Johnny Morris Celebrates 45 Years in Broadcasting
At 10 years old, a young Andrew Morris already knew what he wanted to be when he grew up – a radio broadcaster. The curious youngster didn’t wait to become an adult before pursuing his dream. He swiftly put his plan in motion by studying technical manuals, and by the age of 12, he built his first transmitter with used parts.
“I wasn’t able to really get taught formerly at that particular time in Fresno,” says Morris. “I did a lot of reading. That’s how I was able to build my first transmitter from out of a book.” Before long, Morris constructed a small radio station inside the garage of his grandmother’s home. The soulful sounds of James Brown were transmitted for blocks, and within a couple of years, his upstart pirate station could be heard for miles.
With great determination, he landed his first radio job at the age of 14 at KLIP, a small station just outside of Fresno, California. In 1964, Morris – who was just 16 years old – obtained his FCC broadcasting and engineering licenses and landed his big break at KSOL, a popular soul music station in the San Francisco Bay Area. He became known as Ronnie Dark, a name given to him by fellow disc jockey and musician Sly Stone. In addition to his on air duties, Ronnie soon became the station’s chief engineer and constructed additional on-air studios on the property.
He left KSOL in 1969, leaving behind his DJ moniker and joining the staff of KDIA under the name Johnny Morris, taking on multiple positions as an on-air jock, program director and assistant chief engineer. “All aspects of it had been good,” says Morris of the additional responsibility. “Taking on more than one position keeps you working when there are no on-air shifts available.” He became one of the Bay Area’s most popular DJs throughout the 1970’s and introduced to his listeners the music of such R&B greats as The Whispers, Bobby Womack, Parliament-Funkadelic, The Ohio Players and many others.
After serving the San Francisco and Oakland community for nearly 20 years, Morris packed up and headed down south to Los Angeles to join R&B stations KGFJ-AM/KUTE-FM. When the stations parted ways in 1985, he went with KGFJ and again took on multiple duties as an on-air jock, program director and chief engineer. In the 1990’s, Morris’ voice continued to grace the airwaves. He entertained his late night listeners on KACE with his extensive musical knowledge and playlist of classic soul and gospel music.
A “techie” since day one, Morris is excited about the future of radio. “I think where its going now is Internet and satellite radio because they offer more of a variety of niche programming instead of one format on a station that is owned by a group that runs the same format in many cities,” he said.
Morris, who is celebrating 45 years in broadcasting, maintains his passion for the industry and continues to use his knowledge and experience to mentor young people that aspire to be in broadcasting and, like himself, consider it an art and not just a job in the entertainment business.
In 2000, Johnny Morris harnessed his wide-ranging expertise and started Morris & Associates. Today, his company continues to offer the best in broadcast engineering and consulting services. His client list includes The Tavis Smiley Group, KJLH and KTYM in Los Angeles.