Ron Morrissey leads a full life playing for seniors
Story By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Musician Ron Morrissey could not make a living out of performing, but playing for seniors has enriched his life.
The Marina del Rey singer/guitarist performs 100 shows a year for isolated seniors in Santa Monica, West Los Angeles, Beverly Hills , Culver City, Playa Vista, Hermosa Beach, West Palm Beach Florida and Tuscany, Italy.
The project started merely as a way to entertain his mother-in-law after he retired in 2014.
“It had a wraparound porch, and I brought my guitar,” the 71-year-old says about her retirement home. “She suffers from Alzheimer’s, and I was playing for her. I looked up and there were 30 clients in the audience. They came in from everywhere, sitting around this wraparound porch.
“They were so happy I was playing music. I looked at my wife (Joan F. Morrissey) and said, ‘Look at this.’ That was about 11 years ago. I did it first during the summers off from teaching. Now I do it all year round.”
He specializes in pop music — “sunshine pop” as it’s been called — from the 1940s to 1960s. Morrissey presents an upbeat show with songs that have sold 1 million copies or more by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Dean Martin, Fats Domino, and the Moody Blues. He wants to ensure everyone knows the tunes he’s playing.
Morrissey has been a musician since he was about 6. Believing he could not pay the bills playing music, he pursued economics and banking careers. Toward the end of his career, he taught high school economics in LA.
“I started with keyboards and accordion, but they’re difficult to lug around,” he says with a laugh. “The guitar is the main instrument I play for seniors. You have to be very mobile. I can’t expect them to set up a piano for me. They might not have it. I bring my guitar and take it from there.”
Morrissey does not charge for his performances, nor does he accept free parking or lunches. He brings his own iced tea.
Morrissey and his wife have lived in Marina del Rey since 1976 and live there seven months of the year. For three months, they relocate to West Palm Beach, Florida, and then spend time in Tuscany, Italy, as well.
“The people there are very knowledgeable of the songs over there,” Morrissey says. “Every once in a while, I play an Italian song by Dean Martin or Frank Sinatra.”
The pandemic has slowed down his efforts. In 2019, he played 100 shows. COVID-19 knocked it down to 20. This year, he’s scheduled for 60 gigs.
“The pandemic gave me a chance to expand my sets,” he says. “I had 12 sets going into the pandemic that I used to play. Now I have 24 sets that I can play for the seniors. I was able to stay home and practice and learn new material. I’m eager to share it.”