Tommy Morgan, Prolific Film and TV Harmonica Player, Dies at 89

The musician worked on the scores for “Roots,” “Cool Hand Luke,” “The Shawshank Redemption” and more

Tommy Morgan Classics Lite Cover
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Tommy Morgan — a prolific harmonicist in film and TV, who contributed to the scores and soundtracks of such projects as “Roots,” “Cool Hand Luke” and “The Shawshank Redemption” — died June 23 at the age of 89, HarmonicaUK reported.

“I met Tommy years ago at a SPAH [The Society for the Preservation and Advancement of the Harmonica] convention. He knew of my name as a NYC Session Player so we immediately connected and stayed in touch by phone over the years, so it’s with great sadness I write these parting words,” Grammy-nominated harmonica player Rob Paparozzi, who considered Morgan a “mentor and a friend,” wrote. “The good news is, the permanent legacy he’s left us: 900 Movie Soundtracks and 7,030 recording sessions since the mid ’50s to 2013, when he befell a stroke and could no longer play.”

For over 60 years, Morgan contributed to numerous shows, hit records, commercials and movies. Some of his most-known credits in television include the themes for “Sanford and Son” and “Rockford Files,” as well as playing for “Family Guy,” “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and the Emmy-winning score of “Roots.” On the film side, he has recorded soundtracks for “Lilies of The Field,” “Dances with Wolves,” “City Slickers,” “Monsters, Inc.,” “The Princess Diaries,” “Cars,” “Ratatouille” and “Pretty Woman.” As a composer, Morgan wrote music for shows like “Gunsmoke” and “The Twilight Zone.” He also gave performances on records for The Beach Boys, The Carpenters, Barbra Streisand and Elvis Presley.

“His sight reading ability, improvisational skills in jazz and blues, and his classical background mark him as a most unusual musician,” his bio reads.

In addition to working for film, TV and music, Morgan performed live as a soloist, appearing in concert in more than 30 countries. In the late ’90s, he performed with the London Philharmonic at Abbey Road, as well as at the Royal Albert Hall and Symphony Hall. He was also a soloist at the 2000 Academy Awards. In 2001, he was the recipient of SPAH’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Born Thomas Morgan Edwards on Dec. 4, 1932 in Los Angeles, he began learning to read music for the harmonica at the age of 11, when he also picked up piano and guitar. He studied arranging in college along with the U.S. Air Force Band and had a master’s degree in music composition from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Outside of music, he held a black belt in Karate and was a master glider pilot for more than four decades. His book, “You Made How Much For Doing What?,” was released this year on Amazon.

Morgan is survived by his wife, Lois; sons Matthew and Daniel and granddaughter Addie Rae.