Friday, March 07, 2008

Miss Morse, My Mom, Mystery & Memories...
...this is one post that goes in all sorts of unexpected directions...

Looking back over my recent posts, I was a little shocked to see that I haven't blogged since Tuesday of This Week...well, wait, that's only three days and change. Still, I remember a long, long time ago when sometimes I'd blog a few times PER DAY. I've had a couple of days recently where I did fire off two posts in a sitting, but largely, I'm a bit more lackadaisacal than I used to be, in regards to posting here. I feel obligated to keep this blog current, but sometimes the brain cells just don't compute. In my defense, however, at least part of my blogging time is being kept up by another endeavor, which would be, trying to maintain my "Yahoo Group"...if you look off to your left, you'll see a little Yahoo Group rectangular button...that's my little venture, maintaining a sort of information depository regarding the obscure singer, Miss Lee Morse, who I discovered quite by accident while viewing videos on the YouTube site. Maintaining a Yahoo Group, I'm finding, takes a certain amount of dedication, especially when the subject of the group has gone unheard and unregarded by 95% of the American Public, and has been largely totally forgotten. She truly had a talent, and she deserves to be known about and HEARD.

Think about it...she possessed a three-octave vocal range. She had to be identified on her records as Miss Lee Morse, because she could sing low enough to sound like a man. Indeed, her vocal range is almost as low as mine (I know this, because sometimes I sing along to her music in the car). And then she could turn around and sing in a shrill soprano voice. She also played guitar, and wrote over one-third of the over-200 songs she recorded between 1924 and 1950. Hers was a turbulent life, and she lived hard and died fairly young. She recorded absolutely NOTHING between 1938 and 1950. Exactly why, I'm not sure. The latter part of her life is a mystery. And believe me, I've dug for information, only there isn't a lot of information to be had. What's really weird about this whole deal, is that I've been listening to music that was recorded, in some cases, over 80 years ago.

A 1925 record by Miss Lee 83-year-old little piece of musical history.

There is something about the quality of her voice, the songs she wrote, and the outside material she chose to sing, that somehow sounds very vital and very fresh, in spite of the generally tinny sound of those old '78s. She made three little movie "shorts", and when I saw her on those, I felt a connection to her. Something in her manner, her vocalizing, her accent (she had traces of a southern accent), just sounded very REAL to me. I reacted to her; when I saw her in those mini-movies, my jaw just dropped open. My reaction to her was intense. I couldn't believe how I reacted to her. Can you blame me? Look at her...

Miss Morse in the 1930 movie short, "A Million Me's". As Stevie Wonder sang, "Isn't She Lovely?"

Maybe I'm a mama's boy; I don't know. But maybe that's where it begins. My Mom had a low voice for a female. My Mom played a baritone ukelele and sang, mostly hymns, but she could get silly and do whimsical songs as well. Some of Miss Morse's songs are downright silly, including a gleeful little number she sang, "Animal Crackers"...a song that makes me smile every time I hear it. And as far as the accent, My Mom was born and raised in Texas. She always had a trace of her southern accent. Lee Morse's family came from Texas, although she wasn't born until long after her family had moved away from the "Lone Star State". And, in the late 1930's, she, with her (2nd) husband moved to and lived in Fort Worth, Texas, and she sang at various clubs in the area. Oh, by the way...My Mom was born and raised in...Fort Worth. There's even a chance that my great-great=grandparents on my Mom's side of the family lived in the Fort Worth area at the same time Miss Morse's parents did.

My Mom was born in 1925. When Lee Morse was singing in the Fort Worth area, Mom would've been between 10 and 15 years old. Lee Morse also sang on radio shows in the Fort Worth area, and there's a chance my Mom, as a young girl, may have heard Miss Morse. So now I'm really getting far-fetched, am I? Consider this...I remember, at various times while growing up, Mom would occasionally sing the old song, "Side By Side"..."travelin' along, singin' a song, Side By Side". Perhaps Mom remembered Kay Starr's version of that song from the early 1950's. That's very possible. But, imagine my surprise when I found out that Miss Lee Morse recorded that song in the late 1920's or early 1930's! My Mom had deep auburn hair which always flowed past her shoulders. I've read that Miss Lee Morse had auburn hair. My Mom always was very emotional, and from what I've read of Miss Morse, so was she. And my Mom could be VERY direct. As could Miss Morse, as old newspaper articles reveal. So when I saw Lee Morse's mini-films, I felt some sort of connection, a "deja vu" like maybe I'd known her, or someone like her, before...

So now you say that I'm getting really weird here? Maybe, perhaps. I don't know. I only know what I feel. Could it be that I saw some of my Mom's character, or at least a part of it, when I saw Miss Morse? Something in Miss Morse's music, that 80-year old music, registers itself into some deep part of my psyche. Miss Morse's music makes me FEEL things; everything from depression to out-of-control happiness. Miss Morse sings a song which contains the lyrics, "where'd ya get those eyes? Where'd ya get those ears?", and I can just imagine my Mom singing that. I remember that from 'somewhere'; I think Mom might've either said that or sung that. It was all so long ago. And something about the way Miss Morse expressed herself in those little movie-ettes, something in her eyes, something about her just HIT me. Does Miss Morse's music or image make me see a part of myself, or where I came from, perhaps? Sometimes I think there's a reason I accidentally discovered Miss Morse. Be that as it may, I'm glad I discovered her. Maybe there's a cosmic-sort of thing going on here, or maybe I'm just being silly. I don't know. Who knows?

Miss Lee Morse (1897-1954). This is what she might have looked like in living color.

The strange parallels continue. Miss Morse grew up in Idaho; Kooskia, to be exact. I grew up in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. I was born in 1954. That's the year she died. Her son was born in Wallace. My Dad operated a mining business in that town. Miss Morse and her husband and little boy, moved to Chewelah, Washington. Her husband is buried in the cemetery there. When I used to be a runner, I ran in the Chewelah "Chataqua" fun run, which went right past that Cemetery. Miss Morse sang at clubs in Spokane, Washington before she acquired national fame. I've lived and worked in Spokane. Later, she sang in Portland, Oregon. I've visited Portland more often than any other big city...except for Spokane. (Some might not say Spokane's a big city', I must admit). And, I ran the Portland Marathon in '93, '94 and '95. Sure, maybe all of this is just coincidence. It probably is. But still, it seems I've been in a lot of places she'd once was. And I am NOT well-traveled. Other than traveling back through time, that is...

I feel like it's partly up to me to keep Lee Morse's music and memory alive. Her music has given so much to me, it's the least I can do. And I don't mind, not one bit. You find out more about her at,,, or my own group, at: (or just hit the yahoo group button here on this blog). Listen to some of her music if you can. You might just be impressed.


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