Citizen Jethro Morgan is a multi-talented artist. He has applied his many talents to a variety of businesses, using skills — most of them self-taught — from all of them as inspiration for one of his true loves, music.
His other true love is spouse of four years Joyce Woodard Morgan. The couple met in high school and, after living their lives apart, building careers and families, were reunited and married. The couple loves music and have become quite the performers over the last four years.
“Jethro quit school in the sixth grade to help his dad on the farm,” wife Joyce explained. “He has had many jobs; his first was working in a grocery store making $25 a week, and he gave half to his dad for taking him back and forth to work.”
Several jobs later, Morgan opened his own business.
“He opened a cabinet shop and, as his business grew, his three sons joined him. He later opened a second business, a tack shop, where he built saddles, bridles and harnesses. He even later started repairing wrecked cars.”
“As if that was not enough, he became a wrestler and wrestled for six years with some of the best, like Jackie Fargo and Pat O’Brian to name a few. And he did all this without any training or schooling.”
A self-taught musician, he brought together various skills and incorporated them into his love for music.
“He bought his first guitar from Sears for $12 when he was 13, and he learned to play it without any lessons,” Joyce said. “With his love of music, he started building guitars in 1968 when he ordered a kit, and later started making his own molds to make different styles and sizes.”
Drawing on his skills, Morgan has built 106 guitars along with other stringed instruments like mandolins, steel guitars and a harp.
“He built a harp for the manager of the Wilburn Brothers, who gave it to Mother Mabel Carter and it’s in the Music Hall of Fame.”
Morgan has other musical connections.
“He has sung with the Inspirations, not in their group but to open for them, Bo Bice’s Mother and friends and sang on the radio when they opened the Parkway City Mall,” Joyce said. “He had a chance to be on the Opry but turned it down and was good friends with Herb Sims of Sims Records in Nashville.”
Morgan has written several gospel songs and these days enjoys singing together with wife Joyce.
“Jethro and I have been singing for the past three and-a-half years,” Joyce said. “We’re regulars at the Ardmore Pickin’ and Grinnin,’ we have sung at the Senior Center, festivals on the square, the American Legion, the Hee Haw Show at STAAR and churches all over the county. We are also members of the Giles County Gospel Music Association.”
The couple performs under two names, “The Liberty Hillbillies,” for country and bluegrass, and “The Morgans,” for gospel.
In his spare time, Morgan is known as an excellent cook and loves spending time with his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He and Joyce enjoy traveling as well.
“Of all the things he has done in his life, music is his passion. At the age of 83, you would think he would slow down, but he’s still building and repairing guitars.”
Building the instruments has never been a business but a hobby.
He just finished number 106 and every time he builds one, he says it is his last one… we’ll see.”