The story behind Chad Morgan's most personal song
CHADWICK William Morgan, or Chad Morgan, or The Sheik of Scrubby Creek, is an icon of Australian music.
Aged 85, this singer and guitarist has been popular for half a century for his vaudeville style of comic Country and Western songs, his prominent teeth and goofy stage persona.
Active as a recording artist since 1952, Morgan has seen it all, and has sung everywhere, and he is coming back to Casino for yet another round of old funny songs.
He is well known for his trademark comedy songs, such as The Shotgun Wedding, I'm My Own Grandpa, and Sally Let Youg Bangs Hang Down.
But of all the songs he has written in his life, he said the one people comments the most about is The Ballad of Bill and Eva, a tune about a long story about the displacement of Aboriginal Australia, with a very personal twist.
"That songs came to me in a dream," he said.
"It was written about my grandfather and grandmother from my mother's side, they raised me."
The songs tells the story of an aboriginal lady, Ivy Hopkins, who married a Scotsman.
He died and she remarried and had more kids. Some were born black, some white. She used charcoal to darken her kids so they weren't taken away.
"That song took me 50 years to write. One of Ivy Hopkins daughters from her second marriage was my mother," Morgan said.
"Bill was a half-cast and Eva and her brothers were pure white.
"Eva's father was an opal miner, which was very dangerous in those days, so he got killed.
"Eva's mother married another half cast man, which left the four white children with dark parents, so the kids were taken away and Eva never saw her mother again until she was in her 20s.
"She went back to the mission where her mother was and that's where she met Bill, he was about 20-odd years older than her."
Chad Morgan said Eva and Bill married in 1913 and his mother was the only child they had.
"My mother was white and I was born an illegitimate child," he said.
"My mother then married a Morgan and I've got 13 brothers and sisters from that lot, but my grandparents raised me but my grandfather died when I was 14.
"I wanted to tell the story exactly as it was and the song came out exactly as I wanted it," he said.
The artist said he always gets people ask him about that particular song.
"You'd be surprised how many people come up to me and say 'I'm the same as that. I've got dark blood in me. Yup,' " he said.
"It's surprising how many people it affects; sometimes I look up from the stage and I'll see them crying."
"It's unreal, I never expected that to happen, I just wrote it because I wanted someone to tell their story."
Chad Morgan has never written another song about his family.
The artist said going on stage is what keep's him active.
"It's what's keeping me ticking," he said.
"When I can't go on stage, or when people don't come to see me, that's when I'll stop," he said.
Morgan said he has written some new songs lately.
"The second last song I wrote, I woke up one morning at 2am with a tune in my head and words buzzing around, I took no notice but the next morning the same thing happened again, so I took pen and paper and after four nights I had a full song."
The musician said he is bringing a selection of his best to the Casino show.
"I have a couple with me, The Muirs, husband and wife, they sing some of their own songs and some old favourites, plus my son Allan plays the lead guitar in the show and also sings Country songs," he said.
"I'll sings some of the old ones, because if I don't sing the old ones people ask for them, and I'll be throwing in a few new ones, plus a few sad old jokes."
Morgan said he decides on the song list for every show based on their reaction to the opening song.
"I can usually work out from their reaction what sort of people they are and what kind of songs to sing to them," he explained.
- At Casino RSM Club on Friday, November 9. Visit casinorasm.com.au for details.