Fond memories of the late Dick Morrissey (sax, flute) live on through the Morrissey Mullen Legacy which plays Chichester’s Chichester Inn on Saturday, April 18 at 8.30pm (01243 783185).
Morrissey Mullen was considered one of the most popular British jazz-funk/fusion groups in London in the 70s and 80s. It was formed by Dick and by Jim Mullen (guitar) in New York City in 1975 where they were recording and touring with their mutual friends in the Average White Band and Herbie Mann.
Their first of seven albums featured AWB rhythm section Luther Van Dross and Cissy Houston on vocals and some of the finest NY sessions musicians. On their return to the UK, Morrissey Mullen concentrated on the small-club/pub circuit before in 1979 EMI commissioned them to make Britain’s first digitally-recorded single record, a cover of the Rose Royce hit Love Don’t Live Here Anymore. Their 1981 album Badness reached number one in the UK disco charts. Sadly, Dick died in 2000, but Jim is delighted to keep the memory alive.
“I was friends with the Average White Band, and in 1975, they were riding high with number-one singles and albums worldwide. Things were going great for them.
“The two sax players were fans of Dick Morrissey who was one of those guys who was quite content just gigging around London. He wasn’t particularly ambitious, but was hugely respected. I always used to say his solos were like carved from marble. He was one of these people who were fully formed very early on. He knew what he wanted to do, and he knew how to do it.
“And so these two sax players wanted to make an album with Dick in New York. They called me up almost as an afterthought. I was staying with a friend in Wimbledon. I hadn’t worked for about a year. I had lost my previous band, and I was thinking of going back to my previous career. But they called me up.”
Jim hadn’t met Dick at that point, but they were living close by and so started to work together ahead of making the album: “We met up in a pub in Tooting, and we found we had so much in common and that we wanted the same things. We started rehearsing, the two of us, getting the album together and then went to New York. The Average White Band guys joined us to make the album.”
And so the collaboration was born: “The band went on for about 15 years, but sadly Dick’s health deteriorated and he pulled out. We had had a Morrissey Mullen reunion about two months before he died, but by that time he was in a wheelchair, but he was still playing with all the heart he ever had. We all missed him greatly.”
It was the band’s bass-player and drummer who suggested the current reunion: “He was such a sweet guy. He was the most positive person you ever met. He saw everything, especially music, as a positive force. A lot of musicians get disgruntled. It can be a tough life.
“You can’t always do what you want to do, and there’s the function band thing which pays much better, but with people not listening. It’s not the kind of gig that’s satisfying, that you want to do – and musicians can get bitter and twisted. But Dick never did. He was a positive guy.”