Radio Hall of Fame inductee Johnny Morris has died. Morris was the first black chief engineer in Southern California radio and an award-winning radio broadcaster/program director. Morris, who has been characterized as “godfather of soul radio in California” due to his memorable stints at stations in the Bay Area and Los Angeles, died on the evening of Friday, Aug. 31 after a long illness. He was 70.
Morris landed his first radio job at KLIP, just outside of Fresno, at the age of 14. In 1964, at age 16, obtained his FCC broadcasting and engineering licenses and landed his big break at KSOL, a popular soul station in the greater San Francisco area. In addition to his on-air duties, Morris soon became the station’s chief engineer and constructed additional on-air studios on the property.
He left KSOL in 1969, joining the staff of KDIA under the name Johnny Morris, taking on multiple roles as an on-air jock, PD, and assistant chief engineer. After serving the San Francisco and Oakland community for nearly 20 years, Morris 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 personality, PD, and chief engineer. In the 1990s, Morris entertained his late-night listeners on KACE with his extensive musical knowledge and playlist of classic soul and gospel music. In 2011, he started Morris Broadcast Media with his fellow radio-vet daughter, Felicia, and their shared passion resulted in the creation of Morris Media Studios, originally slated for a public grand-opening this summer, an occasion postponed so she could concentrate on his care.
A GoFundMe campaign has been launched in Mr. Morris’ honor to lay the foundation for the Morris Broadcast Academy, a place for teens and young adults to learn the ins and outs of hosting, producing, and engineering radio shows and podcasts. In lieu of flowers, mourners are being asked to visit https://www.gofundme.com/morris-broadcast-academy.