Very sorry to hear of the death of Michael Morgan, who passed away from lung cancer last Friday, March 28th, at the age of 59. I met and knew Michael during the final Detroit days of CREEM Magazine, when he worked at the publication in ad sales and marketing.
Perhaps Morgan's most memorable role in the Detroit rock scene, however, was as drummer of the '60s garage rock band, the Underdogs, who were the first white rock band signed to Berry Gordy's Motown label. Formed in high school and inspired by the Beatles (using that same classic lineup), the group began performing at Dave Leone's and Punch Andrews' legendary teen Hideout Club in Harper Woods. Andrews and Leone then began recording the teenage group on their own Hideout label. The B-side to the group's 1965 single, "Judy Be Mine" aka "Friday at the Hideout," was later covered by the Romantics. Bob Seger, another Hideout regular, wrote songs for the group. It's said that Seger wrote "East Side Story" for the Underdogs but decided to keep it for himself after hearing their version.
After signing to Motown, they released one single release on the VIP label, a garage (of course!) version of Holland-Dozier-Holland's "Love's Gone Bad." The record only reached No. 122 on the pop charts in 1967 -- but is considered a classic garage rock record today. It even placed No. 99 on Metro Times' 100 Greatest Detroit Songs Ever last year. The band recorded other tracks for Motown, including a garage rock version of "The Way You Do the Things You Do," that have been released on Motown compilations over the past decade or so. The band even appeared on one of those classic Motown Revue shows alongside the greatest soul stars in history.
The Grosse Pointe-born group also included Dave Whitehouse (vocals/bass), Tony Roumell (lead guitar/vocals) and Chris Lena (rhythm guitar/vocals). Strangely enough, Michael never talked about the band during his time at CREEM and only modestly discussed it with me when I brought it up to him back then.
His obituary doesn't mention his brief time as a local rock star, either -- but it's still one of the more rock 'n' roll obits I've ever read.
There will be a celebration of Michael's life tomorrow (April 3rd) at Sinbad's Restaurant, 100 St. Clair Street in Detroit, from 6 to 11:30 p.m. More details can be found in the obit.
So long, old friend. Rest in peace.
The Underdogs, Michael Morgan seated with drumsticks, of course.