About The Artist
Rodney (or Rogene) Morris is best known as the writer of the song "Bimbo" which he recorded on Capitol Records, but was a much bigger hit for Jim Reeves. Morris was a native of Missouri, but spent much of his career at radio outlets in spots like Sioux City, Iowa and Sioux Falls, South Dakota which were out of the mainstream for major country acts such as were WSM, WBT, WLS and WWVA, or KMBC in Kansas City, home of the well known Brush Creek Follies.
Morris was born into a musical family in Brookfield, Missouri. About 1937, he had his own radio show at KITE in Kansas City. He served in the European Theater during the war and came home with a German wife, Anna. He organized a band called the Missourians and played mostly in his home state and the Upper Midwest. For a time he was based at KCOM in Sioux City and then KSOO in Sioux City. He cut his first single on Liberty (not the later more famous label) followed by three in 1949 on Central Records, both local companies. He signed with Capitol in 1950, but his first session did not take place until October 1951 in the radio studio at KSOO.
Johnny Sippel told The Billboard readers in February 1952 that Rod had joined radio station KSOO in Sioux Falls, SD and was the father of a son named Rodney Ludwig. It seems that Fred Stryker of Fairway Music brought Rod to the attention of Ken Nelson at Capitol.
Rod left Sioux Falls sometime in June 1952 to tour extensively with other Capitol artists such as Hank Thompson as reported in The Billboard June 28, 1952. The other artists on the tour included Skeets McDonald; Gene O'Quin; Tex Carmen; Boots and Idaho and Rod Morris. By November, he had re-formed his band and moved his radio base to Norfolk, Nebraska and radio station WJAG. Then he went on to Ottumwa, Iowa. He recorded for Capitol through 1954, but his best song "Bimbo" from October 1953 did much better on Jim Reeves' cover version. Another one of his compositions "North Wind" also became a hit for Slim Whitman.
BMI Awarded a 1954 Citation Of Achievement to Rod Morris and other writers for their "great country and western song hits" of the year.
Rod then moved to the Eureka, CA area around 1957 where he was quite popular. He did numerous personal appearances. He was also on the first broadcast of the new television station KVIQ, channel 6. The station was initially to be affiliated with the NBC and ABC networks. The station televised its dedication ceremony. Rod Morris, a star of the Big Six Jamboree was to provide special entertainment that day. The manager of the station, Caroll R. Hauser had previous experience in radio - both technical and administrative. He was the former owner of radio station KHUM. The station was located on Humboldt Hill.
An article touting the opening of the Homemakers' Holiday show at the Eureka Municipal Auditorium told readers that Rod "...appeared with the Grand Ole Opry radio show in Nashville, Tenn. for 13 months about six years ago (est. 1952) and has also played on various other programs throughout the midwest and this area. His famous song, "Bimbo," sold over a million copies." However, further research could not determine if in fact he was with the Opry or in Nashville at that time.
In the early 1960's, his career seemed to be taking him back to the midwest. He was doing appearances in Hawarden, IA, about 40 miles north of Sioux City, IA. It was a bit north and west of LeMars, IA, where the Traditional Country Music Festival was held.
Most of Rod Morris' later recordings were on a small label, Ludwig, plus one on Blue Bonnet in the mid-1960's. The label was created by Rod while living in Eureka; it was named after his son, Rodney Ludwig. He died in 1980. Bear Family Records released a compact disc containing thirty of his originals in 2000 with extensive notes by Kevin Coffey that provided the information for this sketch. Coffey notes that Morris composed every song that Morris recorded.
Credits & Sources
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