Civil War, Railroad, and Americana "roots" programs
for schools, libraries, museums, festivals and family gatherings.
Old-time dance tunes, parlor music and early radio music -- with a lot of toe-tapping, sing-alongs and audience participation. We tell the real story behind each song -- in the flavor of the times.
Bill Morris was raised by his grandmother in Western North Carolina, on land originally granted to the family in the 1780s for service in the Revolutionary War. As a child, he was surrounded by musical treasures and storytellers on all sides.
Bill's Grandfather John Morris, also a storyteller, was infamous for playing a fiddle while dancing on two wooden legs. John had lost his legs while performing with a Wild West Show in Kansas in 1911. Uncle Lewis Boyd, another family showman, played everything – fiddle, mandolin, guitar, banjo, and harmonica -- and performed with a Medicine Show in the 1920s.
Mamie Yates Boyd, Bill’s maternal grandmother, cultivated an abiding love for the "old" music and passed it on to him. “There is a story behind every song,” Mama Boyd would say.
In addition to storytelling and singing, Bill plays guitar, banjo, mandolin and harmonica. He has been performing professionally since 1943 when at the age of three, his mother and Aunt Helen routinely took him to the old Eckerd's drug store in Asheville, NC, a gathering place for soldiers and sailors during World War II, where dressed in a sailor suit one time and a soldier’s suit another, he would sing songs like “Madie Groves,” “Barbara Allen,” and “It’s A Bloody War” for nickels and dimes.
His love for old ballads, and the cowboy and railroad songs compelled him to create and produce a five-album series entitled Blue Ridge Mountain Music, and the record label IVY CREEK RECORDINGS, which continues to be recognized by the national parks system, and museum gift shops nationwide as a solid producer of interpretive and educational albums. In addition to railroad history shows, he has performed at universities and festivals throughout the South and Midwest.
Kristin Morris, known as “Mizmo” to her students, started writing songs around age six – not long after beginning piano lessons. On special evenings, Mother and sisters gathered around the player piano and sang words off the yellowing paper rolls as Daddy pumped the foot bellows. “I guess you could say I cut my musical teeth on parlor songs and ragtime from the early 1900s.”
Kristin studied Journalism in college in Austin, Texas during the time Austin City Limits got its start, learning to love the sweet harmonies of progressive country artists like Michae lMartin Murphy, Pure Prairie League, Jesse Colin Young and “Willie and Waylon and the boys.” Spending six years in New Orleans as a freelance writer for newspapers such as the Times-Picayune, had her listening to zydeco and Lil’ Queenie, the Neville Brothers and Doctor John. This raw infusion brings a blues awareness to her vocals and improvisational voicing to songs such as “Hushabye” and “L&N.”
From New Orleans, she moved to Appalachia to write a novel, and got caught up in life there. “Making homespun music – like what I did with a guitar – was just everyday life for people from the mountains. Meeting Bill was like finally coming home. I couldn’t learn his old-time tunes fast enough.” The duo began performing in 1994 at the Asheville Folk Heritage and Dance Festival, then Charlotte’s Festival in the Park; Central Piedmont Community College; the N.C. Center for Advancement of Teaching; RailDays Festival for the N.C. Transportation Museum; the Mountain Gateway Museum in Old Fort, N.C., and storytelling festivals at Horn of the West in Boone and in Spruce Pine, N.C.
Kristin Morris teaches English and Spanish to high school students, still writes songs and performs stories – “about being a hero, both on and off the railroad.” She holds Masters degrees in Rhetoric and in Educational Technology. She was listed in Who’s Who in American Teachers 2004, Who’s Who in American Teachers 2005, was awarded the Certificate of Merit, National Honor Roll’s Outstanding American Teachers for the Exceptional Performance in the Motivation and Empowerment of Today’s Youth, 2005/2006, and was listed in Who's Who in American Women Entrepreneurs 2012.