Sterling Morrison: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sterling Morrison

Background information
Birth name Holmes Sterling Morrison Junior
Born August 28, 1942(1942-08-28)
East Meadow, New York, USA
Died August 30, 1995 (aged 53)
Poughkeepsie, New York, USA
Genres Rock, experimental rock, protopunk, art rock
Instruments Guitar
Bass guitar
Associated acts The Velvet Underground
Notable instruments
Gibson SG
Fender Stratocaster
Fender Jaguar

Holmes Sterling Morrison, Jr. (August 28, 1942 – August 30, 1995) was one of the founding members of the rock group The Velvet Underground, usually playing electric guitar, occasionally bass guitar, and singing backing vocals.



Morrison majored in English at Syracuse University; it was there that he met Lou Reed, a fellow English student. Although the two jammed together, they drifted apart after Morrison quit his studies and Reed graduated in 1964. They met again in New York City in 1965. By this time, Reed had met John Cale and was interested in starting a band, so when they encountered Morrison, he was invited to join.

Morrison primarily played guitar on the band's first two albums, although when Cale — the band's nominal bassist — played viola or keyboards, Morrison often filled in on bass. Other songs, however, (including "Heroin" and "Sister Ray") featured Reed and Morrison on guitars while Cale played viola or organ. Although Morrison was an accomplished bassist (witness his playing on "Sunday Morning" or "Lady Godiva's Operation"), he disliked playing the instrument.

After Cale left the group in 1968, Morrison always played guitar. There was no established "lead" or "rhythm" guitar hierarchy in the Velvet Underground; both Reed and Morrison traded roles regularly during the band's Cale-era. From the third album on though, Morrison almost always took the role of lead guitarist as Reed concentrated more on his singing and Rhythm. Additionally, Morrison did backing vocals and the occasional lead vocal spot (he rapidly recited many verses of Reed's poetry in "The Murder Mystery", and sang one line in "I'm Sticking With You").

In 1970, when the band was back in New York City to play an entire summer's engagement at Max's Kansas City, Morrison seized the opportunity to complete his studies and graduate (from City College). In 1971 he attended The University of Texas at Austin, where he earned a Ph.D. in medieval studies.[1] He played his last gig with them on August 21 in Houston. When it was time for the band to return to New York, Morrison packed an empty suitcase and accompanied them to the gate of their departing plane, before finally telling them he was staying in Texas and leaving the band.

Sometime in the 1980s, Morrison left his academic career to become the captain of a Houston tugboat; he pursued this well into the 1980s. After leaving the Velvet Underground, Morrison's musical career was primarily limited to informal sessions for personal enjoyment, though he played in a few bands around Austin, Texas, most notably the Bizarros. Morrison's tenure in the capital of Texas made him a well-loved and admired member of the local music community as well as an influential voice. During John Cale's renaissance in the late 1970s, Sterling could be seen playing with his former bandmate on stages such as the Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin. From the mid-eighties on, however, he occasionally recorded or performed with Reed, Cale, and Velvet Underground drummer Maureen Tucker, who had by then started a solo career of her own. Morrison was part of her touring band for most of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

In 1992, the core Velvet Underground line-up of Reed, Cale, Morrison and Tucker decided to reform for a tour and possible album. Morrison argued that Doug Yule, who had replaced Cale in 1968, should be included to fill out the sound, but Reed and Cale vetoed him. The band extensively toured Europe in 1993, alternatively as headline act or supporting U2. Morrison's playing held up well, and his performances were generally agreed to be top-notch. But by the end of the tour, relationships had soured again and plans for a US tour and MTV Unplugged album were scrapped.

The European tour turned out to be the last for the Velvet Underground. Sterling joined Maureen Tucker's band for a tour in 1994, and later that year was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, from which he died on August 30, 1995, two days after his 53rd birthday. Upon their induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996, Reed, Cale and Tucker performed a song entitled "Last Night I Said Goodbye to My Friend," which was dedicated to Morrison.

In March 2001, Sterling Morrison was remembered through a tribute set at the Austin Music Awards during the South by Southwest Festival. John Cale performed "Some Friends," a song he'd composed in Morrison's memory, with Alejandro Escovedo, who played "Tugboat," also written for Morrison. An SXSW panel on Sterling successfully convened that year, with Cale and others remembering their fallen friend. Morrison was also the subject of an oral history, Velvet Underdog,in the Austin Chronicle that year. The story featured quotes by John Cale, Lou Reed, Maureen Tucker, and other Morrison associates.

The Galaxie 500 song "Tugboat" is believed to be a reference to Morrison.

His surviving family includes his widow, Martha, and his son, Thomas, who reside in Poughkeepsie, New York, and a daughter, Mary Anne.

Discography with the Velvet Underground

Only those titles featuring Morrison are listed. For a full discography, please see The Velvet Underground article.



  • "All Tomorrow's Parties" / "I'll Be Your Mirror" (1966)
  • "Sunday Morning" / "Femme Fatale" (1966)
  • "White Light/White Heat" / "Here She Comes Now" (1968)
  • "What Goes On" / "Jesus" (promo, 1969)
  • "Who Loves the Sun" / "Oh! Sweet Nuthin'" (1971)
  • "Foggy Notion" / "I Can't Stand It" (promo, 1985)
  • "Venus in Furs" / "I'm Waiting for the Man" (live, 1994)

Original albums

Later releases of archive material

Additional Recording History


External links

Simple English

Holmes Sterling Morrison Jr. (born August 28, 1942 – died August 30, 1995) was an American musician (guitar), best known as a founding member of the Velvet Underground.

Morrison met Lou Reed, who also played guitar, at college. They met again later in New York City, where Reed was collaborating with John Cale. Morrison joined Reed and Cale in jam sessions, and the three formed a band. The band gained the name "The Velvet Underground" when another college friend, Jim Tucker, brought them a book with that title. Tucker's sister Maureen became the band's drummer.

Morrison played lead guitar, and also rhythm and bass guitars, and sang backing vocals. When Doug Yule replaced John Cale, Morrison played lead guitar full-time. Yule sometimes pushed for the lead guitar role, and Morrison and Yule did not get along well.

Even though the Velvets were well-known, their financial success was limited, and Morrison became unsure about the band's future. He quit college before the Velvets formed, with only a few credits to go, but went back to City College of New York during 1970. He completed his Bachelor's degree in English, while the band played Max's Kansas City, a restaurant and bar in New York.

After Lou Reed left the band late in 1970, Morrison continued to tour with them. He had sent his resumé to different schools, hoping to get a job as a teacher or professor. When the band visited Texas, he phoned Texas A&M University, and learned they wanted him for a teaching job. He quit the band, and taught college through the 1970s and 1980s.

Morrison later returned to New York, and became a tugboat captain. He reunited with the Velvets during the 1990s, playing shows with them in Europe and America. He became ill in 1995, saw a doctor, and found out he had lymphoma, a kind of cancer. He died only a few weeks later, and not long before the Velvet Underground were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address