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Eric ‘Redz’ Morton was a Rebel Rocker and an integral part of music and Laguna Beach.

  • Eric ¿Redz¿ MortonEric ¿Redz¿ Morton (Photo by Ed Krebs)By Bryce Alderton—-

Laguna Beach lost one of its reggae legends Thursday.

Eric “Redz” Morton, 60, a bassist who helped start The Rebel Rockers band, died from liver failure at his Laguna Beach home, Morton’s younger brother Bruce said Monday.

Eric Morton was instrumental in promoting reggae music and hailed from Laguna Beach.

Morton started playing at the Sandpiper lounge on Coast Highway in the early 1980s and last performed about three weeks ago, said Chuck Harrell, who has co-owned the Sandpiper for 43 years.

“He’s a legend in this area,” Harrell said. “He was a mellow person, never was a problem and was always ready to play.”

The Rebel Rockers were a pioneering band from Laguna, helping to popularize beach reggae sound, according to a 2009 Laguna Beach Magazine story.

The group started in 1979 when Morton met Debra Lee Sullivan, who became lead singer, Laguna Beach Magazine reported.

What made the Rebel Rockers’ music special was fusing cultures — Jamaica with California’s surf and rock lifestyle, according to Morton’s friend Ron Pringle.

“Laguna had never seen that; they [The Rebel Rockers] set the standard,” said Pringle, 48, who met Morton in the late 1970s.

The Rebel Rockers were in high demand as one of Southern California’s few reggae bands during the 80s, playing five or six nights a week, Sullivan told Laguna Beach Magazine.

The Rebel Rockers

The Rebel Rockers

Morton, or “Redz” as he was known for his red dreadlocks, filled in with other bands too, which Harrell said is common for reggae musicians.

Sullivan and Morton even recorded in Bob Marley’s Tuff Gang studio and worked with other reggae artists to hone their craft, according to a February Coastline Pilot story.

If Morton wasn’t recording music, he was often at the beach, Pringle said.

“He [Morton] was an accomplished bodysurfer,” Pringle said. “I watched him catch waves at Thousand Steps Beach.”

Morton welcomed whomever he met.

“He was 100% love, 100% of the time,” Pringle said.

Friend Nick Hernandez shared similar sentiments.

“He [Morton] was one sweetheart of a man; he would never hurt anybody,” Hernandez said.

Morton also had a thirst for knowledge and lived by the quote: “All you really own is what you know. Knowledge can’t be taken from you,” according to Bruce Morton.

Bruce remembered a time he joined Eric for dinner with a religious studies professor. They discussed philosophy.

“At one point, Eric explained one of Einstein’s theories to the point where I couldn’t follow,” Bruce said. “He had an amazing respect for knowledge.”

Eric Morton is survived by longtime partner Tiffany Cassler; sister Rachel Morton-Daniels; and mother Riva Morton-Dimond, Bruce Morton said.

Memorial services are pending.

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