Shadow Morton

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George "Shadow" Morton
Birth name George Francis Morton
Born (1941-09-03)September 3, 1941
Richmond, Virginia, US
Died February 14, 2013(2013-02-14) (aged 71)
Laguna Beach, California, US
Occupations Songwriter, record producer, inventor
Associated acts The Shangri-Las
Janis Ian
Vanilla Fudge
The New York Dolls
David Barreto

George Francis "Shadow" Morton (September 3, 1941 – February 14, 2013)[1] was an American record producer and songwriter best known for his influential work in the 1960s. In particular, he was noted for writing and producing "Remember (Walking in the Sand)", "Leader of the Pack", and other hits for girl group The Shangri-Las.

Biography[edit]

He was born in Richmond, Virginia but grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and then Hicksville, Long Island, where he met his high school sweet heart & future wife, Lois Berman & formed a doo-wop group, the Marquees. He became friendly with Ellie Greenwich, and did drop-in visits to her and her writing partner (later husband) Jeff Barry when they were working at the Brill Building.

According to a Biography episode on various 1960s Brill Building pop songwriters, including retrospective interviews with Greenwich, Barry and Morton among others, Barry said that at the time he was suspicious of Morton's overt attention to Greenwich. Disbelieving Morton was really the songwriter he claimed to be, Barry challenged Morton to prove his legitimacy and bring in samples of his recent work (expecting never to hear again from unheard of Morton). Morton stated in his interview that, with an empty song portfolio at the time, he felt sufficiently challenged by Barry, whereupon he left the Brill Building and drove his automobile to a Long Island Beach. Full of inspiration and determination, Morton spent the evening writing most of his first song, while sitting in the dark in his parked car & the rest of it in the shower back at home before heading back to Barry. Entitled "Remember (Walking In The Sand)", Morton then 'rolled the dice' and recorded a demo of his song with a long-shot, unknown girl-group local club act that he admired, The Shangri-Las (according to Morton, with the then-unknown Billy Joel on piano in the demo recording),[2] and offered the demo recording to Jerry Leiber, who was then setting up Red Bird Records. The recording "Remember (Walking In The Sand)" by the Shangri-Las reached #5 on the US Billboard Hot 100 in 1964. Considering the scope of this accomplishment, Morton was transformed overnight from a credential-less industry 'wannabe' into a teen recording songwriter and recording producer. According to Steve Kurutz at Allmusic, "Morton's production work, which included brilliant sound effects and inventive percussion, carried the Shangri-Las to girl-group history."[3]

Morton signed as a staff producer for Red Bird Records. He was nicknamed "Shadow" by record company executive George Goldner because his whereabouts could never be pinned down. He was a key architect in creating the girl group sound of the mid-1960s, by continuing to write and produce hit teen melodramas for the Shangri-Las and the Goodies, including "Leader of the Pack", "I Can Never Go Home Anymore", "Give Him A Great Big Kiss" and "Sophisticated Boom Boom". These juxtaposed teen lyrics against a mixture of pop and R&B, with sound effects and inventive percussion.

In 1967, his successes continued after the collapse of Red Bird when his production of Janis Ian's, "At Seventeen" "Society's Child", became a hit record. The same year, he discovered a group called the Pidgeons, who became Vanilla Fudge, and produced their first three albums, which included their hit version of "You Keep Me Hangin' On," followed by a foray into aural collage called The Beat Goes On. The experimentation was largely Morton's idea, resisted by the band, and poorly received by critics, though it reached #17 in the US Billboard Top 200 based on sales.[4]

In 1970 Morton produced the psychedelic heavy rock band, Haystacks Balboa, a New York City based quintet who toured nationally as support for Rod Stewart, Ten Years After and Jethro Tull.[5] Later in the 1970s, he worked with Iron Butterfly; the group gave an interview to Mix Magazine crediting Morton with producing the hit track "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida". Morton told film producer Larry Schweikart in 2009 that the band was too tight to get the song down, so he faked an equipment malfunction on the soundboard and told them to practice. In fact, he was rolling tape, and he kept giving them the "keep it up" sign, resulting in the long solos and the famous drum solo. He also produced all-girl group Isis, and worked with The New York Dolls, producing their second album Too Much Too Soon.[3] Dolls guitarist Johnny Thunders would later cover his composition "Great Big Kiss" on his 1979 solo album So Alone. In 1972, Shadow produced the Boston comedy band Gross National Productions' album P-Flaps and Low Blows.

Morton then disappeared from the music industry for several years, and was treated for alcoholism in 1987 at the Betty Ford Center. He later filed a lawsuit with Polygram Records for the unauthorised use of his music. Most famous, two Shangri-Las songs in the 1990 film Goodfellas.[3]

He was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame on October 15, 2006.[6] In 2009, Morton appeared in the documentary, Rockin' the Wall, about music's part in bringing down the Iron Curtain, along with former Vanilla Fudge members Mark Stein and Vinny Martell, as well as David Paich of Toto, Rudy Sarzo of Quiet Riot, Robby Krieger of the Doors, Billy Joel and Joan Jett.

Shadow Morton died on February 14, 2013 in Laguna Beach, California after a year long battle with cancer. He was surrounded by his family, ex-wife & best friend Lois Morton, Daughters Stacey Morton, Danielle Morton & Keli Morton Gerrits, along with his son-in-law Vincent Gerrits & three grandchildren Andrew Morton, Jaxsen Gerrits & Skyler Gerrits.[7]

References[edit]

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