Henry Rollins may have been the best-known and longest-lasting of Black Flag's vocalists, but Keith Morris was the first, who after leaving the group, went on to launch another Los Angeles punk/hardcore favorite, the Circle Jerks. Hailing originally from Hermosa Beach, California, Morris and guitarist Greg Ginn formed Black Flag during the late '70s, quickly making a name for themselves with their explosive sound and performance. Playing mostly backyard parties at first, the group was unable to land a record deal, and out of frustration, Ginn formed his own label, SST, with the sole purpose of releasing Black Flag records (soon after, though, the label would sign other acts as well). One of the first releases for the label, Black Flag's Nervous Breakdown single, was comprised of four tracks that barely clocked in at over five minutes total, but almost single-handedly put L.A. hardcore on the map. However, relations between Morris and the rest of the Black Flag gang began to sour (the singer's alleged substance abuse believing to be the main cause), and Morris left the band in 1979. Although no longer a member of Black Flag, Morris' vocals could be heard on a few future compilations of the group, including 1984's First Four Years, and 1987's Wasted...Again. Almost immediately after his exit, Morris re-appeared alongside a new group, the Circle Jerks. Also featuring former Redd Kross guitarist Greg Hetson, the group continued to churn out the same confrontational punk that Morris helped popularize with his former band, resulting in a trio of classic releases, 1980s Group Sex, 1982's Wild in the Streets, and 1983's Golden Shower of Hits (Morris and co. were also featured in director Penelope Spheeris' underground documentary about west coast punk, #The Decline of Western Civilization around this time, as well). The Circle Jerks continued to release albums throughout the late '80s before calling it a day (although the group has been known to reunite for a show from time to time, as evidenced by the 1992 reunion live set, Gig). Morris was stricken with bad health during the late '90s (he was diagnosed with diabetes and appendicitis, among other illnesses), which resulted in several benefit shows to raise money for medical bills. With his health back on track, Morris reappeared in the early-21st century with an all new outfit, Midget Handjob, a group that proved to be a musical departure of sorts for the singer (as they specialized in loungey, spoken word pieces), as evidenced by their 2000 debut, Midnight Snack Break at the Poodle Factory. Morris played a series of dates with his old Circle Jerks pals in 2001 (their first proper tour in six years), and also took part in the Henry Rollins-assembled benefit album, 2002's Rise Above: 24 Black Flag Songs to Benefit the West Memphis Three. The singer even toured in support of the album the following year, with Rollins' band, Mother Superior, backing him. 2003 saw a one-off Black Flag reunion/benefit show at the Hollywood Palladium, and although Morris was originally set to perform, he wound up pulling out. ~ Greg Prato, Rovi
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