Russell Morris - Australia's Legendary Singer, Guitarist and Songwriter
Russell Morris is one of Australia’s most enduring singers. A major pop star in the late ’60s, he went on to become one of the country’s first singer/songwriters. His musical journey began in the 1960s, where he gained prominence for his distinct vocals and skilled guitar performances.
Russell’s career began in 1966 with the formation of the Melbourne group Somebody’s Image, a band that had a local hit with a version of the Joe South song “Hush.”
Russell Morris’ manager/producer, Ian “Molly” Meldrum soon convinced Russell to leave the band in search of a solo career. Molly then went to work to create a seven-minute production extravaganza around a song called “The Real Thing.” Radio programmers were in shock when the song was released. They’d never been asked to play such a long single before, but they did and the results were astounding.
Breakthrough with "The Real Thing"
The Real Thing reached Australia’s number one spot in 1969. Russell immediately achieved international recognition with the release of the psychedelic anthem when, without any promotional support “The Real Thing” reached number one in Chicago, Houston, and New York. This breakthrough marked a pivotal moment in his career and solidified his place as a notable figure in the industry.
Musical Evolution and Versatility
Russell released a second single – “Part Three Into Paper Walls” (“The Real Thing” revisited) and “The Girl That I Love” (a pop ballad. The single became a double-sided #1 hit, the first time an Australian artist had scored consecutive number ones with their first two singles. Russell took off to the U.K to help promote the “The Real Thing.”
Russell begain to write his own songs and, with the cream of Australian musicians, spent months recording and re-recording what would become the Bloodstone album. It was one of the first Aussie albums of its kind, the first from an Australian singer/songwriter. The hit single was the romantic “Sweet Sweet Love.” Russell was on fire. The following year, in 1972, he delivered the equally beautiful “Wings of an Eagle.”
In 73, Russell relocated to New York and set to work on an album there. A second US album arrived in 76. But, by the time he returned to Australia, he struggled to find an audience and it wasn’t until n 1991 that he released the album, A Thousand Suns. He joined forces with fellow ’60s heroes Ronnie Burns and Darryl Cotton of Zoot and the trio found success playing their hits from the past. In 2001, Jim Keays of the Masters Apprentices replaced Burns.
Cotton, Keays and Morris
Awards and Recognition
On 1 July 2008, Russell was inducted into the Aria Hall of Fame. In 2012 he released the first of his trilogy of Australian story albums. Sharkmouth is a collection of tracks about the Australia of the 1920s and 30s . In 2014, Van Diemen’s Land followed – an album which focused on events from the prison ships that began Australia as a penal settlement to the union strikes. It was the highest-charting album of Russell’s 50-year career to date.
Black and Blue Heart and the Morris Springfield Project
In 2019, Russell released his next studio album – the bluesy, Black and Blue Heart. It was produced by Powderfinger’s Bernard Fanning amd Nick Didia. Then, in 2021, Russell joined his friend Rick Springfield to produce the iconic Jack Chrome and the Darkness Waltz.
Live Performances and Legacy
Known for his dynamic live performances, today Russell continues to tour and engage audiences globally. His most recent live album “The Real Thing, The Symphonic Concert,” featuring him with a 54-piece symphony orchestra is extraordinary.Russell just gets better with age. No wonder he is a highly revered figure in Australian music. If you’d like to know more about him, check out his website here