The Examiner has just learned of the passing of Jesse Morris, widely known to BART riders as “Punk Rock Johnny Cash.”
According to Muni Diaries Morris died this past Sunday, his birthday. He was 27 years old.
Little information surrounding the cause of death is available though Morris suffered from depression and attempted suicide by hanging in September.
For many, Morris was a welcoming figure at the 24th St. BART, the station he busked at for years armed with a guitar, a body full of ink and an unforgettable voice.
There was no denying the vocal comparison to country legend Johnny Cash. If you had ears he was catching your attention and hopefully some loose change.
His band, Jesse Morris and the Man Cougars played at such local venues as Gilman, El Rio, Annie’s Social Club and the Uptown Nite Club in Oakland where a benefit show will be held in his honor Friday, Nov. 11, the night his band was scheduled to perform.
Special guests for the evening will be The Grannies, The Undead Boys and Nuetralboy.
One of the more famous buskers in the city, Morris told BART.gov, “I consider it a job. Just like some people might work in an office, I work at the station entertaining people. I get to do what I love, and I can make a living at it.”
“The acoustics are good down here, the people are friendly,” he says. “They stop and listen, they tip, they smile … I have a good time down here.”
Morris was diagnosed with a major depressive disorder at an early age and suffered from panic attacks. He started busking as a teenager and cites country and punk music as influencing him early on, especially the work of Johnny Cash.
“I’ve always wanted to belong but never did,” he told Alarm Press. “It seems like he speaks to people like that.”
In 2008 Jesse was voted “Best BART Musician” by San Francisco Weekly and had gained a reputation as the “punk-rock Johnny Cash” of the subway system.
“Mom was proud,” Morris laughed. “Her son’s the most famous panhandler in San Francisco!”
Joking aside, even though Morris was employed he would still make time for the BART station.
“I get down here and see I made somebody smile. It means something … to see somebody stoked on something that you’re doing; it’s amazing.”
Benefit for Jesse Morris at Uptown Night Club: Nov 11, 8PM
feat. The Grannies, The Undead Boys and Nuetralboy
***In 2008 Jesse Morris starting recording a country album at Different Fur Studios which was never finished. Seven tracks from those sessions are now available here as MP3 320, FLAC, or just about any other format you could possibly desire.
All proceeds from the sale of this album will be donated directly to pay for Jesse’s memorial service.