R.I.P. Jesse Morris: San Francisco's Punk Rock Johnny Cash

Jesse Morris - by Jenner Davis 1 - cropped + resized.jpg
Jenner Davis
Jesse Morris, a local musician and BART busking staple with an uncanny take on Johnny Cash, died Sunday, Nov. 6, in his home, according to friends and colleagues. Morris had survived a suicide attempt by hanging in September, but did not survive a second attempt over the weekend.

Morris, who had just turned 28, also worked as a bar bouncer, but was better known as the Punk Rock Johnny Cash, playing raucous yet melodious music original songs and covers with his band, Jesse Morris and the Man Cougars.

For commuters in BART's Mission and Montgomery stations, though, Morris was also a regular fixture, performing Cash songs for the crowds flooding through BART faregates.

Morris and the Man Cougars were slated to play tonight (Nov. 11) at the Uptown in Oakland. Instead, the club is hosting a benefit concert for Morris's family, where local boys The Grannies and the Undead Boys will play.

Morris, who friends say struggled with depression and other anxieties for many years, is remembered as a charismatic musician with an open nature that made his songwriting that much more powerful.

"There was a frankness and honesty in the way he delivered songs and could turn a phrase," said Nic Pope, a sound engineer at Different Fur Studios, who recorded with Morris in the past. "One of my favorite lines he wrote -- 'I look around and see the wreckage of my past / It's bad enough sometimes I want to douse myself in gas.' It's a simple line, but it means something specific, confronts a really dark part of a personality ... It's heavy, but that was Jesse. He wrote this music as a way to get those feelings out."

Pope met Morris in 2008 in a BART station, and was so intrigued by his take on country songs that he pulled together a band for Morris to record with in the studio.

They worked together for a few months that year, but money for the project ran out, "so we never finished it," Pope said. "I'd see him around all the time, we'd talk about it -- we always wanted to finish it but could never find the time."

When Pope heard about Morris's death, he found the long-shelved recordings and released them as soon as he could. Proceeds from the digital downloads of the seven songs will go directly to pay for Morris's memorial services, Pope said.

"I know he wanted people to hear it," he said.

The comparisons to Johnny Cash may feel like a cliché, but Morris was known for his chameleon-like qualities, said Jenner Davis, a friend.

Jesse Morris - by Jenner Davis 2.jpg
Jenner Davis
"He could do impressions of anyone, even people he'd just met," she said. "He was always one of my favorite people."

Find Morris's 2008 sessions here, more info about the benefit concert here, and more of his music here and here, and everywhere.

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PsychoXdown
PsychoXdown

one of my absolute favorite memories of jesse was when the self titled Transplants  cd was released..he would do the "Tall cans in the air...let me see them...fuck you" it always made me giggle..also at the pacifica starbucks there was this guy who would go and sit at the starbucks all day w/ his little green bird,this bird LOVED jesse and it seemed like he was her mate so if you tried to get near him you'd get bit and oh lordy it hurt plus she would squawk if any female got near it was really funny to see..i'm glad you're at least not in pain anymore jesse but you are missed and i will always have the green guitar and the same tattoo to remind me of you...

Hetore
Hetore

god dammn many people has suicidal thoughts i throw myself depression fear,.//who cares,./maybe god gone stop suffering of people,.//etc etc,..,././'llk

Popeye
Popeye

Sad waste of talent and great person....He should've made his way to Las Vegas and be like the Elvis impersonators and lived doing what he loved and got paid for it big time... he just needed guidance. Glad I accidently came across his videos on youtube....just wished I couldve met him in person and had a beer with him . R.I.P. dude.

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Jack
Jack

I've recorded Jesse several times and have posted three to a music blog.  The last recording I did of him was an original tune and it's really good.  It can be heard at ontheflip-side[dot]blogspot[dot]com  Search for Jesse Morris.

Nerd Stalker
Nerd Stalker

This is horrible news we hired him to sing at our house once after seeing him at a party and in the bart station, he was awesome. RIP brother.

Mike_k
Mike_k

Jesse was a joker and genuine sweetheart, a really nice guy. I didn't know him so much as a musician as a neighbor and local doorman. I am very sad to hear this terrible news. Condolences to his friends and family, my heart goes out to you. 

Shanih
Shanih

rip kind soul, you made many people's morning commute brighter. wish I could have brightened your life.

wealthone
wealthone

it didn't have to end this way Jesse

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