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Lance Morrison, a former captain with the Newark Police Department and now a Deputy with the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office, has recently released a 14-track music CD about being vegan entitled "Pasture prime." On the album he plays all instruments and sings every lyric, except for one song in which he gets help from his 14-year-old daughter. (Doug Duran/STAFF)
FREMONT — Maybe Jimmy Buffett was on to something.

While many music groups in the late 1970s were singing about cutting a rug at a local disco, Buffett had a hit with "Cheeseburger in Paradise," a song in which he expresses his desire for a double-thick burger.

Now, almost 30 years later, as musicians of today sing tunes of anger and frustration among other things, one local man is singing about burgers, too, only from the perspective of a cow.

Former Newark police Capt. Lance Morrison, a self-proclaimed musician at heart and longtime vegetarian, recently completed his first CD, titled "Pasture Prime," a 15-track album in which he examines the carnivorous world through the eyes of animals.

"I wanted to get out all the thoughts I've had and share the complexities of living in a meat world," said Morrison, who retired from the Newark Police Department in 2006 and has since taken up a post with the Contra Costa Sheriff's Office.

From a barnyard discussion between two cows who have witnessed their cousin's slaughter, to a cat who fears for his life every time his owner's refrigerator begins to go bare, the light-hearted album delivers track after track of Morrison thinking outside the box.

But if you ask Morrison what he's trying to accomplish with his music, he'll tell you that he is not trying to convert anyone. His only goal is to express his thoughts and create music that others — vegetarian, vegan or different — may enjoy.

"I'm not trying to push this on anyone," he said. "I don't look down upon people who eat meat."

Banging spoons

Lance Truscott Morrison was raised in Newark, a city in which he later became the second-highest ranking police officer. But from an early age he knew music was what he truly loved. Heck, his father, also a police officer, was known as the "Singing Cop."

"Apparently his vocals skipped a generation," Morrison jokingly said recently, admitting that his skills with several instruments are stronger than his singing ability.

From the time he was in elementary school, Morrison remembers being infatuated with creating music. He used spoons to drum on the carpet of his family's home and then record it on a $25 tape player. Then he'd find another way to make sounds and record that on a different tape player, ultimately creating a multilayered track.

"I always wanted to know what it would sound like recorded," he said.

Morrison's interest in music has continued. He is a big Beatles fan, and he's learned to play several instruments, including different types of horns, guitars, keyboard and drums. Even when he decided to follow in his father's footsteps and go into police work — he realized that it would be difficult to make a living playing music all day — Morrison continued to play in several bands in his spare time, including the city's employee band, Yowza, and several mariachi, Latin and jazz bands.

"Some people have a need to write to express themselves, I like to melodically put my thoughts together," he said.

The Veggie Cop

It's 2 a.m., lunch time for police officers working the night shift in Newark, and the pickings are slim for an officer on the go. Unless you've brought your meal with you, you're left staring at the neon lights of a fast-food restaurant glowing in the dark of night.

"Some guys would talk about wanting a juicy steak, and I was going through the drive-through at McDonald's ordering the two cheeseburger meal without the meat," he said.

By nature of the job, police officers are observers, Morrison said, so after a while they caught onto his lifestyle. And he took his fair amount of good-natured ribbing because of it. After all, in a testosterone-fueled world where guns are held in leather holsters and steel-toed hide boots are the norm, Morrison was the odd man out with his plastic holster and fake leather boots.

"I bought cruelty-free items whenever I could," he said.

But through it all he remained true to his beliefs — meat and animal products just weren't for him.

Pasture Prime

The idea for his CD came to him less than four years ago as he wrapped up his degree in liberal studies at St. Mary's College in Moraga.

He was asked to submit a senior thesis, but he did more than just write one. He sang one, too, creating a song — which is not on the album — about being vegetarian.

"It was well-received," Morrison said.

Though the idea had been born, it wasn't until earlier this year that he decided to get serious about his music and create the CD.

From time to time he'd kiss his wife, Debra, goodnight and tell his 14-year-old daughter, Michelle, a bedtime story before sneaking out of the house. He retired to his studio, a small structure in his backyard where he wrote, sang, played and recorded every track on his album using only his instruments and a 16-track recorder.

The only outside assistance he's had is from his wife, who took the picture that appears on the CD's cover, and Michelle, his youngest daughter, who lends her vocals to an anti-animal-product track titled "Pleather to Meat You."

"It was fun and exciting," said Michelle, who is vegetarian by choice.

Debra Morrison, who is not vegetarian, said she supports her husband's efforts and knows that he needs a creative outlet to express his feelings.

"He's quite creative and talented," she said. "We let him do what he's got to do."

In the month since Morrison completed the album he has received lots of messages through his Web site, http://www.vegantunes.com, and sold copies of the CD to people as far away as the Philippines, Peru, Africa and Europe.

"It's homemade but still got quality to it," he said.

He went on to say that the number of CDs he actually sells is not of great significance to him. Rather, he hopes people enjoy his music.

"The sales are meaningless to me," Morrison said. "I'd much rather have someone humming my songs."

For more information or to purchase a CD, visit http://www.vegantunes.com. Two dollars from each sale is being donated to the SPCA of Contra Costa County.

Staff writer Ben Aguirre Jr. covers police and the courts for The Argus. He can be reached at 510-353-7011 or baguirre@bayareanewsgroup.com.