The Michigan-native country artist played to a sold-out crowd in his home state, bringing Texan born n’ bred, Cody Jinks, along for the ride.
Whitey Morgan and the 78’s kicked in the back door of Nashville to create a new scene all their own. As far as the Music City goes, it’s either pop country or bro-country with Whitey’s modern-day brand of honky-tonk falling somewhere outside the confines of this business oriented ‘so-called’ scene.
While Nashville keeps pushing Walmartized bro-country, Whitey’s brand of tough and tight, loose and loud, outlaw honky-tonk is a breath of fresh motor oil, sweat, and grease.
Whitey is not the only one doing it. There are plenty of other musicians forging their own path to success in Nashville. However, Whitey seems to be leading the pack with his increasing popularity.
Whitey is a touring musician playing 200+ live shows a year. While national audiences keep discovering Whitey, he is no stranger to the Pontiac, Michigan area.
Before he became Whitey, he was known as Eric Allen playing the Flint, Michigan local music scene. He was a member of the punk band, Spit; the post-hardcore band, Kid Brother Collective; and the southern rock band, Dixie Hustler.
It wasn’t until around 2005 when Eric Allen stepped out front using the name of Whitey Morgan, fronting the Waycross Georgia Farmboys. A few years later he would change the band’s name to the 78’s.
Touring nonstop has helped Whitey strengthen his ever-increasing fan base. It seems to be working, too, as he has sold out almost every stop on his current tour.
On February 19, Whitey played The Crofoot in front of 1,100+ avid country music fans of all ages. The crowd included fans of new country, pop country, alt-country, and bro-country, as well as the die-hard biker outlaw honky-tonk fans who have been with Whitey since the beginning.
When talking about his sound, Whitey stated in an article in the Detroit Free Press, “It’s the grittiness of it, the bare-bones, take-no-prisoners aspect that everyone from Flint and the Detroit area has. We’re a little more bitter, we’ve got a hard shell on the outside, and I think that transfers over to the music.”
Regarding the sound and style of his band, Whitey said, “Out on the road, I don’t hear any bands that bring aggressiveness and intensity to the music like we do still sounding tight with three-part harmonies in the sound. It’s very Michigan, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Although Whitey no longer lives here in Michigan, it was a family reunion of sorts. Many of his friends, family, and longtime fans were hanging out, mingling, and sharing heartwarming stories of Whitey with each other. He even stated during his performance, “I’ve got a lot of family here tonight. Thank you for giving us a warm welcome at this homecoming.”
Opening the show was Cody Jinks. Coming to us from Fort Worth, Texas, the roots of this working class singer/songwriter shine throughout his lyrics, which he wears on his sleeve like a badge of honor. He writes honest songs about everyday working people.
Just like Whitey, Cody’s music is a throwback to the wonderful sounds of Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, and David Allan Coe. His latest album, Adobe Sessions, has recently risen back into the top of the iTunes country chart, even though it’s release date was over a year ago.
Cody played many songs from Adobe Sessions. This show was his first ever Detroit area performance and the crowd sang along to every song, especially “Cast No Stones.” This one seems to have resonated best with most fans. At one point, the crowd overpowered Cody, and you could hear them singing the chorus louder than him!
The crowd response is an incredible feat for Cody. He has reached these fans without the help of any record label or any airplay on country radio.
Whitey joined in to sing “Cast No Stones.” Cody told the crowd this was only the second time that Whitey has joined him to sing on stage. He jokingly said to the audience that after the first time, Whitey told him, “What fucker? You didn’t think I knew the words to your song?”
Whitey let the music do the talking at the start of his set avoiding talk between songs. He played fan favorites such as “Buick City Blues,” “Bad News,” “Honky Tonk Queen,” “Me and the Whiskey” as well as his rendition of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire.”
Whitey stopped his band halfway through a song due to a fight which broke out near the corner of the stage. “My rule is we stop playing when the fights start breaking out,” he said. “This is the seventh show in a row where a fight broke out. Let me guess? Oh, your girl got a beer spilled on her? You’re at a show. It’s going to happen.” Whitey told those involved to take it outside and come back when it’s all done.
“Pontiac, Detroit, Flint; I love you,” said Whitey, “All three cities make a triangle so call this right here the Bermuda Triangle. We are right in the middle of it all. You wanna hear some Waylon?” as Whitey and his band broke into “Waymore’s Blues.”
“What do you think of my boy Cody Jinks?” Whitey asked the crowd. “You know I wouldn’t bring you some bullshit up here with me. We’re going to bring Cody up on stage with us to sing this next one.”
The band played “Choices” by George Jones, with Whitey and Cody harmonizing perfectly together.
“You been drinking a little too much? Me too. This one goes out to the Michigan State Police,” said Whitey as the band kicked into “I Ain’t Drunk.”
The crowd eagerly sang along with Whitey, “I ain’t drunk, hell I’ve just been drinking, I started five in the afternoon, Lord about three days ago!”
“We got a couple more for you,” Whitey shouted. “I’m going to keep saying that all night. This way we’ll always have a couple more for ya! This next one is one of my favorites off that Sonic Ranch album.”
Then the band played “That’s How I Got To Memphis.”
“How much more you got left in ya?” shouted Whitey. “I got a lot left in me. Here’s some dirty blues for ya, Detroit style.”
The band played a flawless cover of Johnny Paycheck’s, “11 Months and 29 Days.” The song ended with Whitey shouting, “The 78’s are hot tonight!”
Whitey told the crowd, “This next song is about Billy Joe Shaver just south of Waco Texas, and it goes like this.” The band broke into the Dale Watson penned, “Where Do Ya Want It?”
For the encore, Whitey came out and played his latest single, a cover of “Waitin’ Round To Die,” originally by Townes Van Zandt.
“We got one more for ya. It’s one of my fucking favorites,” declared Whitey as they played “Fire on the Mountain” by the Marshall Tucker Band.
“I ain’t fucking done yet. I got one more in me. You got one more in you?” Whitey asked, shouting.
The crowd response was pandemonium. Fans were acting crazy, yelling, screaming, and jumping with their hands raised high in the air.
The show ended with Whitey playing “Sinner” off of his debut album. Whitey played about 80% original songs with 20% cover songs mixed in. Whitey mentioned that changing up the cover songs helps keep the set list fun.
Playing old-school country in the new millennium may sound like a bad idea. However, the radio industry’s obsession with pop country has created an opportunity for artists such as Jamey Johnson, Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton, Whitey Morgan, and Cody Jinks. Fans are responding positively to their more traditional country sound. It’s an exciting time right now in country music as the scene is ready for a shift in this direction.
Whitey and Cody are packing venues everywhere. Their success validates the place of traditional country in mainstream pop culture, with Whitey and Cody landing right in the middle.
Our photographer, Chuck Marshall, was on hand for the show at The Crofoot. Here are some of his images from that night.