Midget Handjob's and The Circle Jerks' Keith Morris

Singer Keith Morris was a notorious underground-music favorite during

the last two decades as lead singer of the loud, fast and often tasteless

punk band the Circle Jerks.

Morris was in the news last month when friends, including actor Johnny

Depp and members of the Butthole Surfers and Tool, staged benefit

performances for him in Los Angeles. Morris, who has no health insurance,

is suffering from diabetes and recently had operations for appendicitis

and colon problems.

He was born 44 years ago today and raised in Hermosa Beach, Calif. Though

raised on British Invasion bands, Morris worked in a record store where

he grew to love loud rockers such as Iggy Pop, Ted Nugent and Aerosmith.

In 1977 Morris became the singer for the angry hardcore-punk band Black

Flag, which was formed by guitarist Greg Ginn and bassist Chuck Dukowski.

Morris left after the band's 1978 debut EP, Nervous Breakdown,

and his spot was taken first by singer Chavo Pederast and later by Henry

Rollins.

In 1980 Morris hooked up with former Redd Kross guitarist Greg Hetson to

form the Circle Jerks in Los Angeles. The Jerks were loud and encouraged

fans to slam-dance at their shows. Their debut LP, Group Sex,

featured such tracks as "I Just Want Some Skank" and "World Up My Ass."

The Jerks' notoriety grew when they were featured in "The Decline of

Western Civilization," a 1980 documentary about L.A. punk bands.

Wild in the Streets (1982) featured "Letter Bomb" and the popular

title track (RealAudio

excerpt); Golden Shower of Hits (1983) contained a satiric

medley of AM-radio hits such as "Afternoon Delight" and "Having My Baby."

The band contributed "Paid Vacation" to Jello Biafra's punk compilation

Let Them Eat Jellybeans.

The Circle Jerks then took a more heavy-metal route on 1985's Wonderful

and 1987's VI without ever moving beyond a small cult audience.

Gig, featuring concert performances, was released in 1992, by

which time it was apparent that the Circle Jerks had influenced such

later-generation bands as Green Day and Ween.

Oddities, Abnormalities and Curiosities, the Jerks' 1995 major-label

debut, featured former teen-pop star Debbie Gibson on a cover of the

Soft Boys' "I Wanna Destroy You." She also performed the song with the

Jerks at a few gigs. Following the LP, the Circle Jerks went on indefinite

hiatus.

Morris told "Rock Around the World": "[The Circle Jerks] were basically

out of a school of do-it-yourself, just play it as it lays, let it fly,

see if it sticks, and go with it."

In recent years, Morris DJed on a Los Angeles radio station and battled

his health problems. Last month Depp and L.A. punk bands such as X, the

Weirdos, Pennywise and others played Sunset Strip benefit concerts that

raised $17,000 to help Morris pay medical bills.

"There was skepticism about punk rock being dead on the Sunset Strip,

but those kids let it all fly," Morris said after the benefits.

Morris is planning to record with his latest band, Midget Handjob.

Other birthdays: Frankie Avalon, 60; Alan King (Ace), 53; Kerry Livgren

(Kansas), 50; Michael Hossack (Doobie Brothers), 49; Dee Dee Ramone

(Ramones), 47; Lita Ford, 41; Joanne Catherall (Human League), 37; Ian

Spice (Breathe), 33; and Ricky Bell (New Edition, Bell Biv DeVoe), 32.