Wednesday, Jun 19 2013 02:08 PM

Lorrie story: What a tale

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    By Photo courtesy of Lorrie Morgan

    Country singer Lorrie Morgan appears at the Kern County Museum on Sunday.

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BY MATT MUNOZ Californian staff writer mmunoz@bakersfield.com

Love gone wrong, tragedy and redemption: Lorrie Morgan doesn't just sing country music, she lives it.

In fact, Morgan's life and career have been full of highs -- a string of radio-friendly hits in the '90s -- and lows, including failed high-profile romances with the likes of former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman, actor/senator Fred Thompson and fellow country singer Sammy Kershaw.

Related Info

Lorrie Morgan

When: 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: Kern County Museum, 3801 Chester Ave.

Admission: $15 to $58, plus service charges. Discount tickets for children available for $10 at gate on day of show

Information: 865-9689, 634-9474 or purplepass.com

Encore performances

Jesse Keith Whitley will be performing at Trout's Sunday evening at 8 p.m. Tickets prices are $20 to $50.

Lorrie Morgan will be making an encore appearance at Trout's at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Tickets are $100 to $150. Tickets for both shows available at Trout's or Emporium Western Store in Bakersfield.

And then there was the alcohol-related death in 1989 of her husband Keith Whitley -- just as Morgan was about to break out with her own chart-topping success.

Through it all, Morgan, 53, said she's always tried to keep life and work in perspective, never giving in to despair. Taking another chance at love, the singer took her sixth walk down the aisle three years go.

"I'm at a place in my life where I feel more confident, more comfortable and more settled. I have more control over the music I want to record and perform, and there's no urgency."

But that doesn't mean the fire has gone out of her stage show, she said. She means to prove it to Bakersfield audiences with a pair of engagements over the next few days: first at a concert at the Kern County Museum Sunday and then a more intimate show at Trout's on Tuesday.

Morgan said she'll sing a selection of tunes that span her career, including the ones that came at her peak.

"The '90s were explosive, fast-paced and fun, and the great memories are far too many to mention," said Morgan during a recent interview. "But I'm kind of enjoying my career where I am now."

Morgan's 1989 major label debut, "Leave the Light On," featured the singer's first No. 1 single, "Five Minutes," which kicked off a string of sassy hits like "Watch Me," "What Part of No," "I Didn't Know My Own Strength," and "Go Away," cementing her reputation as a self-empowering industry survivor and playful diva.

Following the example of his mother and father is singer/songwriter Jesse Keith Whitley, 26, who is opening for Morgan on her current tour. Born two years before his dad's death, the aspiring singer has country music in his DNA, plus a new CD, "Kentucky Thunder." Like any proud mother, Morgan his her son's biggest fan.

"He's pretty special; he's an extraordinary talent and I'm excited to see where his music career takes him. I will be right behind him, every step of the way," she said.

While Morgan is helping to open the door for her son, she's also making new fans too young to remember her early hits when they were originally released. She said she couldn't have done it without the help of the digital age, and the new opportunities to reach music lovers directly, rather than going through the industry suits.

"It has enabled the country genre as a whole to broaden its audience to highlight new trending artists, as well as welcome the return of the traditional sounds, introducing it to a younger audience yearning to hear some of the more rootsy music. We've gained a lot of new fans who have found us on the Internet; it's so nice to see the college kids in the crowd sing the words to some of my songs!"

Morgan's upcoming release, "Dos Divas," set for a July 23 release, is a collaboration with veteran country singer and gal pal Pam Tillis, with whom she has already starting touring.

"I'm enjoying my Grits & Glamour tour dates with Pam, my independent shows are filled with friendly, familiar faces each and every night, and then when I get home, I spend quality time with my husband, my children and my grandbabies."

Morgan and Tillis, who have known each other since childhood, were born into country music families and spent many evenings together backstage watching their parents in the spotlight. Morgan is the daughter of the late Grand Ole Opry favorite George Morgan, and Tillis' dad is singer/songwriter Mel Tillis.

"We are two women who absolutely do things our own way, but we both bend to give to this unique and special relationship. We both respect each other's artistry, we respect each other as women, and we help each other if we're not feeling well. We share some spunk! It's part of the tradition that we were brought up in."

As country fans await the release of "Dos Divas," Morgan promises her solo show at the Kern County Museum will be a great appetizer.

"We'll perform some of the fan favorites and some of my personal favorites; Bakersfield can expect a cross between contemporary and traditional country, where 'Cougar Town' connects with Broadway!"

Sunday's concert will be staged at the museum's log cabin green. Also appearing are Garrison-Kennedy, the Blackboard Playboys, Noah Claunch, Mark Madewell and more. A portion of the show's proceeds will benefit Make-A-Wish of Central California.

Seating is provided but patrons may bring their own foldout chairs to the venue. Food, and drink vendors will be selling soft drinks, beer and wine.

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