By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
You could say Morey Davolt owes his big idea to a man who used goat glands to make guys horny.
The man was Doc John Brinkley, and he thought impotent men could rise to the occasion with transplanted goat testicles. It worked well--for Doc Brinkley, anyway--and the Kansas quack made enough money to build a few radio stations.
Doc, whose stations promoted various miracle cures, eventually ran into problems with the feds, so he moved to Villa Acuna, Mexico, and built the 500,000-watt XERF, the largest radio station of its time. On good nights, if the wind was right, Doc's signal reached Denver and beyond.
Morey tuned in whenever possible. He liked Doc's oddball advertisements and occasional songs; songs with a twang in the guitar and fire in the fiddle. Morey had played that music his entire life. What he didn't like, though, was the name it was known by: hillbilly music. That sounded corny as hell.
Doc apparently agreed. Whenever XERF spun records, Morey says, its DJs called them "country and Western."
That had a ring to it.
So Morey stole it.
When he started his own radio station in 1955, the first of its kind in Denver, he leaned into the microphone and said: "KLAK. The only one-horse radio station in town. Country-and-Western music all day and all night."
And that was that.
2. MOREY'S KITCHEN
This is where you can find him: in a corner chair beside a corner table, beneath a tool belt nailed to the wall, beside a tiny American flag stuck in the screen door, under a clipboard listing twenty guitar songs to limber his 83-year-old fingers.
This is his kitchen. But don't call it that. To Morey, it's an office, living room, saloon and sanctuary. It is where he lounges in a bathrobe, sips Diet Coke from a Coors glass, watches the digital weather contraption above his sink, offers unsolicited advice on tomato-growing, flips though his unpublished manuscript, The Autobiography of Maurice Jerome Davolt Detailing His Life Around the Many Many Jobs He Has Held From the Summer of 1920 to 1992.
This is his kitchen. But it's really a stage. Look at him. Cackling at his own jokes. Cursing like a sailor. Grinning like a gopher. This man is having fun.
3. WHAT HIS FRIEND SAYS ABOUT HIM
Ralph Clark: "He's one fascinating son of a bitch. Always in the right place at the right time. That guitar of his has taken him everywhere. He's had more jobs than I can count. He's got a memory sharp as a goddamn tack. Shit, he knows every song ever written. He's just one fascinating son of a bitch. I like the hell out of him."
Mom Davolt always said, "Try anything once. But be careful." Morey followed the first part of her advice. The second part he's not so sure about.
He was born on August 17, 1914, in the "godforsaken plains of west-central Kansas." On that sweltering day in the family's sod dugout, his mother, Ella Mae Davolt, turned to his father, Darwin Eli Davolt, and said: "I believe it's about that time. Guess I better head for the hospital."
So Darwin saddled up his only horse, helped his wife on top and rode seven long miles into town. An hour later she gave birth to her only child. Then they saddled up the horse and rode back to the dugout.
Not long after, Morey went to work.
He got his first job when he was six, delivering drugs for two Denver pharmacies. His parents had moved to Colorado and divorced. Morey hustled deliveries all over town, barefoot and grubby, working customers for tips. By the time he entered first grade, he made more than Mom Davolt, who earned 75 cents a day selling cosmetics.
"Hell, everyone worked back then," he says. "It didn't matter how old you were. If you wanted to eat, you worked."
He milked cows, gathered eggs at a chicken ranch, delivered groceries, cooked hot dogs, patched mausoleums, grew tomatoes, read parking meters, pulled nails from concrete walls, sold peanuts, repaired oil trucks, ordered vegetables for a grocery store, pumped gasoline from a railroad tanker, sold Hoover vacuum cleaners and unloaded boxcars.
"I made a game out of everything I did," he says. "Even pumping shit. I used to see how many strokes it would take to get the cesspool cleaned. Hell, I had fun."
One night, while answering phones during the graveyard shift at a mortuary, Morey took a call. A woman had died on South Logan Street. The man said, "Come quick." So Morey called the embalmer, collected his gear, and off they went.
When they arrived at the house, the woman's husband pointed to the attic. "She's up there," he said. Morey and the embalmer climbed a set of narrow steps, wiggled through a narrow entrance and stood in a narrow room. There she was, dead as a doornail, all 250 pounds of her. The embalmer turned to Morey. "We have a problem," he said.
The mortuary owner and his wife arrived a few minutes later. The boss climbed into the attic, assessed the situation and told his wife to usher the woman's family outside. Morey fetched a tarpaulin from the hearse (actually a covered pickup) and several leather straps. Then he and the other men unrolled the tarp, pushed the dead woman onto it and cinched the bundle tight.