When he works the MTS late shift, Henry Wallace takes on different routes until he gets off at 3 a.m.
“I’ll pick up domestic workers who are getting off work at the Hotel Del who are going back to Tijuana. I’ll take homeless people down to the border at two or three in the morning where they’ll sleep at the McDonald’s or Jack in the Box. Some will cross over the border because they found a place to sleep there. I’ll pick up inmates at 1:30 in the morning where they just got out of jail.”
Wallace, 65, admits he spent some time behind bars. “I was on drugs for quite a while…. I finally snapped out of it and got myself together.” That was in 2007, and he’s still charging hard, including his drive to bring soul music to San Diego.
“Captain Morgan Lee was created to bring back soul, R&B, and funk,” he says of his onstage soulman alter-ego. “We don’t see much of that out here.” The singer put together Village of K.O.R.E. to back him up. “They are four white guys. It stands for Kings of Rhythm and Blues Entertainment.”
As opposed to some other “pop vinyl” cover bands that he says specialize in dance hits by Lionel Richie or Kool & the Gang hits, Wallace wants to revive meatier soul tunes by James Brown, Barry White, and Aretha Franklin.
“San Diego is known more as a blues town,” says Wallace. “We want people to know soul and R&B can get it done..... Lady Dottie is timeless,” he says of the namesake soul belter of Lady Dottie and the Diamonds. “She’s older than me. She’s over 70 and she’s got every one of every age and every race crashing the door to come see her.”
While he frequently adds black anthems by Curtis Mayfield or Marvin Gaye to his live set, Wallace doesn’t mention his days (1967–’75) he was an active member of the local Black Panthers.
“I had a 1960 Corvair that became one of the first Black Panther cars. My job as transportation officer was helping people like Eldridge Cleaver and Stokley Carmichael get where they needed to go…. San Diego State College and the Black Student Union was the heart of the Black Panthers.”
He says while he was often stopped and harassed by the cops, he never was arrested for subversive activity because it didn’t happen. “The Panthers were about serving breakfasts to needy children at Christ the King church at 32nd and Imperial.” He says the violence associated with the Panthers was due to “Misinformation and counterintelligence they sent out against black and Hispanic groups. Just like they said Martin Luther King had a mistress. J. Edgar Hoover was all about that. Come to find out he was an undercover girl.”
Captain Morgan Lee appears February 17 at 7:30 p.m. at the Artist BBQ Lounge in Playas de Tijuana (Paseo Pedregal, # 130), noted for its Southern-style soul food. Free admission.