A tribute concert and album release for Jeffrey Joe Morin's posthumous album Don't Get to Know Me is being organized by Jeff Berkley and Morin's fiancée Carina Wheatley. Set for July 17 at the Vision Center for Spiritual Living, the concert will feature local musicians who performed on the album, including the Euphoria Brass Band, Rob Thorsen, Josh Hermsmeier, Sky Ladd, Steph Johnson, Lindsay White, Veronica May, and other longtime contemporaries Yael Gmach, Cathryn Beeks, Gregory Page, Larry Grano, Tori Roze, and more. Morin was unable to complete production of the album before he passed away last summer, but financial contributions from local musicians and supporters have made its release possible.
Morin had long been battling health issues. “Due to hundreds of concrete and asphalt body slams off skateboards and bicycles in the ’60s and ’70s, I’ve practically destroyed my spine,” he told the Reader in 2013. "You know you're old when your best stories are about your surgeries." In late 2015, Morin announced he was cancelling all gigs and his CD release for a couple months, in order to undergo spinal fusion surgery that October.
His musical career spanned over 50 years, though he didn't begin songwriting or recording his own albums until later in his life.
"As soon as I left Mar Vista High School in Imperial Beach in '65, I got drafted and followed my ol' man into the Navy. After flunking out of electronics 'A' school in San Francisco, I was a deckhand and later Craftmaster on tugboats out of Hunter's Point Naval Shipyard. By January of 1969, I was an advisor to the Vietnamese Navy Junk Force's Coastal Group 14 on the Cua Dai River, 40 miles south of Da Nang. We stopped and searched river traffic all day, patrolled and get shot at all night...I killed three Viet Cong fellows in a face-to-face firefight in a swamp on the Cua Dai River in Vietnam in 1969." After his military service, Morin earned a B.F.A. in design from CalArts and began playing in a series of local bands.
"Don't Get to Know Me"
Jeffrey Joe Morin & Trio de Los Besos
In solo performances, Morin specialized in acoustic guitar renditions of Great American Songbook classics and his own wry and romantic songs. "I sing and play a few hundred of the popular songs of my parents' and grandparents' generations. I like to think that my style won't be accurately categorized, but most of what I write and perform echoes through Tin Pan Alley and the Great American Songbook."
"Like me, my songs are products of the first half of the past century."
In addition to mentoring countless local players, Morin was also a regular guest in the recording studio for artists like Gregory Page. He occasionally performed in Johnson, Bosley, and Morin (aka “JoBozMo”), alongside Jack Johnson and John Bosley, as well as sitting in with a jazz group, the Joseph Angelastro Quartet (sometimes making it a quintet).
In truth, he was so prolific a player that one never knew where he'd show up, who he'd turn up with, and what he'd end up doing. "I once opened an L.A. free clinic benefit for George Carlin while playing dobro in Gypsy Boots and His Hairy Hoots."
Jeffrey Joe Morin "Sunny Riverside"
Shot by Scott Wilson at Ward Canyon Neighborhood Park at Adams Avenue and the 15 freeway.
He even occasionally performed at kids birthday parties and grade school events. "Babies think I hung the moon," he remarked during one interview for this paper. "My picture must be hanging in the Baby Green Room. Even as we speak, infants from newborns to toddlers are out there on the streets looking all over for me. I am Babyman."
Morin launched a Kickstarter campaign in April 2012 for an album to be called Big Ol' Heart. "I wrote my first song at age sixty," he said at the time. "A good one, I think. It'll be the last cut on Big Ol' Heart with five other original pieces and a half-dozen standards you may already know."
He also continued to work his day job for nearly 40 years as an industrial designer. “I art-directed the colorization of Casablanca for Ted Turner,” he told the Reader.
According to the tribute event announcement, "More than your typical tribute show, Jeffrey Joe will also be 'present' through the magic of technology."
"While the Don’t Get to Know Me album release concert is rooted in shared grief amongst Jeffrey Joe’s colleagues and loved ones, the event’s organizers and performers are creating a joyful celebration that honors his ongoing gifts of love, gratitude, humor, and joy." $20 admission includes one copy of the record.
"This album bookends our relationship," says Morin's fiancée Carina Wheatley. "I had my first listen late at night in Jeffrey Joe's car following an evening out. He had just received the master reference CD and was bursting to share it. The title track, 'Don't Get to Know Me,' was Jeffrey Joe's uniquely humorous homage to his ongoing battle with the Grim Reaper. It was also a warning I respectfully ignored."
"When Jeffrey passed, the most important way for me to honor him was to get this album out."
According to Jeff Berkley, “Jeffrey Joe was a walking encyclopedia of music. He was a living jukebox with the gift of interpretation. You may have heard the song before but not like this. Something about JJ’s past authenticated the words and melody. Something about his gentle lilt. Something about his slow vibrato. Something about his complete immersion in the performance. Some little piece of heart and soul in every word and every breath. Every note a gift.”