Saturday, March 2, 2019

This Fan’s Tribute to Jack and Misty


 To my recollection this is the first time in nine years of this blog that I have posted an article on music.  It is an act of necessity.  For years I have been a fan of Jack Blanchard and Misty Morgan, a married couple who have been singing original songs together since 1967 and who I believe deserve considerably more recognition as American songwriters and musicians of note.

My first exposure to their music was driving to work in the 1970s listening to WMAL in Washington, D.C. and a program featuring disc jockeys Frank Harden and Jackson Weaver.  Weaver was a fan of the couple and almost daily played their “Somewhere in Virginia in the Rain.”  I was hooked and still am by that song:

I'm callin' from somewhere in Virginia in the rain,
I never thought I'd hear your voice again,
I heard the windshield wipers callin' out your name,
Somewhere in Virginia in the rain.

Its appeal is the effortless blending of male and female voices in a few simple lines and rhymes to tell the story of a money-short couple who have had an argument.  The man is calling from a road trip to make up — and she is very understanding.  One line told about his windshield patched with cellophane.  That particularly spoke to me, having myself ridden 350 miles in a car like that.

By some chance circumstance, Jack and Misty were born in the same hospital in Buffalo, New York;  Jack in 1942 and Misty in 1945.  Both lived in Ohio as children.  They met in 1963 in Florida, where Blanchard was working as a comedian and Morgan as a pianist.  By 1967 they were married and singing together.  

I am fascinated by the cover photo of what may have been their first album that identifies them as “Early Teenaged Rockers.”  Their subsequent music might have been classified as “country” but never “rock.”  Their novelty song, “Tennessee Bird Walk” made it to the top of the country charts and No. 23 on the pop charts.  The song got them a Grammy nomination for duet of the year. They also did well with other novelty songs like “Legendary Chicken Fairy,” “Humphrey the Camel,” and “Yellow Bellied Sapsucker.” 

Therein, to my mind, lies the difficulty in Jack and Misty being adequately being recognized for their work by the music world.  My experience as a journalist is that if you can write humorous material, something most in the trade cannot, it stereotypes you and shuts out serious reporting.  Something similar, I believe, has befallen Blanchard and Morgan.  Songs like “There’s More to Life,” “Bethlehem Steel,” “Miami Sidewalks,” are artfully crafted lyrics and marvelously sung.  These are just a few of the contributions this couple has made to the American songbook without adequate appreciation.

The last time Jack and Misty made the charts was 1974 with they hit No. 23 with “One More Song.”  During the 1980s and 1990s their careers slowed and they issued only two albums.  The 21st century has seen a revival.  As shown in the photo here they were inducted into the Buffalo Hall of Fame in 2010.  They have established a fan base in Australia, performing there frequently and issuing three albums on that country’s Omni Record label.  Now living in Florida, the couple has established their own record label, called “Velvet Saw.”  On it they have released earlier material as well as new songs.

In 2007, frustrated by my inability to get their music on CDs, I went for answers to their website and quickly had a reply from Jack Blanchard.  Purchasing several of their CDs directly, I received one called “Beginnings” that carried a personal message:  “Dear Jack, Enjoy” and signed by each.  It remains a particularly cherished recording and I play it often.  They also sent me two business cards that I keep as souvenirs.

My hope is that the music world, especially Nashville, will wake up and put Jack Blanchard and Misty Morgan into the Country Music Hall of Fame.  After all others known primarily for novelty songs like Tom T. Hall, Homer & Jethroe, and Grandpa Jones are there.  There should be plenty of room for Jack and Misty.

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