Redneck Hunt Club

Center Stage With Craig Morgan, A Man Of Many, Many Talents

STORY BY TROY TAYSOM * PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF OUTDOOR CHANNEL

Soldier, paratrooper, air assaulter, deputy sheriff, singer, songwriter, EMT, TV show personality – this might sound like the opening line on a job-fair poster, but the truth is that one man has done all of these jobs at one time or another, and continues to do most of them. Did I forget to include father, husband, member of the Grand Ole Opry and a regular performer with the United Service Organization? Indeed, Craig Morgan is a man of many talents, and all of his accolades have come from hard work. Looking at Morgan’s schedule, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had somehow invented a time machine or a way to clone himself in order to keep up with the crazy life he lives. But when you are doing what you love, it never really feels like work – right?

He may look deadly serious, but Morgan is a comedian at heart and never misses an opportunity to laugh and help others see the humor in the world. His show, Craig Morgan’s All Access Outdoors, won the Outdoor Channel’s Golden Moose award in 2015 for best comedy.

It Seems That Country Singers are a dime a dozen today, especially with all the reality-based singing shows. Many of the artists are just flashes in the pan. Staying power is the key to the music business – to any entertainment business, really. Staying relevant is the most difficult part of keeping in the public spotlight. Life for Morgan is no different. It is a fight to remain relevant in the country-music scene. Television can seem worse as consumers are bombarded with entertainment options, and the only way to get and keep loyal fans is to continue producing fresh and exciting products that speak to them. Morgan has figured out a winning formula for he and his fans, and this talent has kept him in the limelight since he first entered the music scene back in his Army days.

As A Paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division and later a member of the 101st Airborne/Air Assault Division, he amassed more than 800 jumps, including combat jumps. If you’re not familiar with the Army, that’s a lot of jumps! Morgan knows the lonely, miserable feeling of being far from home in a hostile atmosphere. At one point, while serving, he entered and won multiple singing competitions, which gave him the confidence to continue. After 10½ years in active duty, Morgan came back home to Tennessee and dedicated himself to a music career, while still continuing to serve by joining the Army Reserve until 2004.

His music career didn’t occur by happenstance. Born in central Tennessee in 1964, his father was a bassist and Morgan was introduced to many of country music’s royalty as a child, including George Jones and Tammy Wynette. He even sang the National Anthem at age 10 with Minnie Pearl in the audience. The way the story goes, Miss Pearl told Morgan, “Son, someday you’re gonna be famous.” Miss Pearl was correct. In 2008 Craig joined the iconic country music institution, The Grand Ole Opry – with Miss Minnie Pearl by his side. An invitation to join the Grand Ole Opry is a high honor for any country music artist.

Even after his active-duty military career ended, Morgan served in the reserves and continues to perform and volunteer for the United Service Organization, or USO, events worldwide.
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Morgan hasn’t forgotten his roots, nor his time in the Army. He regularly entertains service members around the world on USO tours – in fact, he was on one as I wrote this article. Although his tour location is a secret, due to security concerns, he has performed multiple times in Southwest Asia over the past decade, bringing joy, entertainment, comedy and relief to young men and women risking their lives thousands of miles from home.

Acting Like A Country Star is simply not in Morgan’s DNA. Speaking to him was like talking to an old friend. Sure, he’s a busy man these days, what with a new album getting ready to launch, the seventh season of his hit TV show Craig Morgan’s All Access Outdoors airing in on Outdoor Channel in July, a couple of kids in college and a wife, Karen, of 25 years, but I never felt like I was burdening him for his time. He has a guy-nextdoor vibe about him – approachable and kind. He’s also a jokester. His cable hunting series is as much a comedy as it is an adventure. Let me give you folks a piece of advice: If you are on a plane and you see someone who looks like Craig Moran – don’t fall asleep! If you do, you will make it onto his Twitter and Facebook accounts as #SOP – sleepers on the plane. His tweets include selfies with snoozing passengers in the background. He takes great joy in catching his fellow sojourners napping. You’ve been warned!PHOTO 6 CRAIG MORAN USO TRoops Chicago

Morgan has had many hits over his career such as: “Redneck Yacht Club;” “International Harvester;” “Bonfire;” and “That’s What I Love about Sunday” – a hit that stayed number one on country music billboards for four weeks and was ultimately declared the number one hit of 2005. Morgan just keeps evolving with every album.

A single from his new, yet to be named or released album is out now. “When I’m Gone” is fantastic and has a more emotional yearning to it than some of his previous work. I was fortunate enough to hear the entire album, and in this writer’s opinion, “When I’m Gone” will be big, but the best cut is titled “A Whole Lot More To Me.” The song speaks to Morgan’s multidimensional life. I asked Morgan is expand on this a bit more. “We’ve been stereotyped as rednecks, but it’s our own fault – we are to blame. With this song, I wanted people to see a different side to country music. We can like the finer things in life and still be country. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.”

