Larry Morris of Larry’s Rebels fame has died.
The Auckland-born and raised musician, lead singer of the 1960s pop band, died late last night.
First formed in the 1960s, Morris and the band were inducted into the NZ Music Hall of Fame/Te Whare Taonga Puoro o Aotearoa in 2020, and until recently, continued to perform.
Simon Grigg of NZ music site Audio Culture said in a tribute to Morris shared on Facebook: “Larry Morris was one of the great figures of New Zealand music; talented both as a singer and a songwriter, absolutely unique and a man who defined his era. It’s with great sadness that we mark Larry’s passing last night”.
Herald writer Steve Braunias interviewed Morris in 2017 at his home in Parnell, Auckland, where he looked after his elderly parents Lister and John until their deaths.
In that interview, he recalls of Larry’s Rebels that they “enjoyed crazy success - sold-out tours, seven top 20 hits in two years - and recorded a classic album, A Study in Black, from midnight to dawn in May 1967, exactly 50 years ago. It sounds just as dangerous now, with its fuzz guitars and Motown drums, a funky and serious garage band given one shot to get it right. Morris was the star”.
“He left the band in a terrible sulk in Whitianga. He was indignant that management got a better class of motel room. He went solo and made two albums in the 1970s, one before he was busted for LSD and one after he got out. They form the bulk of a new Frenzy Music CD, Larry Morris: Anthology.”
He recounted Morris’s stint in prison after being busted for possession of LSD, his 10 years in the United States as an illegal immigrant, and his four marriages and five children.
Morris told Braunias at the time that he had made a promise to his parents that he would look after them, recalling his father telling him: “‘Don’t ever allow your mother to go into a home.’ He says, ‘You look after your mother if anything goes wrong with me.’ I says, ‘Yeah, I give you my word,’ and I gave him a hug, and here we all are. I’m doing it”.
The prison term effectively ended his NZ musical career, which had seen him score big hits with the band during the second half of the 1960s and later as a solo performer with songs like Do What You Gotta Do and Everybody’s Girl.
After prison, Morris headed across the Tasman and later to the US where he lived for 10 years, returning to New Zealand in 1993. Morris’s American wife went back to her homeland and left him to raise their two young sons.
Once called a “degenerate” by former Prime Minister Robert Muldoon, he was later praised as a “true Kiwi music icon” by Prime Minister Helen Clark, who helped him re-enter New Zealand.