“I can do Keith Richards. All I need is to do is get a skull ring and a bottle of whiskey.”
John Morse may reside in Cohoes, but best as he can he lives the classic British rock star role. At 42, he admits he’s slowed down a little. Now, he goes to bed at dawn. Twenty years ago he would stay up for three days straight, crash and then do it again. Now he’s trying to convince vocalist Tommy Love to do a Rolling Stones tribute band. After all, Love looks like an overgrown Mick Jagger. He sings most of the Stones repertoire, and when he’s on stage he’s channeling Mick. Together, they’re a red Silverado with a full load on a down hill run. You can see them in action Tuesdays at Savannah’s open jam in Albany. Better yet, catch them Saturday with 10 other bands at the John Morse benefit at the Tugboat Tavern, 159 Bridge Ave. in Cohoes.
“Started out it was just going to be me and another band,” says Morse about Saturday’s tribute show. He’s been doing a Thursday night jam at the Tugboat long enough to outlast two owners. “Whenever they sell the business, I come with the building.” The veteran rocker is almost as good at standup comedy as he is full throttle rock and roll. Bands are still calling to get in on Saturday’s marathon which starts at 3 p.m. and Morse figures will go on at least until 4 in the morning.
The bands are all regulars at the jam and want to help Morse in his hour of need. They also undoubtedly want to give the rocker a taste of his own medicine. You see, the benefit is to help defray medical costs for “a groin accident” that happened in the line of duty. Since this is a family newspaper, I’m going to show unusual restraint and leave all snide remarks to your imagination except to say that our local rock star is now able to introduce a speed bump into relations with his wife.
Saturday’s lineup includes acts for every taste. Classic rock will be represented by the John Morse Band, Johnny Rabb, Buck Malen’s new Big Combo band, Ohm’s Law and Second Nature. Rock Garden and Nobody’s Fools are acoustic duos. The Nate Mills Band was last year’s winner in the Northeast Blues Society’s Colossal Contenders contest. Artie Fredette of Positively Fourth Street is playing with his new band Big Hungry and The Pop Tarts. Juice Junkies will offer original rock from their upcoming CD, and Morse is showcasing Acoustic Trauma at 6 p.m. They’re a three-piece band Morse compares to King Crimson doing original music featuring the 12-string guitar and violin of Paul Mucelli. A $10 admission entitles ticket holders to partake in two kegs of beer Morse predicts will be gone in the first two hours.
Morse got out of the hospital on a Friday, and that Saturday afternoon he opened for classic rocker Rick Derringer whose biggest hit “Hang On Sloopy” topped the charts the year Morse was born, 1965. “Derringer is supposed to be born again, but by the end of the night I made sure he had a beer in his hand. Actually, he was pretty staggered by the time he left the place. So, I don’t think he’ll be doing any gigs with me anytime soon,” says Morse with an obvious sense of bravado and pride.
“(At the show,) Rick went to walk away, and my buddy The Hell’s Angel, grabbed him by the shoulders and said, ‘What are you doing walking away from him? You should be asking for his autograph.’ Rick Derringer is like, ‘Uh, uh, uh, I like John. He’s good!’ So, like I said, I don’t think he’s in any hurry to do shows with me for a while. Got grabbed by a Hell’s Angle and I got him drunk.”
Morse may never convince Tommy Love to fully disappear into his Mick Jagger persona, but I don’t know anyone locally who comes closer to the energy and swagger of the Stones than John Morse and his band. Considering the state of local music, the mere fact that he works five or six nights a week is impressive. A week from Friday he plays the Black Cat in Cohoes solo. The next night he’s at Joey’s Troy Bar followed by Positively Fourth Street on the 15th, The Tugbaot Christmas Party with Johnny Rabb on the 22nd, The Black Cat on the 28th and Cheers Roadhouse on the 29th