I recently got a message from Greg Neth to let me know about the passing of a mutual friend of ours–Steve Morton, a really good guy who had played bass in area bands for the past thirty-plus years.
I think that if you had grown up in the area and/or were playing in bands in the late, late ‘70s, you would have known Steve’s playing. My history will be less than perfect and really reflects how I knew Steve over the years.
I first met him through Brad Johnson– a drummer and mutual friend whom he played with in a band with guitarist Mark Shirley and, I think, singer Chris Jaeger. They were definitely more into the late ‘70s punk thing—both English and American—and they were good. At some point I remember the band, with a different vocalist, winning a battle of the bands at the Wichita Theatre to open up for a touring band, The Romantics? If I remember correctly, the band Steve was in was called the Mercenaries and they were a good tight punk outfit.
According to Greg Neth, Steve would play in a band called Blue Noise and White Noise before joining up with Mike Williams, Neth, Bruce Brint and drummer Troy Whaley to create the second version of Phosphene. The first version of the band featured percussionist Randy McClung, the rhythm section of James and David Ryle, guitarist Williams and singer Brint.
As I recall, the version of Phosphene with Steve played every one of the Local Heroes shows, an all-day event which featured bands coming together annually on a Sunday to play at an area club. The last one was in 1988 or 89, I think, and it was in Parker Square and I played in the band, after Phosphene. Phosphene only opened because they had so much equipment to hook up. The group was highly eclectic and would play anything from the “Gilligan’s Island” theme song to the Brothers Johnson’s “Strawberry Letter 23.”
The last time I played with Steve was at the AV Jam Shop on Speedway Street in the late 1980’s. He and Whaley and a number of different musicians (and sometimes guitarist Bill Lewis) would gather there to jam on a variety of setup equipment and the songs would be recorded on video. The jam with him was special for me, because it lasted about an hour and a half and it sounded like the very cool late ‘70s German band, Neu. The tape was actually played a lot at the well-known Dallas alternative Record shop RPM. Steve played bass, Troy played drums, I played guitar and Neth played electronics.
Steve worked at McCarty Music doing repairs for a good long time and was a big fan of “SNL,” British comedy and interesting music that was off the beaten track. After McCarty’s, he left to work at Channel 6 with Lewis as an engineer for 21 years. He was an amazingly solid and good bassist. A natural bassist that respected the instrument for what it could do and the roles it could play in music. The only bass I ever saw him play was an old ‘60s Silvertone. If I remember correctly, he ripped the frets out of it and played it fretless.
But, Steve was more than a bassist. He was an excellent musician who wrote music and lyrics, often on his own, and played and recorded, not always by himself. According to Neth, he had released a solo cd called “Transition” under the name SRM last year. He had also provided Neth and Whaley with bass lines for their ongoing Shaved Fish project.
Steve’s Soundcloud page is https://soundcloud.com/srm1138 and it includes any number of recordings he played on. https://soundcloud.com/srm1138/srm-tomorrow-never-knows is a cover of the famous Beatles song. Also, https://soundcloud.com/gregneth/did-you-see-it-demo4 is a song with Steve, Greg, Troy and guitarist Steve Norman playing a tune called “Did You See It.”
Steve was reclusive, until he knew someone and then he was a giving and humorous guy. He had a quick wit and worked to be able to write and play music. I would run across him from time to time at a record shop or whatnot, and it was always great to catch up. He will be missed.