He's appeared on hit records, performed on Dick Clark's American Bandstand, published hundreds of original songs, authored a children's book, served his country for two decades, launched a production company and raised a family. Aside from enjoying the grandkids, what else does mid-life promise for Ahwatukee Foothills transplant, Tom Morrissey?
"The completion of my life's work," he said.
This weekend, 1960s hit-maker "Tommy" Morrissey will treat families to a free viewing of a children's film he wrote and produced titled, Charlie Odd And The House Without A Door. The film was recognized last year at the International Christian Film Festival, and will be shown at Mountain View Lutheran Church, 11002 S. 48th St., this Saturday, Jan. 15, at 7p.m., and again on Sunday, Jan. 16, at 3 p.m. (free will donations will benefit the non-profit organization, Feed My Starving Children).
Back in the era of Buddy Holly and Jim Croce, Morrissey started out as a working studio musician. A triple threat, his talents spanned songwriting, guitar and keyboards and vocals. Over the years, Morrissey became a member of two successful bands in popular music, The Echoes ("Baby Blue") and The Ohio Express ("Yummy, Yummy, Yummy"). His wife, Kris Morrissey, is quick to highlight her husband's songwriting prowess.
"The ideas just come to him effortlessly," she said.
Clearly, a humble Morrissey is more comfortable allowing others to sing his praises.
"My confidence as a songwriter grew when Ray Charles picked up a song I wrote titled, "I was on Georgia Time." His then young son, Paul, inspired Morrissey to pen a children's book.
"I originally wrote the story to serve as a vehicle through which I could publish my songs. I based the characters on many of the people I knew - friends with colorful personalities and unique traits or names that gave birth to the cast of characters; and I discovered I loved writing books as much as songs," he said.
Once his trilogy of stories was completed, Morrissey garnered the support of contacts that read like a "who's who" of the entertainment industry to translate the book to the big screen. Richie Havens (who opened Woodstock) contributed to the soundtrack. Hy Conrad, co-producer of the TV series, Monk, crafted the screenplay, and his production company partner, Tom Monahan, raised $ 1 million to produce the film in its current model, a black and white reel-to-reel storyboard, featuring the voice talents of a local troupe of performers. Morrissey hopes investors will enable the film to take the next step toward a fully animated production.
The film's ultimate message of helping others was fueled by Morrissey's devout Christian faith; but in the spirit of recent films such as Narnia, it is a subtle one delivered to a universal audience. Morrissey says early on, he made a promise he intends to keep.
"I spent time in prayer over this project, and vowed that half of any profits I ever make from the film would be put toward the Lord's work."
Off to a promising start, Morrissey plans to invite viewers to donate funds toward Feed My Starving Children (FMSC.org), a non-profit organization that mobilizes local communities to pack nutrient rich meals to distribute to needy communities across the globe.
"As far as I'm concerned, if our efforts mean just one child's life is saved, then my mission is complete," Morrissey said.
For further information, visit: http://www.mvlutheran.org/charlieodd.htm.
Ahwatukee Foothills resident Diane Meehl is an independent writer, mother of three and active church and community volunteer.