All in the Family

A brother-in-law remembers Jim


The "Water Musick" drove JM "insane"

   The public's image of our heroes is sometimes shaped by press interviews or biographers who have a brief acquaintance with the subject. Thus, Hedda Hopper spent a half-hour or so with a young actor named James Dean and helped make him a star.  Earlier, Lowell Thomas interviewed T.E. Lawrence at his desert headquarters and then  laid the groundwork for the legend: Lawrence of Arabia.

   In the myth making process, the subject's family is often overlooked. Yet, it is they who often knew him (or her) best.  Here, American Legends inaugurates a new feature: All in the Family--with an exclusive interview with Alan Graham, the late Jim Morrison's former brother-in-law.

   Jim Morrison was born in 1943, in Florida, the son of Clara and Steve Morrison. His father was a navy pilot who later became an admiral. Jim had a younger brother, Andy, and a sister, Anne (or Anna as she liked to be called) who later became a California school teacher.

   Alan Graham grew up in Liverpool, England, where he worked at a variety of jobs, including a stint in a tailor shop, right around the corner from the Cavern where the Beatles and the Zombies got their start. Alan met and married Anna in England in 1967 and moved with her to California where his new brother-in-law was just beginning to capture the imagination of a generation as the lead singer of the Doors.

   Alan and Anna were later divorced (in 1986), and Alan now lives in the San Diego area.  He is at work on a memoir of Jim Morrison and the sixties era.



Tell us about your first meeting with Jim Morrison.



I first met Jim in 1968. We surprised him at LAX as he flew in from Texas after a big concert. He got off the plane wearing a World War II bomber jacket (an authentic one). It was 85 degrees, and his sister asked him why he was wearing the jacket on such a hot day. He said a fan had given it to him, and he thought it looked really cool. He was cool but that jacket was so wrong, and we all laughed about it. At the time, Jim was at his pinnacle, and he exuded confidence and poise as we walked through the terminal.


AL: How did you and Jim hit it off?



The day I met him we were all talking about books, music, and movies. Jim was fascinated with a new film called, Wild in the Streets. Christopher Jones played a 20th century rock 'n' roll rebel leader who was challenging society and wanted the vote for 14 year olds. The movie was an AIP production. A year earlier Morrison had met with a producer who wanted to get him into motion pictures. "That guy could be the next James Dean," the producer said after meeting Jim. But Jim was unimpressed. He didn't want to be a sex symbol. The more I think about it, I wonder if that same producer was involved in the movie we saw--and took Jones as a second choice after Jim.


AL: There seems to be this myth that Jim Morrison never sang until he ran into Ray Manzarek one day at Venice beach after leaving UCLA film school.



Jim Morrison grew up around the family piano with a father who sang with a rich Southern voice. The whole family sang together all the classics and popular music of the time. Andy, Jim, and the Admiral could harmonize like professionals. Jim sang around the piano until about junior college and perhaps a few occasions after. He sang "Heart of My Heart," "Let Me Call You Sweetheart," as well as the Sunday school hymn, "Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam."


AL: A lot has been written about Jim's fascination with the great blues artists: Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker. Did Jim like any contemporary rock 'n' roll singers?



He dug Elvis, especially when he made his comeback and sang unplugged on television. Jim talked about Elvis's body of work and how cool it was to see him perform in black leather with just a couple of other musicians.


AL: How about classical music?



Jim loved all the greats, with the exception of Handel's "Water Musick." "Drives me f---ing insane," he used to say. Stravinsky was his favorite composer. Jim once gave me an album of Stravinsky. On the cover was a bunch of black and yellow creatures floating in a starry sky--sort of like an acid trip.


AL: Did you celebrate family holidays with Jim?


On Thanksgiving morning, 1969, Anna, Andy, and I drove from Coronado to Jim's house in the Hollywood hills. We brought a big cooked turkey and spent the day visiting with Jim and his "girlfriend," Pam Courson, until a simmering feud from the night before suddenly erupted into a knockdown, drag out fight. In the movie, The Doors, Oliver Stone cut and pasted that scene from my manuscript with another piece of mine entitled, The Japanese Restaurant.


AL: Did you spend time with Jim when he was with the other members of the Doors?



Jim never hung out with the Doors. He said they were "ultra square." He had his own gang of pirates and ne'er-do-wells who were mostly drunk--and so was he. You can hear them all as drunken, out of tune backup singers on "My Wild Love."


AL: Did you see Jim in concert?



We never saw Jim perform in concert. On several occasions in 1968 and 1969 we saw him recording at the Elektra Studio on La Cienega. We also saw him and the band practicing on the bottom floor of the Doors' office on Santa Monica. Among the songs they did was "Land Ho!" It was super cool to see Jim singing live from six feet away. Jim was more than great that day and so were the Doors.


AL: How did Jim's indictment for indecent exposure in Miami affect Morrison's family and friends?



After Miami, Jim's friends disappeared like ice on a hot griddle. Immediately after Jim's arrest, the Admiral offered to resign his commission for fear that his son's actions would reflect on him and, in turn, on his beloved institution, the Navy. In the long tradition of officers who felt they had disgraced the military, he offered to fall on his sword. His superiors wouldn't hear of it.


AL: When was the last time you saw Jim?



I saw Jim for the last time in December of 1970. He was not in a good place. His days of fun were over. He was in serious financial straits, and everyone wanted something from him. Frank Lisciandro, a friend from UCLA film school, needed money to finish the projects they had started for Hwy Productions. Pamela needed money for her boutique. The Doors were looking for Jim to pay them back for the legal expenses for the Miami incident. Jim was a man under extreme pressure from all sides.


AL: Do you think Morrison would have continued to perform with the Doors if he had lived?



Jim wanted to get away from the glare of his bad public image. He left for Paris to reinvent himself. The Doors' final album (L.A. Woman) shot right to the top of the charts while Jim was still in Paris. When Ray Manzarek called to tell him so, Jim never dashed back to take advantage of it because I think he knew he had lost the will to perform. Yet, he did tell Manzarek, "If you think the material on that album is good, wait until I show you my new stuff." So-- we'll never know what the future might have held.


(Background material for this interview was found in: Frank Lisciandro, Jim Morrison: An Hour for Magic, London, Plexus Publishing, 1993 ed.; John Rocco, The Doors Companion, New York, Schirmer Books, 1997.)




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