Born Loretta Lynn Morgan on June 27, 1959; daughter of George Morgan (a singer); married Ron Gaddis (a musician), c. 1979; divorced, c. 1980; married Keith Whitley (a singer), 1986; died, 1989; married Brad Thompson (a bus driver), 1991; divorced, 1993; married Jon Randall (a singer), 1997; divorced, 2000; married Sammy Kershaw (a singer), 2002; children: (with Gaddis) Morgan Anastasia, (with Whitley) Jesse Keith. Addresses: Record company--BNA Entertainment/RCA Records, 1 Music Circle N., Nashville, TN 37203. Booking--Buddy Lee Attractions Nashville, 38 Music Square East, Nashville, TN 37203, website: http://www.buddyleeattractions.com. Website--Lorrie Morgan Official Website: http://www.lorrie.com.
Lorrie Morgan has endured much during her rise to the top of the country charts. Plagued by personal tragedy, financial setbacks, management disputes, and numerous marriages that ended in divorce, her steadfast determination to overcome adversity saw her emerge as one of country music's leading ladies of song. "It's evident," wrote Bargain Finder columnist and friend Ken Carlile, "that giving up is not part of this lady's vocabulary."
Christened Loretta Lynn before her parents had ever heard of the coal miner's daughter, Morgan came by her country roots naturally. Her father, Grand Ole Opry veteran George Morgan, had crooned his way onto the country charts with the hit songs "Roomful of Roses" and "Candy Kisses." His daughter, however, showed little interest in country music until her father persuaded her to perform one song at the Opry.
The song was "Paper Roses," and when the teenaged Morgan received a standing ovation for her debut performance she never looked back. "My little 13 year-old knees were absolutely knocking," she told People. "But I saw Dad standing there just bawling, and those people gave me a standing ovation. I thought, 'This is what I'm doing the rest of my life.'"
Morgan toured with her father until his death during heart surgery. Afterward, in an attempt to carry on the family tradition, she went on the road with her father's band for nearly two years before deciding to try her luck at a solo career. In 1979, after a stint as a demo singer and several performances at the Opryland U.S.A. amusement park, Morgan landed a recording contract with Hickory Records, a small Nashville label.
The company released several singles by Morgan that did well on the local area charts. At about the same time, she met and married Ron Gaddis, a bass player for country star George Jones, and though the marriage lasted only a year, it produced both a daughter and a career opportunity for Morgan; after the divorce Gaddis suggested she try out for a spot in Jones's band. Morgan was hired after one audition and made concert appearances with Jones for almost two years before deciding to take a break from the music business.
Morgan told Bob Allen of Country Music that Jones "was a great man to work for.... But I'd have to say in all honesty that if I had to go back and do it all over again, I wouldn't do it. For someone as young as I was then, to step into something that mind-boggling was very hard. I just couldn't handle it."
By 1984 Morgan felt ready to resume her career. She recorded briefly with MCA, releasing a single titled "Don't Go Changing." She also earned a regular slot singing at the Grand Ole Opry. Shortly afterwards, she attracted the notice of Ralph Emery, who first featured her on his WSM Nashville radio show, and then on the cable channel The Nashville Network (TNN). Country superstar Dolly Parton noticed Morgan's talents, and told her manager about the young singer, suggesting that he sign her. Before anything could come of it, reported Allen, "the partners in Parton's management company dissolved" and "Morgan got lost in the shuffle."
Disillusioned, Morgan began to despair of achieving success on a national level. She was particularly frustrated with what she felt was the lack of respect afforded her by music executives. "They take you for granted, they really do," Morgan explained to Allen. "I sat for years and watched newcomers come into town and have hit records and become overnight sensations. I often wondered what it was that I was doing wrong, until it finally dawned on me that I was being taken for granted as just another 'local girl singer.'"
Ironically it was her personal life that was largely responsible for her rise to national fame. Morgan married country singer Keith Whitley in November of 1986 and the couple quickly became the darlings of the country circuit. When Whitley's 1988 album Don't Close Your Eyes achieved critical acclaim and best-seller status, Whitley persuaded RCA to sign his wife to a recording contract and work was soon begun on Morgan's first album, Leave the Light On.
On a promotional trip to Alaska, one week prior to the album's release, Morgan suffered a devastating blow with the news of her husband's death. Whitley, who had long struggled with a drinking problem, died of alcohol poisoning in May of 1989. In another cruel twist of fate, the funeral nearly coincided with the release date of Morgan's debut album. She managed to cope by adhering to a grueling schedule that left no time for grief.
Leave the Light On had a successful debut. Dedicated to Whitley, the first single, "Dear Me," quickly climbed the charts. Follow-up singles, "Out of Your Shoes" and "Five Minutes," met with even greater success. Morgan was grateful for the support of her fans during a very difficult time, telling Country Music that "the people, the fans, have all been extremely understanding and good to me.... I really thought I'd get raked over the coals [for performing so soon after Whitley's death]. But everyone who's come up to me has just said, 'We love you, we loved Keith, and we're proud of you.'" People kindly summed up Morgan's first solo album as a "set of smoothly and sweetly rendered love-gone-wrong laments."
