Friday, November 11, 2011

RIP Jesse Morris, You Made A Lasting Memory On Us

Folks, there is some really sad news to report and its of the variety in which, if you have a friend that is on the ropes and needs an ear, give them a fuckin' ear. Life is so damn short and we all want to put our best foot forward, but from time to time we all need some advice.

A couple years ago while living back in the Bay Area, if I couldn't ride into the city while livin' in Oakland or when I was living downtown, I was constantly by a particular BART Station, generally the Montgomery Station and would hear this amazing voice that resonated throughout the tunnels. Here was a guy at 8 am buskin' in the station and singing Johnny Cash. To tell ya the truth, it made my day and many other folks for that matter as he became part of the local folk lore. I found myself going directly into the station just to catch a few minutes of this fantastic voice several times a week for at least 10 to 15 minutes at a time. I never said hello, but I just sat back, sipped my coffee and enjoyed the sounds which would carry me through the day of hectic work and a corporate nine to five grind, which is soul thievery in every form.

Years later that same voice would end up in my inbox about a potential band to check out, to be involved with Rusty Knuckles Music. As soon as I heard Jesse Morris's voice, I knew exactly who it was and our distribution guy and I constantly talked on it. What an amazing talent this guy was and how he affected so many folks in San Francisco and the local buzz building on their new band.

How could hearing Johnny Cash first thing in the morning not make for a better day?

So, low and behold, we ended up chatting with the band and more precisely Joe Dean about potentially working together on some projects. After many chats, ideas were hatched and plans came together but nothing could come to fruition. Fast forward to now, well, Jesse is no longer with us as he was fighting quite a few demons and took his own life.

Jesse, oh how I wish that any of us could have helped out to make things different. All that matters for us is you will be remembered. To the fellas in the band and especially Joe Dean, my thoughts our with ya brother.

Our somber tone on this also goes out a great childhood friend by the name of Chris Creasy, who also took his life with a shotgun blast that was buried in his mouth. We know of the demons ya had Chris, but we still miss ya hoss and in so many ways why couldn't ya have just asked for help...

If yer listenin' Jess, "Die With My Boots On" will forever be in our playlist. Fuck Heaven and Fuck Hell, we believe in the soul and hopefully my friend, one day we can hear ya playin' again regardless of which faction is at the party.

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Update: A benefit concert and radio tribute are planned for this Friday, Nov. 11, and Sunday, Nov. 13. Details.


We’re saddened to get word that Jesse Morris, whom you may know as “Punk Rock Johnny Cash” and one of the most beloved BART buskers, died on Sunday. This morning, our own Ed Casey alerted us that friends and fans on Reddit and Facebook have been posting tributes to Jesse. We also heard from several of Jesse’s friends about the sad news.
Many of you have seen Jesse performing at BART — we first wrote about Jesse in 2009 on BART Diaries. Jesse was interviewed by and talked about why he likes playing in BART stations:
“The acoustics are good down here, the people are friendly,” he says. “They stop and listen, they tip, they smile … I have a good time down here.”
Although Morris has a night job at a bar, and writes and plays original material with his band, Jesse and the Man Cougars, he keeps coming back to play at BART.
“I consider it a job,” he says. “Just like some people might work in an office, I work at the station entertaining people. I get to do what I love, and I can make a living at it.”
SFGate had just written about Jesse and his band, Jesse Morris and the Man Cougars, this January:
How did you name your band?
Jesse came to rehearsal and teased the “old guys” for having young, beautiful girlfriends, saying, “You guys are like a bunch of man cougars.” And the name stuck.
Photographer Bill Cendak shared this photograph of Jesse with us, taken at a band practice at Lennon Studios on Nov. 2, 2011. Jesse Morris and the Man Cougars were due to play at the Uptown this Friday. Cendak has been photographing Jesse Morris and the Man Cougars ever since the band started.

Photo by Bill Cendak

Jesse’s presence made a big impression on photographer Troy Holden, who pointed us to this portrait of Jesse at the 24th Street BART station.

“I see this fellow once each week playing Johnny Cash cover tunes. When I asked him if I could take his portrait, he flipped me off. Not until later did his gesture register with me.”
Jesse was referencing this iconic photo of Johnny Cash, taken in 1969 during his San Quentin performance.

Reader Jenner sent us a photo of Jesse and the Man Cougars at Bender’s earlier this year.

MC #1

Here’s an older photo of Jesse at the Montgomery BART station.

my johnny cash bart guy...
Photo by fiveinchpixie

If you are a friend, family, or fan of Jesse Morris, we would like to hear from you. Please comment or email us at and help us honor a great musician who brought light to our daily transit experience.