The Absent-Minded Promoter
Chuck Morris arrived in Colorado planning to be a college professor. Instead, he's spent nearly 40 years making Denver a part of rock 'n' roll history. He's worked hard and at times played even harder. Now, backed by a conservative billionaire, Morris is singing a new tune.
"May I help you?"
"Chuck?" I walk toward him. He has the man-purse and another bag slung over his shoulder and a motley armful of papers.
"Yeah...you're an hour early."
"We said 1:30 right?"
"I think I'm right on time."
He looks at his wrist. "Oh, wait...my watch stopped."
At AEG, Morris once again appears to be one half of an odd couple, working for and with Philip Anschutz. The media tycoon, who produced The Chronicles of Narnia and whose vast holdings include numerous sports teams, arenas, and theater chains, is famously reclusive and conservative. It's hard to imagine the devout Christian Anschutz and Morris just "hanging," but the two have known each other for about 20 years, fostering a friendship over numerous charity events. Then again, they won't often be working directly together; Morris' division is a mere sliver of the AEG empire, and besides, business is business—as Morris himself so shrewdly grasps.
"You could take [Morris] very lightly the way he sometimes portrays himself, but he's thinking all the time, usually way ahead of where everyone else is," Bohlander says. Morris has been a manager and a promoter. Leveraging his old poli sci interests—one of his primary sources of relaxation is reading political books—he's active in Democratic political causes and has aligned himself with powers that be and might be, doing benefits with and for the likes of Mayor Hickenlooper, Sen. Ken Salazar, and Al Franken. He's always kept a foot in country and folk music, managing different acts and cobbling together an all-star group of musicians to form Highway 101, which became one of country's top acts in the late-1980s. "Chuck's found ways to mutate in the different ways you have to do in this business if you're going to have a long career," says Doug Kauffman of Denver's Nobody in Particular Presents. "To be able to form the concept for Highway 101, put it together from scratch, and end up selling millions of records...not many people could do that."
Morris refers to nearly everyone as a "dear friend," and several people, whether they know it or not, can lay claim to being his best friend in the business. "I advised him to do what's best for him and his family, because loyalty is something that left the rock 'n' roll business long ago," the "rabbi" Boyle says. "Chuck was aware of that and has made upward moves in a way that everyone still respects him for it." His departure from Live Nation to AEG, however, might be a more challenging move than any Morris has made—the rock 'n' roller arm-in-arm with the holy roller—but it's also consistent with his M.O. "I've always hooked myself up with the big guns because I thought it was the best way for me to survive," he says. "'Workaholic' isn't the right word; it's way further than that. I often wake up in the middle of the night thinking about what I can do for my career, what's the next thing for me to conquer."