In 1991 Morgan released Something in Red. Warmly received by both critics and fans, the album produced four Top Ten singles, achieved platinum status and established Morgan as one of country's top female vocalists. Later that year, she married third husband Brad Thompson, the driver of country star Clint Black's tour bus.
Morgan's third album, Watch Me, though highly touted by her new record label, BNA, met with considerably less praise. Critics attacked it as dull, predictable, and middle-of-the-road. George Fletcher of Country Music concluded that the "challenging edge that made Lorrie better than a lot of her peers is just not there." With several music videos to her credit, Morgan turned to acting, taking on a starring role in Proudheart, a made-for-cable movie that was shown on TNN in late 1993.
After less than two years of marriage, Morgan and Thompson filed for divorce. With her life once again in transition, Morgan turned her attention to acting--and to dating Troy Aikman, the Dallas Cowboy quarterback selected as one of People magazine's 50 most beautiful people. She was also romatically linked to country star Kenny Rogers and Tennessee senator Fred Thompson following her divorce. Morgan married again in 1997, this time to singer Jon Randall. The following year, she published her first novel, an autobiographical account of the years she spent with second husband Keith Whitley titled Forever Yours, Faithfully: My Love Story. People noted, "She doesn't do much soul-searching about the four marriages she's racked up.... And when she fails to even mention her current spouse, singer Jon Randall, you can't help but size him up as a future ex-husband." Their prediction came true when Morgan's fourth marriage ended in divorce in 2000.
Morgan released a string of certified gold records, including War Paint, Greater Need, and Shakin' Things Up, following the platinum Watch Me. Her following albums, Secret Love, My Heart, and Side by Side, were critically successful but failed to match the sales numbers that her earlier albums reached. As her marriage to Randall was ending, Morgan met the then-married country singer Sammy Kershaw. The scandal of their love affair regularly made headlines in Nashville over the next two years, until both Morgan and Kershaw's respective divorces were finalized and they were free to wed; she for the fifth time and he for the fourth. "It felt like a first time wedding for me," Morgan told People in May of 2001. "Lord knows, we both have our pasts. That is something we can't change. [But] we can change what happens from here on."
The newly wed couple collaborated on an album of solo number and duets, I Finally Found Someone. A cover of Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World," a tune Morgan described to People as "our song," is also found on the album. They then opened up a Nashville-based restaurant, Hotchickens.com, which was an immediate success. Morgan released The Color of Roses, featuring a live concert recording and exclusive interview, in 2002 on DVD and double-CD formats and embarked on a tour with Tanya Tucker to support her new release.
by Elizabeth Wenning
Lorrie Morgan's Career
Sang with her father at Grand Ole Opry, Nashville, TN, during her early teens; sang with her father's band, c. 1975; performed with bluegrass band at Opryland U.S.A. amusement park; began recording career, 1979; sang with George Jones's band, c. 1981-83; regular singer at the Grand Ole Opry, beginning in 1984; solo recording artist and concert performer, 1988-.
Lorrie Morgan's Awards
Country Music Award, Vocal Event of the Year for "'Til a Tear Becomes a Rose," 1990; TNN Music City News Award, Vocal Collaboration of the Year (with Keith Whitley), 1991; Country Music Television Award, Female Vocalist of the Year, 1992; Country Music Award, Album of the Year for Common Thread, 1994; TNN Music City News Award, Female Artist of the Year, 1994, 1996-98; TNN Music City News Award, Vocal Collaboration of the Year (with Jon Randall), 1997.
- Selected discography
- Leave the Light On , RCA, 1989.
- Something in Red , RCA, 1991.
- Watch Me , RCA, 1992.
- Christmas From London , BNA, 1993.
- War Paint , BMG, 1994.
- Greater Need , BNA, 1995.
- Shakin' Things Up , BMG, 1997.
- Secret Love , BNA, 1998.
- My Heart , BNA, 1999.
- Side by Side , Universal, 2000.
- I Finally Found Someone , RCA, 2001.
- Selected writings
- Forever Yours, Faithfully: My Love Story , Ballantine Books, 1997.
January 20, 2004: Morgan's album, Show Me How, was released. Source: Billboard.com, www.billboard.com/bb/releases/week_6/index.jsp, January 21, 2004.
- Bargain Finder, March 31, 1993.
- Billboard, January 22, 2000.
- Country Music, January/February 1990; July/August 1991; January/February 1993; May/June 1993.
- Entertainment Weekly, November 28, 1997.
- People, July 10, 1989; May 7, 1990; April 19, 1993; June 17, 1996; December 2, 1996; November 9, 1998; May 21, 2001.
- Rocky Mountain News, April 30, 1993.
- "Lorrie Morgan," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (January 17, 2003).
- Lorrie Morgan Official Website, http://www.lorrie.com (February 10, 2003).
- Additional information for this profile was obtained from BNA Entertainment press materials, 1992.