If The Conversation is about the biggest living legends in American history then Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris is certainly someone who deserves to be mentioned. He is arguably the human embodiment of the American dream. As Outsider detailed last spring, just like Hank Williams Jr., Johnny Morris is really just carrying on a Family Tradition.
Back in the day, Morris’s father ran a small liquor store in the Missouri Ozarks in a town known as the birthplace of Route 66, one of the original highways in America. The name of that liquor store where it all started was Brown Derby. Just like the color brown on the UPS drivers that Jack Harlow shouts out in First Class for making sure he receives his plaques.
Bass Pro Shops wasn’t always the iconic outdoor retail empire that it is today though. Johnny Morris built it From The Ground Up but he never forgot his humble beginnings. That’s why the enterprise remains so successful today. It started with a $10,000 loan from his dad. Then he bought a truck that he drove around and filled with the best fishing gear he could find.
Then he would return to that little liquor store and set up shop. Eventually, he accumulated the best collection of fishing equipment the world had ever seen. Then he started selling that consolidated collection by the boatload. Even though Morris is now in his 70s, his earliest memories are of time spent with his dad at that little liquor store. If you asked Johnny Morris his thoughts about the growing trend of people wearing Bass Pro Shops hats, something tells me he’d thank them for their support and say they’re all just Stuntin’ Like My Daddy…(that’s the full music video of the song without cuss words in case my nephews ever read this) Ah, who am I kidding? I’m a cool uncle… Here’s the version with cuss words. Just don’t tell your parents!
Johnny Morris Learned Lifes Most Important Lessons From His Dad
“My dad was old school, pretty strict. And I knew he was in the military, but he just never talked about it. And I never probed him about it. So after I was 21, later in life a little a bit, and my dad was getting up in his years, but we were around a campfire one night on a gravel bar and we’d been fishing that day and my dad just decided to share some things with me about his life, that he wanted me to know that he never had shared with me before. And he just told me several stories, having kind of a rough way…
He wasn’t looking for sympathy, but he also told me about going off, being in the war and it was the Battle of the Bulge and I’ll just never forget, he looked across the campfire at me. He said, ‘Son, your dad’s lucky to be here across from you.’ And he said, ‘Because lots of the young people around me, they didn’t, they weren’t as lucky as your dad to make it through it.’ And he said it was, it was a rough go…”
And that was pretty much all that was said, but I think about that picture in my mind. We all know many people that have served our freedoms and the friends we have at work and with family, this is a land of opportunity, and everybody that makes it that way. How can we ever forget them?”
He Turned Lessons And A Loan Into A Multi-Billion Dollar Business Empire
In a day and age when tech and internet companies seem to dominate the economy, Johnny Morris continues to skyrocket up the Forbes Billionaires Chart with his steady old-school approach. At this time last year, Morris was worth an estimated $6 billion.
Today he’s worth more than $8.3 billion. When looking at things more broadly than that, it showcases amazing growth considering his own net worth was $3.2 billion as of 2020. The true value of the blood, sweat, and tears that it took to build the Bass Pro Shops empire? That is something only Johnny Morris will ever truly know. The Bass Pro Shops empire also includes the world-famous Memphis Pyramid, Wonders of Wildlife National Museum and Aquarium, Big Cedar Lodge and Resort, Dogwood Canyon, Cabelas, and many other apparel and equipment brands.
How Did He Go From A Local Liquor Store To Being A Billionaire
It all starts with The Greatest Generation though. John A. Morris, Johnny’s dad was a World War II veteran. The type of manliness and camaraderie that the World War II generation earned the hard way is unparalleled. They earned that by traveling across the world to look the world’s biggest evils right in the eyes with their hands on a gun. That’s the authentic toughness and fearlessness that the American Spirit was built on. We live in the land of the free because of the brave.
Most people in this country will never have to feel a legitimate hunger for survival thanks to the sacrifices of others. Just appreciate that freedom and do your best to live your own American dream. That dream is something different to everyone and that’s the way it should be. That dream could be as simple as food on the table, a running car, and tucking your kids in at night like a Regular Joe. Or that dream could be as big as becoming a billionaire rocket scientist like Elon Musk. Whatever it is, just appreciate that Only In America do you have the type of freedom we have here. My American dream? I just want to be Lucky.
The freedom to turn your dad’s liquor store into one of the biggest and most recognizable businesses in the world? Johnny Morris has never taken that freedom for granted. That’s why supporting troops and veterans by offering military discounts and actively recruiting veterans to join his staff remains a priority. Johnny’s lifelong respect and gratitude to servicemen and servicewomen is also evident in Bass Pro Shops’ ongoing multi-million-dollar philanthropic endeavors, includingPatriots Park, Trail of Honor, Portraits of Courage, and Homes For Heroes. It’s also safe to say that probably no man in history has gone fishing with more Presidents of the United States than Johnny Morris which is pretty dang cool regardless of political beliefs.
