Singer-songwriter Laurie Morvan battles back from injury to reclaim stage
Her Long Beach-based blues-rock group performs tonight in Lodi
By Tony Sauro,
Stockton Record, June 13, 2015
Laurie Morvan's broken wrist hurt. A lot. Being unable to play her guitar was even more painful.
"It's having the thing you love most in life taken away," Morvan said. "I couldn't play my guitar. You're really in pain. That's no fun.
"It's even harder emotionally. It's like being torn away from the thing that defines who you are. That's such a challenge. You're more grateful getting to come back. You know, 'Absence makes the heart grow fonder'."
Morvan broke her right wrist — immobilizing the hand that picks her six electric-guitar strings — last October. She couldn't lead her five-member Laurie Morvan Band again until February.
"It was a challenge," Morvan said from Long Beach. "Everybody was scrambling to pick up gigs. When I was ready to come back, I was in pain and trying to do the booking. "You don't feel like getting on the computer after that," she said. "I had to do all my typing with one left finger."
Her rehab was difficult enough. After a titanium plate and 8 screws were inserted, she underwent physical therapy four hours a day from November through January. The band's successful performance at an Arizona festival in February was encouraging.
Finally, starting in May, her Long Beach-based blues-rock group — it includes the singer-songwriter's former husband and current spouse — was off the disabled list, playing, touring and planning to record an album delayed by Morvan's injury.
Morvan pointed at Lodi's Jessie's Grove Winery, where her band makes its third appearance tonight. "It's such a beautiful setting," the 54-year-old Morvan said of Jessie's Grove's bucolic vibe. "They're just my kind of people. Hanging out. Drinking wine. Relaxing. Everybody's in a great mood. It's just a joy to do it."
Morvan's recuperation resulted in a few new textures. "I've written a ton of songs," she said. "(The album) might get even a little groovier. A little more muscular groove. It seems like a natural progression of my writing."
She expects to insert a few "sneak previews"— announced and unannounced — this summer.
Former husband Pat Morvan has played bass with her since she arrived in California. Vocalist Lisa Morvan is her spouse of 14 years; Tommy Salyers plays keyboards; and Lonnie Jones, a drummer from St. Louis through Denver, is the newest member. Pat's wife Susan sells the band's merchandise.
"We kind of joke, 'Hey, we're Fleetwood Mac'," Morvan said of the band whose relationship webs motivated "Rumours," a 1977 album that's sold 40 million copies. "It was a very painful split, but we both moved on and subsequently found the true loves of our lives. "Divorce can be very divisive, but we've never been cruel to each other. We all get along."
Morvan didn't plan on being a musician. How about a volleyball player and electrical engineer? She got her B.S.E.E. from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana while being a scholarship athlete, named MVP of the women's volleyball team.
Born in non-bluesy Plainfield, Illinois, a "teeny, tiny, little town with a population of 2,900," she had some musical roots.
Grandparents Richard and Mary Kehlenbach played organ and sang in church. Her biological father walked out on the family when Morvan was 5. Mom Rita held a variety of jobs and remarried (Bud King, an electrician) when Morvan was 12.
She started playing flute in fifth grade and added drums at Plainfield High, where she also played volleyball.
At 18, while working at Gee Lumber, a friend suggested she try guitar: "He put it in my hands. I made a little sound and went, 'My god. Oh, my god, this is the best thing in the world.' It was magical.
"Songwriting came pretty naturally. As soon as I could play three chords, I started writing songs."
That continued after she moved to Redondo Beach, where she worked in aerospace for TRW Inc.
She responded to a Long Beach music-store ad and joined a band called Windows. Pat Morvan was the bass player. They were married in 1986.
"He was the bass player in my very first band, and we are still working together," she said of their 29-year musical and personal relationship. "I still think that's so cool."
The right-handed Morvan might not be doing as well if her left hand — with which she grips her Fender Stratocaster fret-board — had been incapacitated.
"It's been a long healing process," she said. "Lots of physical therapy. I was lucky. If it had been my fretting hand, I wouldn't be playing yet. I'm so fortunate it's my picking hand."