American banjo musician, comedian, actor, songwriter and entertainer who gained fame as a featured member of the Spike Jones Band from 1947 to 1958. Born in New York City and raised in Cleveland Ohio, he went by "Freddy" since childhood. At age of 9, he began playing the ukulele after recovering from a serious accident. He studied banjo with Eddie Connors and at the age of 14, then teamed up with a school mate and fellow banjo enthusiast named Leo Livingston. The pair billed themselves as Morgan and Stone, and struck out for Broadway where they met with success. Morgan and Stone went on a 36-week nationwide tour, then traveled Europe and played the vaudeville circuit. Next, he teamed up with Australian banjoist Wally Hadley to form Morgan and Hadly from which a few recordings were produced in England.
At the outbreak of WWII, he was stranded in Europe, and helped found the European Theater Artists Group, a forerunner to the United Service Organization (USO) to entertain troops abroad. When the war ended, Morgan auditioned for Spike Jones by telephone, spending 35 minutes barking like a dog and imitating Edward G. Robinson during the effort. For 11 years, he performed as a featured banjo player for Spike Jones, bringing laughter to audiences with his bowl haircut, his goofy grin and his absolute comedic personality.
Morgan was always a first-rate player whose spirited performances contributed to a rise in banjo popularity over his lifetime. By the mid to late 1950's, he began branching out, first forming a banjo troup called the Sunnysiders which produced a hit record in 1955 called "Hey, Mr. Banjo", a nickname that stuck with him thereafter in show billings and musical references. A solo recording for Verve records came out in 1957 with his iconic mug gracing the cover. His final year with the City Slickers was in 1958.
He was perpetually busy entertaining in clubs, fairs and concerts to his very last day, a Christmas time performance for veterans at the Oak Knoll Veterans Hospital in Oakland, California, when a heart attack ended his life during his performance. He was 60 years old. Get bonus content on Patreon
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