The Latest Album Isn’t the only activity taking up Morgan’s time these days. He has been and is still filming episodes for his show on Outdoor Channel. The show is part reality, part comedy and a whole lot of outdoors. Unlike many outdoor shows, Morgan isn’t about finding the biggest buck on a hunt, but about having fun while being with his family and friends, all while encouraging his viewers to get outside too. In 2015, his show won the coveted Golden Moose Award for best comedy.

Morgan is a seasoned outdoorsman and his show is proof positive of his interests. Season seven (beginning in July) promises to be even more adventurous and is geared towards everyone who enjoys the outdoors, country music and fun – it’s not just for hunters.

In one of the many upcoming episodes, the show supports Billy’s Place, an organization that caters to griefstricken children and children in crisis and was named after Morgan’s father-in-law, and highlights Billy’s Place 5K Run, Billy’s Place golf tournament and music fest. Craig saw the need for activities like during his time as a deputy sheriff – yes, one of his many facets.

Other adventures you will see include Morgan using various Hoyt compound bows while hunting deer in Illinois and Kentucky and big elk in the enchanted state of New Mexico, and a visit to the Remington ammunition plant, where I hope he will ask what happened to the .22LR ammunition! More bowhunting in Ohio and Texas and then off to Nebraska for mule deer – the best kind, as far as this Utah writer is concerned. There is some Florida hog hunting, showing that there is more to the Sunshine State than beaches and bikinis, and then all the way up to Canada for black bear. There are even turkey and goat hunts along the way. These are just some of the adventures.

An avid hunter, Morgan travels the world for game, and his Outdoor Channel TV show, Craig Morgan’s All Access Outdoors, launches its seventh season this July. An episode will take he and son Jerry to Hawaii, where they hunt goats. If nothing else, Morgan understands the true meaning of family. (MOLLIE COCHRANE)

Morgan Also Travels To Hawaii to hunt Vancouver bulls, as well as goats and turkeys. Yes, you read that correctly, Vancouver bulls. You know, cows, but wild. The history behind this is interesting. Captain Vancouver gave King Kamehameha a herd of cattle as a gift. The cattle were killed and eaten rather quickly, wiping out the herd. So the captain gave the king another group, smaller this time, and told him to let the herd grow so he could provide his people with a food supply for a long time.

That was over 300 years ago, and now the islands have a wild cattle problem. Initially, the king issued an order forbidding the killing of the animals, and the herd grew quickly. But what do cattle do if unmanaged? Raze crops and hurt people. An organized hunt was commissioned years later, which thinned the herd, but deep in the jungle, these nonnative animals continue to damage an already stressed ecosystem, thus the hunt. The hunt isn’t easy either. To get to these bulls, one must walk through steep terrain and thick jungle just to find them.

Morgan’s international travels also take him to New Zealand for tahr. Similar to a mountain goat, hunting these Himalayn transplants is very difficult due to the terrain and strong winds that blow where these creatures live.

If Hunting Isn’t Your Thing,  then tune in for Morgan’s motorcycle racing episode in Indiana and his day at the dirt track racing in Missouri. He’s also headed for the Bahamas on a world-class fishing trip, doing his best Ernest Hemingway impression by catching the big ones.

And what would a season of CMAAO be without music? Craig will be performing in Iowa and Kansas and parts of these shows will be aired during the season.

Craig will also be teaming up with Bass Pro Shops and JP Morris for a cast-and-blast turkey hunt, and will, of course, be participating again this year in the Annual Opry Hunt. This hunt features legends in the country music world out hunting together. In the past the Opry Hunt has been for duck, but rumor has it that this year it’s a rifle hunt – what could they be hunting? You’ve got to tune in to find out!

Craig Morgan seems to have two speeds – full speed or asleep. When he’s not traveling the world entertaining the troops with the USO, he is performing concerts, recording a new album, going on adventures for his Outdoor Channel show, working with Exodus Road to try and stop human trafficking overseas, volunteering with his local sheriff’s office and spending time with his wife and kids. The old saying is true, “If you want something done, ask a busy man.” Somehow Morgan is able to fit more into his 24-hour day than any other human I’ve met.

Craig Morgan is many things – husband, father, singer-songwriter, true patriot who has served in the military and continues to support the armed forces, and a hunter.

Do Yourself A Favor, and check out Morgan’s new shows on the Outdoor Channel starting this summer and watch for his new album to be released sometime in mid-2016. I’ve listened to every song multiple times and can say that as a country music fan, I love this album. His new music doesn’t pigeonhole him as the Bakersfield or Nashville sound. To my untrained ear, he is mixing these polar opposite sounds to create a unique and distinctly Morgan sound.

We throw the term “hero” around a lot. Sports stars, music stars, reality TV stars are being sold to us as heroes. A true hero is someone who can be depended on to do what’s best for those around him or her. A true hero doesn’t calculate risk to life or reputation and they never make decisions based on what’s politically correct. A hero sees what needs to be done and simply does it. Craig Morgan’s life has been lived in this exact manner. Is he a hero? He is to me. AMSJ

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May 15th, 2016 by