WHITEY MORGAN AND THE 78’S RAM’S HEAD LIVE! BALTIMORE, MARYLAND
The night Ram’s Head Live! Became a True Honky-Tonk.
It was a Saturday night, and the weather was just starting to get warm. Perfect for walking around The Baltimore Inner Harbor, and even more so for seeing live music. Tonight’s showcase at Ram’s Head Live! located inside of the Power Plant Live! was Red Shahan and his band, bringing their own blend of Texas swagger; opening for none other than Whitey Morgan and The 78’s.
Photographer friend Cavi, and I arrived early, so he could get his place for some great shots. I headed to the bar, after all I was expecting a night of drinking songs. One of the first things that I like to do at any venue is to look around and take it all in. I always look around the crowd and see what types of fans an artist draws in. Waiting for will call I stood in line beside a guy in a punk rock vest, with a Hank III patch; and as I was waiting on my drink, by the bar brushed three good old boys, in white Stetson hats. Of course, you also had your southern belles and beauty queens eager to meet Mr. Morgan, I’m sure; you had your bikers, and your mix of guys with about just as much edge as Whitey himself; you had young, old, and everything in between.
It was a Saturday night and the crowd was ready, and restless. The crowd craved Honky-Tonk, and was eager to get rowdy. Already Whitey Morgan and The 78’s fans, the crowd knew what to expect.
Red Shahan opened bringing his blend of Southern music; Honky-Tonk, Blues, and a Rock N Roll edge. Shahan’s set was filled with Bluesy guitar solos, and jam sessions with his bandmates. Shahan and company performed many hits from his sophomore album release, “Culberson County” bringing an authentic Forth Worth, Texas flavor. Hits like, “Culberson County”, and “Waterbill” got the crowd ready for Whitey Morgan to play. Shahan and company brought an amazing show in their own right, and soon will be headlining Honky-Tonk shows, just like this.
The crowd packed in, you could feel the presence of the other person standing behind you, and maybe even feel their breath on the back of your neck. Everyone drew in so close, waiting for Whitey Morgan and The 78’s to take the stage. Whitey and company walked out to a Clutch song being played on the loudspeaker, for Baltimore, Maryland be it Country, or Rock fans alike we know Clutch. I wondered if that was Whitey’s choosing or a coincidence. Without fail, the band took its place, Whitey faced the drummer, everyone leaned in in anticipation; he help his hand up counting on his fingers, one, two, three, and turned around; commanding the crowd, and the band began to play on cue. “Bad News” to kick off the night delivered a major does of Outlaw attitude. Later moving into the Johnny Paycheck cover, “(Stay Away From) The Cocaine Train”, everyone sang along.
Recent hits from his 2018 album release, “Hard Times, White Lines” tumble out. Songs like “Honky Tonk Hell” bringing that Old West, Dark Horse mythology to life, the type of song you would expect from the heyday of Johnny Cash, only grittier, edgier, which instantly got the crowd fired up. It’s almost like you could feel the dark energy in the room, the guitar riffs playing eerily along, as Whitey told the story. The song had a very “Ghost Riders in The Sky” feel.
Then with songs like, “What Am I supposed to Do” the mood changed again. The song written about the auto industry collapse in Detroit, Michigan is a tale of struggle and job loss, that despite Detroit, too many of us have come to know. In light of the struggles of the last decade many have begged the question, “What am I supposed To Do”. For Morgan, a Michigan native the song hits home, and you can feel it in his voice. The pain, the struggle, it almost brought me to tears.
Whitey Morgan and The 78’s pick it right back up with a cover of ZZ Top’s “Just Got Paid,” and everyone in the room is rocking along, again. In fact, I would say of picking cover songs Mr. Morgan is a master. Also delivering songs like the Bruce Springsteen classic, “I’m on Fire” for which every soul in the place sang along; as well as “Atlantic City” another Springsteen hit. My respects ultimately to “The Boss” but I loved this cover as much, if not a bit more than the original. At this point in the show, Mr. Morgan gave me chills. I’m not sure what it was to be exact, but there was just something so raw, almost tortured in his voice.
Songs like “I Ain’t Drunk” and “Ain’t Gonna Take it Anymore” brought the crowd into a rowdy frenzy. To my left bikers were boot stomping, using the metal on the floor to make clicking sounds with their boots, to my right a couple was dancing; and all around me several were raising drinks high in the air, in a salute to Morgan and his 78’s. Whitey’s guitarist riled the crowd up even more pumping fists, and prompting the crowd.
Whitey Morgan and the 78’s left the stage, at the supposed end of the show and everyone was left hanging on the rail, waiting with bated breath, thinking, “this could not be it”. A group of Country boys to my right started chanting “Whitey, Whitey” and sure enough the band came back out, performing an encore, of which the infamous Marshall Tucker Band classic, “Fire on The Mountain” was one of the songs. The entire crowd sang along in unison with Whitey, not missing a word, as many of us grew up with the song.
For those who do not get it, I have often been asked, “Why do you listen to “Country” music; with all its sad lyrics, about losing jobs, runaway wives, and broken down trucks?” The answer is quite simple. It may be true that Morgan is no stranger to struggle, and that he writes every song with the rawness of everyday life. However, to partake in a Whitey Morgan show, is not to forget the struggles of which he writes, but to feel good despite of it all. That is exactly the kind of show that Whitey Morgan puts on, the kind of show where you look life in the face, and you keep rocking, or keep drinking; and keep feeling good. In moments like this no one cared if the guy next to him was an outlaw, a good old boy, or anything in between; the mentality was if we couldn’t be here for a long time, we were all here for a good time; and we all knew it. In moments like this lie the very essence of Country and Outlaw music, and in delivering that Whitey Morgan is a master of his craft.