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Newport’s folk singer

With all American looks and a burgeoning fan base, folk singer and

guitarist Tim Morgon’s career seemed untouchable in 1963.

The Newport Beach resident had just released his first album, “Tim

Morgon at the Prison of Socrates,” a tribute to a Balboa Peninsula

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coffeehouse located on Main Street.

The Prison of Socrates was a proving ground for folk singers in

the early 1960s -- a place where teenagers gathered in droves during

the summer months.

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Morgon began singing at the coffeehouse in 1960, when few people

knew his name.

“I did my first concert for free,” Morgon remembers. “The next

night they paid me. The next thing I know, people started coming back

week after week. Things were going well. Prices went up for drinks,

and they started charging admission.”

Most of Morgon’s repertoire was folk music, but he spiced up

concerts with pop tunes and cover songs, as well. He took his act on

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the road.

Ted Nikas, one of the coffeehouse’s owners, signed Morgon to his

newly established Fink Records and began managing the singer’s

career.

Local music stores picked up on the popularity of Morgan’s music.

His records reached the top of the charts at Orange County and Los

Angeles music stores.

Still, Morgon wondered why his career wasn’t taking off on a

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national level. He saw other local performers receiving attention

from television appearances and major showcase events.

Nikas had the idea to make a movie about Morgon’s career and life

in Newport Beach. He filmed concerts, followed Morgon on surfing

trips and took the singer on location to shoot footage that resembled

a modern-day music video.

The film, “Dirty Feet,” debuted in 1965. Morgon’s fans eagerly

awaited the opening. But Morgon was far from pleased.

“Scene after scene was just phony to me,” Morgon said. “The

production quality was low. We were embarrassed about the whole

thing.”

Morgon broke ties with Nikas and began to manage his own career.

He made regular appearances at the Glendale Ice House, where brothers

Mike and Nick Campbell first spotted Morgon in 1967.

“We were conditioned to like folk music,” said Nick Campbell, who

now lives in Atascadero. “He was different from other people because

of his voice. He had a way of connecting with his audience.”

The Campbell brothers saw Morgon play dozens of shows over the

years. But Morgon said he became disillusioned with the music

industry.

In 1981, he quit singing for good.

Nick and Mike Campbell never forgot about their favorite folk

singer. In the late 1990s, they converted some of Morgon’s vinyl

albums into CD format.

Having never seen “Dirty Feet,” the brothers contacted Nikas and

convinced him to retrieve a copy of the movie, which had been put

away decades earlier.

Nikas traveled to France, found a copy and sent it to the

brothers, who transferred the movie into DVD format with Nikas’ help.

The Campbells are now selling “Dirty Feet” on eBay for $16.95,

Nick Campbell said.

Although he doesn’t endorse the movie, Morgon said it’s a nice

memento from his early years. The Campbell brothers never did see

Morgon live at the Prison.

But now they have a copy of performances that will last forever.

“It makes us feel like we saved something from destruction,”

Campbell said. “People who don’t know anything about his music will

have this to see.”

* THE GOOD OLD DAYS runs Sundays. Do you know of a person, place

or event that deserves a look back? Let us know. Contact us by fax at

(714) 966-4679; by e-mail at o7dailypilot@latimes.comf7; or by mail

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