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
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.
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
Ted Nikas, one of the coffeehouse’s owners, signed Morgon to his
newly established Fink Records and began managing the singer’s
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
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
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
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.”
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