Producer, Programmer, Keyboardist, and Musical Director
Music has always been an important force in the life of Morris Hayes. As a child growing up in the small town of Jefferson, Arkansas, music in the church touched his soul and inspired what would become a life-long passion.
He majored in Art at the University of Arkansas in Pine Bluff but the lure of music would not be denied. So, Morris ended up “faking” his way into a college band. He didn’t know how to play very well but when the band’s other keyboard player quit, his desire and commitment combined with his natural talent helped him get hired even though he was not fully accomplished at the time.
After college, Morris continued playing in both church and anywhere else he could, moving from Chicago to Memphis to Austin in a short period of time. In Austin, Texas, and another musician created a band called “the Bizness.” Mark Brown, bass player for Prince and the Revolution, saw them perform and invited the band to Minneapolis to record a demo. Ultimately, Morris ended up joining Brown’s band, Mazarati. The band did not stay together, but Morris decided to stick around in Minneapolis and began work engineering with Mark Brown. During this time, he wrote, co-produced, and engineered tracks with Shanice Wilson.
Morris got his big break in 1991 when Jerome Benton asked him to play keyboards with the Time following the departure of Jimmy Jam Harris. They were big shoes to fill, but they were happy with Morris’s contributions and later that year, he toured Asia with the Time.
At the end of the tour, Morris formed a band called “G Sharp and the Edge,” which became the house band for Prince’s new nightclub, the “Glam Slam” in Minneapolis. Prince was so impressed that he asked the band to play with Carmen Electra as the opening act for his 1992 “Diamonds and Pearls” tour.
After the tour, Prince asked Morris to play keyboards alongside Tommy Barbarella in his band “The New Power Generation.” Morris would go onto be in the band for nearly 20 years as well as Prince’s Musical Director. (There were some Prince tours that Morris did not play on as he was also touring with Maceo Parker.)
When not on stage performing with Prince, Morris produced tracks for television and motion pictures including Martin Lawrence’s You So Crazy, HBO’s Laurel Avenue as well as some commercial music for both Target and 3M.
In addition to Prince, The Time, and Maceo Parker, Morris has performed live with some of the greatest musicians of our time including: George Clinton, Larry Graham, Chaka Khan, Whitney Houston, Herbie Hancock, Kanye West, Elton John, Babyface, Teddy Riley, Carlos Santana, Kenny Loggins, George Benson, Lenny Kravitz, Alicia Keys, Will.i.am, Mary J. Blige, Q-Tip, Mazarati, Janelle Monáe, Tamar Davis, Maroon 5, Shelia E., Eve, Ani Di Franco, Doug E. Fresh, Stevie Wonder, Questlove,Kool Moe Dee, Sheryl Crow, Nikka Costa, Gwen Stefani, Eve, Angie Stone, D’Angelo, Common, Shanice Wilson, Mike Philips,Erika Badu, Amy Winehouse, Bono and the Edge, Frank McCombs, Vernon Reid, Macy Grey, Angelo Moore, Debra Cox, Bill Banfield, Mica Paris&Mint Condition, and many others.
In addition to one of his most memorable performances when he played at the historic Super Bowl half-time show with Prince and the New Power Generation in 2007, Morris was the musical director for the official Prince tribute concert in Minnesota in October 2016, following the passing of his friend and musical mentor. Following that event, a number of his former bandmates in the original configuration of the New Power Generation reunited to work together again. They have since performed all over the world—including headlining performances at the Montreux Jazz Festival, British Summer Time, Bluesfest in Australia, and North Sea Jazz Festival.
The only release of original music by Prince since he passed away was Welcome 2 America (2021), co-produced by Morris and Prince.
Learn more about Morris Hayes:
NPG Rehearsals for Official Prince Tribute with Musical Director, Morris Hayes (short film)
Morris Hayes on "The Project" (short film)
Morris Hayes on "60 Minutes" (clip)
‘Could You Make It Rain Harder (Billboard)
Prince’s New Power Generation Reunites For 2017 Tour, Singer’s Handwritten Note Praising NPG Released: Exclusive (Billboard)
Mr. Hayes on Prince and Bringing the Funk (That’s)