There have been stories lately about Jim Morrison still being alive, it seems those rumors will never go away, they have been circulating since his death. It reminded me of a time that seems so long ago and yet just like yesterday at the same time.
I have seen some great concerts in my lifetime. I saw The Beatles, The Stones, The Animals, Jimi Hendrix, Kiss, Alice Cooper, the Who perform the Rock Opera’s Tommy and Quadrophenia, Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s Trilogy tour, Leon Russell and the Shelter People, Mountain, Grand Funk, Black Sabbath, Elton John’s first American tour and many, many more great shows but I would have to say seeing the Doors New Orleans show in December of 1970 was the most disappointing and depressing show I’ve ever witnessed, just beating out Joe Cocker’s vomit tour.
Morrison was in bad shape, I don’t know if it was drugs or alcohol or a combination of the two. He was milling around the stage telling bad jokes and mumbling what lyrics he could remember. I don’t recall how many songs they attempted that night, but I do remember the last song that Morrison tried to sing was “Light My Fire.” He finally stopped singing and stumbled over to John Densmore and just slumped down, sitting on the front of the drum set. Morrison was unable to finish the show and stumbled off the stage. The rest of the band followed, walking off the stage for the last time as the Doors.
Fast forward to 1974, I was doing the Midday shift at WRNO in New Orleans. One day Joe Costello, the owner, walked into the control room and said, “You’ll never guess who is out in the lobby! Jim Morrison of the Doors that’s who and I want you to interview him right now.”
“Look Joe, Jim Morrison is dead. He died in Paris three years ago. I don’t know who this guy is but he’s not Jim Morrison.” Joe just glared at me and said, “If you don’t interview him…your replacement will.” “Show Mr. Morrison back” was all I could say. I cued up a record and got everything ready for the Media event of the year.
The last three or so years had not been kind to the late Mr. Morrison, he had gained quite a bit of weight, he now walks with a cane and he had very feminine mannerisms. Jim Morrison was cool, hip and could grow a beard overnight it seemed. This guy was fat, ugly and anything but hip. We talked for a few minutes before going on the air. He may have been able to fool someone who never saw the Doors but when Jim Morrison was in a room, he owned it. I never let on that I thought he was a fraud. The song ended and we went on the air.
“RNO I’m Mitch and that’s Eric Clapton with “Motherless Children” from RNO’s feature album 461 Ocean Boulevard, We have a special guest with us this morning. I think most of you remember Jim Morrison of the Doors. Jim tells me that the rumors of his death are greatly exaggerated. So tell me Jim, what happened in Paris?”
“Well Mitch, it wasn’t me but my double that died.”
“Oh, you had a double?”
“Yeah, my management company had a guy who looked and sounded like me. I was doing a lot of morphine at the time and didn’t always make it to the shows. So my double would fill in for me. Anyway, he died and I took the opportunity to go underground.”
“So you’re telling me that they had a guy who looked like you, sounded like you and was more dependable than you?
“Well yeah, as bad as that sounds, that’s right.”
“So tell me Jim, what did they need with you?” His demeanor turned from pleasant to shock. He was insulted and got a little defensive.
“Hey, I’m a songwriter.”
Well, so is Neil Sedaka.” After a few seconds as I rolled the record I cued up and I said “Well I’ll tell ya what Jim, I’ve got “Riders on the Storm” cued up on the turntable, why don’t you sing along?”
As he struggled with his cane to get up, he said, “I didn’t come here to do a concert.”
“It’s one song, that’s hardly a concert. This will prove you are Jim Morrison, or you are not Jim Morrison.”
“I’m NOT singing.”
“Well then, I would have to say that you are NOT Jim Morrison.”
As the vocal of the song approaches “Jim” finally limps out of the control room. As the door squeaks open I asked “So I guess your double would have come in handy today uh, Jim?” The door shut behind him and I just let the record play, turned off the mic and sat back in my chair with a smile and a sense of satisfaction for exposing him as the imposter he was. He had other interviews scheduled around town, they were all cancelled. Joe was furious with me the day it happened, but later he was thankful that we were the station that put a stop to Jim Morrison’s big comeback.
About a year later, after I left the station, I was looking for work. I saw an ad in the paper for a manager of a record shop in the French Quarter about a block from where I lived. The only problem was the interview would have to take place in Baton Rouge. So I drove up to do the interview with a man named Billy Casselberry. I walked into Mr. Casselberry’s office and as he looked up from his desk, I said, “it’s Jim isn’t it?” He just looked down and mumbled “to some people.”
According to the Times Picayune, the New Orleans newspaper, Billy Casselberry was later sentenced to prison for fraud and embezzlement not related to the late Mr. Morrison.