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Danny Morris' unique musical style marries the blues with surf guitar and retro rock. 

Reverb Blues

Danny Morris Band
Dogtown Lounge
July 16
9:30 p.m.
$5 (ladies free)
323-9435

For more than six years, guitarist Danny Morris has traveled the club circuit with a blues and surf-rock style that's found loyal fans while mystifying others. It's easy to understand that mixing Albert King grit with Ventures reverb could raise some eyebrows, but for Morris it's a simple wedding of two styles he loves.

Morris, 33, grew up listening to the music around him. The guitar wizardry of Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton and Johnny Winter "was always blarin' out" from his brother's mid-'70s record stash and he got his first guitar at age 12.

"The sound of it … I just loved it," says Morris by phone from New York.

But unlike others, Morris got caught up in the history of the music. During his early Chapel Hill high school years he wrote a report on the birth of rock 'n' roll and its blues roots. He learned early that Clapton copped from Freddie King and The Fabulous T-Birds owed a thing or two to Slim Harpo. During this time Morris started his own bands and developed his blues-based style.

But a school friend "way into surfing" also cranked up Dick Dale for Morris one day and the young guitarist was equally wowed. "It sounded like Jimi Hendrix playing surf music," Morris remembers, recalling the sonic attack.

In the '80s, a healthy blues scene developed in Greensboro, N.C. Morris got a band going there and one night Bob Margolin, the well-respected former Muddy Waters Band guitarist, heard him play. Morris and Margolin hit it off.

Through Margolin, Morris learned more old-school guitar-blues theory and met the Nighthawks. The 'Hawks were looking for a guitarist and in late 1990, they asked Morris to join. He jumped at the chance to play and travel with a well-established, blues-rockin' band.

For the next few years he traveled the United States, Europe and Japan with the band playing one-nighters. Because of the Nighthawk's blues-rockabilly-rock format, Morris was free to toss in the occasional surf lick. But he also played with his own D.C.-based band during 'Hawks down time and he felt changes coming.

"I loved the traveling … playing all the time [with the 'Hawks]," he says, "[but] I just wanted to explore new music, my own kind of music."

After splitting amiably from the Nighthawks, Morris hooked up with a full-time bass player and drummer and started his own gig. Mixing blues, surf and "retro-rock," the band began a relentless East Coast touring schedule that's still rolling today. Morris says they occasionally play blues festivals where audiences don't want the surf sounds but he adds that his most loyal fans understand the mix.

Morris admits he's reached the point where he'd like to "work smart and not work so hard" and he recently took some time off to pursue a commercial pilot's license. But, regardless of the hard touring, he adds there's always a reward at the end of the road.

"Once I put the guitar on it's OK," he
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