Morris Brothers

Sights & Sounds

Types of Artistry

Historic Artist

Morris Brothers

String band musicians

McDowell County, NC

George, Zeke, and Wiley Morris were among the six musical sons born to a musical mother in Old Fort. Influenced by their mother and maternal uncles, the Morris brothers took an early interest in string band music. George learned the guitar first, but when he wasn't home, Zeke would sneak his guitar out from under the bed and play; when Zeke grew more accomplished, and had his own guitar, Wiley in turn played that instrument when Zeke wasn't looking.

George and Zeke, older than Wiley, played together at fiddlers' conventions and other local events, and developed a reputation in the area as good musicians. In 1933, another brother duet, J. E. and Wade Mainer, swung through Old Fort in search of George, who they had heard was a good guitarist. George wasn't home, but Wiley, who was still a little boy, suggested that the Mainers listen to what Zeke could do. Zeke played for them, the Mainers hired him, and the group went off to Charlotte together. They played on WBT radio as J. E. Mainer and his Crazy Mountaineers.

In 1937, when Wiley was old enough to go on the road, he joined Zeke and Wade Mainer in radio work in Asheville and Raleigh. Wiley and Zeke then went north to Danville, Virginia, where they played on the radio with Homer Sherrill and Joel Martin as the Smiling Rangers. In 1938, Zeke recorded with Bill Monroe, who had just broken up with his own musical brother, Charlie. In various band configurations, the Morris brothers made many radio appearances and records together.

Wiley and Zeke Morris retired to Black Mountain, and both passed away in the 1990s. Zeke Morris Auto Body Shop still operates on Spring Street in Black Mountain.

 

Note: "Historic Artist" designates one who is deceased but whose legacy continues to influence and inspire new generations.