VACAVILLE — Joni Morris was busy raising a family when she had that “a-ha” moment. The irony was that it had always been part of her life.
Her parents hailed from Oklahoma and Texas. A love of country music was shared with Morris and her siblings.
“Mom loved to sing Patsy Cline songs,” Morris said. “Dad sang Hank Williams Sr. songs. Sometimes they would sing together.”
Growing up, getting married and having children kept her busy until about 20 years ago, when she joined a group that entertained in skilled nursing facilities.
“The light came on that this was what I was supposed to do,” she said. “It was kind of late to learn what you want to do when you grow up.”
She was 39.
That moment has brought her to Downtown Vacaville’s Country & Western Festival this weekend. She will perform at noon Saturday.
Morris specializes in songs from some of country’s most heralded women. Her favorite is Cline.
“Her voice stood out among the rest,” Morris said of Cline, who died at age 30. “It was velvety smooth . . . and the emotion.”
While her hits such as “Crazy” are timeless, Morris said the music world was cheated with the loss of Cline. She hopes to fill in a part of that gap.
“People long to hear her beautiful music,” Morris said.
Morris began to practice Cline songs and found success in her own way. She doesn’t think there will ever be another Patsy Cline.
“I just try to come close and do it justice,” she said of Cline’s music.
A trip to Cline’s hometown, Winchester, Va., gave Morris an up-close look at the singer’s life.
She stopped by Cline’s gravesite and her home. It was eery, yet incredible, to see Cline’s house, with its tin roof, still standing. Morris said she could picture Cline, in a dress, cooking in the kitchen.
Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette and Skeeter Davis are also given their fair share of respect in her shows. She offers praise for The Judds and had a tribute show for them.
“I love everything they’ve ever recorded,” she said. “They are wonderful classic country.”
Morris has shared the stage and/or opened for Glen Campbell, the Gatlin Brothers and Highway 101, to name a few. She also did a tour with the legendary Jordanaires, who provided backup vocals for Cline, Ricky Nelson and Johnny Cash.
Her parents recently celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary. Her father, who is 92, drove himself and her mother, who will be 91 in May, to the party. He picked up the guitar and she sang along for the 130 guests.
Morris and her band performed. Her siblings joined in, which prompted a guest to remark, “The Osmonds have nothing on you,” Morris said.
Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/amaginnisdr.