We are sad to say that the great Tommy Morgan has passed. Tommy Morgan was probably the most heard and least seen harmonica player, having been involved in thousands of recording sessions and over 700 movie and TV soundtracks during his lifetime.
Tommy Morgan played on over 7,000 recording sessions after landing his first session with Decca Records, at the age of 18 in 1950.
A “Special Lifetime Achievement Award” was presented to him by SPAH at the SPAH Convention in Denver in 2001.
Tommy Morgan has been one of the most active harmonica players in Hollywood film and TV soundtracks since the 1960s. He played the harmonica for Rowlf the Dog in The Muppet Movie. He also backed Bob McGrath on his 1974 album Bob McGrath Sings for All the Boys and Girls (for Disneyland Records).
Morgan’s distinctive harmonica was heard on countless TV themes, from the rustic 1960s comedies The Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction to the opening rhythms of Sanford and Son, the harmonica solo in the middle of The Rockford Files, The Dukes of Hazzard, Maverick, Perfect Strangers, and others. He also appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show and The Jimmy Dean Show. He’s been heard in episode scores for The Twilight Zone, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (recording his own composition for a street busker), all of the Roots miniseries and specials, Family Guy, and The Simpsons.
In film soundtracks, Morgan was heard throughout Cool Hand Luke (with Paul Newman), played harmonica for Billy Crystal in City Slickers, handled the campfire scene in Blazing Saddles, and lent his skills to My Fair Lady, Back to the Future III, Rocky II, Dances with Wolves, and Willie Dynamite (starring Roscoe Orman. Heard on several Pixar soundtracks (including Ratatouille and Cars), and Morgan played harmonica (his own short composition) for Hamm in Toy Story 3. As a session musician in records since the 1960s, Morgan backed Elvis Presley, the Beach Boys (“Good Vibrations”), Linda Ronstadt, Ray Charles, Dinah Shore, and the Carpenters.
In this video Tommy talks about and performs some of the best known examples in a concert he gave at the SPAH Convention in Denver in 2001. It is illustrated by some of the original recordings. Video archive and content courtesy of Roger Trobridge.
Tommy Morgan at SPAH Convention 2001, Denver CO
And some more great content about Tommy here