Singer draws inspiration from Sanibel, conversations
Although Danny Morgan’s first attempt with music did not pan out with the drums, by the age of 10 he formed his first band and played an old used arched top guitar his mom gave him.
“I played the drums and I was terrible,” he said laughing. “In fact I was so bad my father said, ‘We got to get him away from the drums because it is loud and he is no good.'”
Morgan continued to perfect his passion and sang chorus in school where he learned heaps about singing.
After graduating, he received a fine arts degree and earned a certificate to teach school. Right out of college, Morgan began teaching 4th, 5th and 6th grade, as well as high school students in the Cincinnati/Kentucky public schools.
He learned quickly that teaching was not for him.
“Very early on I got a break in the music business and thought I would go ahead and give that a try. I thought if I fell on my face I could get back into teaching . . . one thing led to another,” Morgan said.
A gig, at what used to be known as South Seas Plantation, brought the Kentucky resident to Sanibel for the first time in 1975 to perform a solo concert at Kings Coral, a “very fancy restaurant at South Seas.” He wore a white shirt, blue blazer and a tie while playing standard songs.
The following year, the musician returned to the island with other talent.
“They heard some tapes of the band I had up there and they said, ‘We would like to have the band open this place called CasaYbel,'” Morgan said. “So I put a band together and came down. That started the reentry into the touring band world.”
For 15 years, Morgan and his band traveled to such places as Southwest Florida, Cincinnati, Kentucky and at a ski resort in Colorado. In 1985, Morgan purchased a house on Sanibel for them to all live, practice and work.
Once Morgan got married, he decided to quit touring. In 1995, he hired local musicians to play in his band.
“I sold my house in Cincinnati and started working here all the time,” he said of doing solos, duos, trios and working with a seven-piece band for corporate functions and weddings.
Morgan has released five albums, the first two of which were recorded on vinyl records. The first includes a few songs he wrote when he first arrived on Sanibel in the 70s – “Oh Captiva” and “Sanibel Sunset.”
“Those started a whole wonderful relationship with the islands that has sort of continued,” he said. “My infatuation with the life here and living here keeps me writing songs about the lifestyle.”
One of the CDs, “Sanibel Samba,” is an instrumental version of Morgan’s music performed by other musicians.
“This is a gathering place for people,” Morgan said as he looked around his home. “People come here and stay here, so we are always looking for music to listen to that doesn’t have singing. So, I thought I would make a record that I can play that would be useful for people having gatherings on the island.”
Many of lyrics for Morgan’s songs come from observing his surroundings, as well as sharing stories of people he has encountered.
“I believe the song is floating around out there and all you have to do is be quiet enough to catch it,” he said.
The song “Captiva Moon” was inspired by a couple he knew that used to visit from Cincinnati. One winter, the wife decided to travel alone.
“People were burning their furniture to keep warm,” he said laughing about the weather in Cincinnati. “It was one of those winters that you could cross country ski to your favorite restaurant. I said, ‘what are you doing here,’ and she said, ‘we were thinking about breaking up.'”
The conversation inspired Morgan to write “Captiva Moon.”
“With him being in front of his fireplace in Cincinnati in northern Kentucky and thinking about her being down here . . . hoping the Captiva moon will send her back,” he said of the lyrics.
Over the years his career has afforded him the opportunity to work with the Beach Boys as their opening act, resulting in great mentoring at a young age. A visit to their recording studio in California is a memory that will forever stick with Morgan.
“Mike Love didn’t show up for the session and I had a chance to fill in for Mike Love,” he said. “Brian Wilson had been back in the studio after 3 1/2 years (after) his challenges of mental stability. The first day he came back I happened to be there.”
That fortunate coincidence gave Morgan an opportunity of a lifetime – singing with the Beach Boys.
“To be able to sing and have Brian Wilson direct me and tell me which notes to sing . . . and I’m standing there singing these parts,” he said. “That was a really interesting moment.”
Morgan has also sung on stage with Jimmy Buffet, which he thoroughly enjoyed.
“When you’re playing music with other people and sharing spaces, I think that it becomes a pretty magical time,” Morgan said.
Residents and visitors of the island can see Morgan and his band – Andrea Prather and John McLane – sing at Sundial Beach Resort every Monday from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. for Margarita Mondays. The weekly performance stemmed from Morgan’s idea of offering music and a place to enjoy a drink after work before leaving the island.
“We are upstairs in the Sea Breeze Cafe,” he said. “You are looking at the gulf and you are one story up, so it’s like a beautiful treehouse looking at the Gulf of Mexico.”
Morgan also plays at the pool bar at CasaYbel from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays offering island tunes.
“It’s a lot of fun. A lot of our locals come to it because it sort of reminds them why they live here. My job is to help them remember why they moved here,” he said.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Morgan plays at Traders. One night he plays solo and the other he plays with McLane and Pittsburg Mike.
The creativity does not stop at just singing. Morgan also spends time painting beautiful acrylic masterpieces, which are now shown in a New York gallery.
“Once I was offered to go with this gallery in New York, I became more serious about art,” he said. “When you start a painting, you have to follow it through where it is taking you. You can’t just stop and go play a gig.”
Morgan travels to Paris where he finds inspiration from studying Monet.
“It’s not like Monet, but you can see the influence,” he said.
Follow Meghan @IslanderMeghan on Twitter.