” he recalls. “I didn’t get serious about playing till I was 11.”
During his most formative musical years, Morgan was known at Rio Americano High as “that kid who plays piano.” No one knew he could sing. When he wailed “St James Infirmary” at a Carmichael Kiwanis Jazz Festival, a multi-talent was born. “Some people think I have a girlish voice,” he admits. “It’s not insulting. Vocalists who’ve influenced me—like Michael Jackson, James Brown and some early Delta blues singers—sang like raw, soulful women.” For the record, Morgan is a regular guy. Girls who engage him on band breaks are not wasting their time. “I like pretty girls,” he says. “But my ideal relationship is where you can both be yourself. You like to put your best foot forward, but it’s good when that best foot is the real you.”
Parents Jerry and Barbara Morgan are the rising star’s roadies and supporters.
The Morgan home evokes Partridge Family memories. The wunderkind’s drums, guitar, and piano occupy the front room; his teenage “Rock & Roll Earthquake” posters complete the décor. A calendar, averaging 10 gigs or recording dates per month, is pinned to the wall. Parents Barbara and Jerry are managers/roadies/techies and devoted supporters.
“When your kid wants to be an entertainer, it’s like wanting to be in the NBA,” says Jerry Morgan. “The odds against success are tremendous. But we never discouraged Todd. Music’s always been his Plan A; he’s never had a Plan B. “Maybe he’ll get his own place one day. But we like having him here. Sometimes I hear him working on a song at 3 a.m. I get up and listen and think, wow, this is really good stuff.”
The irony of an untarnished kid penning adult love songs before his teens was not lost on parents, nor on anyone privy to Morgan’s extreme youth. “I am romantic,” the singer considers. “With my music, you have to be. I’m naturally drawn to the mystique of things. When I hear songs like ‘West End Blues’ or ‘Chinatown’ by Louis Armstrong, I feel I’m in a different world.”
Todd Morgan’s recent Carmichael Park performance drew a mixed aged crowd.
Though 50s and 60s covers are gig staples, Morgan’s biggest kick comes when fans request his original tunes. “If people have my CDs it’s no surprise,” he considers. “But I’m still honored if they put my music is the same class as some of their favorites.”
Another feather in his pompadour is the age mix that makes Morgan’s audiences resemble Paul McCartney crowds. “I love it when older people say my songs sound like ‘real music’, he smiles. If I reach a bigger stage, I don’t want my mom to wonder what my music’s about. People who supported me early in my career are always going to be important. My aim is to make people happy. To me, that’s a respectable goal.”
Todd Morgan and the Emblems will headline for the Chicken Festival in Fair Oaks Village on September 20. Learn more about the artist at www.toddmorganandtheemblems.com.