Remembering Where He Came From While Building An Empire
John A. Morris’s values were shaped by growing up poor and his service in WWII. In turn, Johnny Morris’s values were shaped by his dedicated and loving parents. Johnny’s mother also grew up poor. Simply put, money can’t buy growing up without money. Money also can’t buy how important it is for kids to grow up in a loving home with a family that supports their craziest dreams. Even if your kids can’t pay attention in school sometimes, maybe they just need an audiobook or a movie to learn from. As far as movies go though? I haven’t seen a movie since I started living one.
Johnny’s parents started taking him hunting and fishing at a young age. He immediately developed a passion for the great outdoors. But he also noticed the special camaraderie that exploring the great outdoors can create. After spending 5 years struggling to make it on the professional bass fishing circuit, Johnny Morris decided to just revolutionize the entire industry instead. The family legacy he started is now proudly being carried on by his son J.P. Morris who recently thanked his dad with an epic TV commercial. These two videos showcase the story of Johnny Morris and Bass Pro Shops better than any words that I could type, so check them out.
The Bass Pro Shops Story According To Chris Dorsey And Forbes
Chris Dorsey is one of the premier voices in the outdoor media space. Dorsey has spent the past 25 years investigating and chronicling the animals, people, and unforgettable places home to remarkable big game hunts while producing nearly 60 outdoor adventure television series. In the process, his teams amassed a library of more than 100,000 hours of HD footage and nearly 150,000 photographs. Not sure how you cram a career that damn impressive into a 3-minute video, but this trailer for his latest project Director’s Cut is an attempt at that.
He already dove into the Bass Pro Shops story with a written piece he published in Forbes on April 6th. Given the incredible impact, Dorsey has had on the outdoor industry, paraphrasing his version of the Bass Pro Shops story just doesn’t seem right. So jump on over to Forbes to check out an original and more comprehensive look at the Bass Pro Shops story from one of the best to ever put words about hunting, fishing, and the great outdoors on the internet.
And now, in the words of the urban philosopher and musical wizard Lil Wayne, “Ain’t got shit to do with this, I just thought that I would mention…”
The Best Super Bowl Commercials Of All Time
I just thought I’d share a few of my favorite Super Bowl Commercials and insights on how to get to where the guys in those commercials are today. At first, Harlow and Johnny Morris seem like an odd couple but they have more in common than you might think. Ain’t That Some Shit? Yeah. It sure is… It’s shit you only see if you live long enough to make it to Where The Wild Things Are… Remember, Horses Are Faster if you need to disappear, but My First Car will get you there safely.
The top brands in the world often enlist top-tier celebrities to endorse their brands, convey a message, promote a product, make people laugh, make people cry, and ultimately make people buy something. Now thanks to the internet those commercials live on forever and the ad spots get more bang for their buck with a chance to go viral on social media. Same with songs.
So anyways, here’s my favorite Super Commercial from when I was a kid. I guess that makes Like A Cowboy huh? Doritos produced a hilarious commercial with the Kentucky-based rapperJack Harlow. Harlow’s musical triangle isn’t the only pyramid that’s got the crowd hype during the Super Bowl though. Bass Pro Shops, well known for theirepic pyramid in Memphis, also had an ad air live during the last Super Bowl. This is the second time that Bass Pro Shops has had a commercial air during the Super Bowl. The first one debuted back in 2021
The only thing better than those three commercials was the performance of yet another Kentucky boy. Chris Stapleton’s iconic performance of the National Anthem at this year’s big game was up there with Whitney Houston as the greatest of all time. So stand up and take your hat off for that last video please and thanks. If you don’t at least find someone way braver than you to thank for your freedom to sit it out… And Everybody Get Along. Just Get Along, it’s not that difficult…
Is Johnny Morris of Bass Pro Shops still alive? ›
John L. Morris (born 1948) is an American billionaire businessman, and the founder, majority owner, and CEO of Bass Pro Shops, a hunting and fishing retail chain in the US and Canada. As of February 2023, his net worth was estimated at US$8.3 billion.Why did Johnny Morris started Bass Pro? ›
After noticing growing interest in the sport, Johnny started Bass Pro Shops with 8 square feet of space in the back of his father's liquor store in Springfield, Missouri, the company's sole location for the first 13 years of business.Did Johnny Morris serve in the military? ›
Morris, served in World War II and fought in the Battle of the Bulge. For decades, Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's have been committed to hiring those who have served our nation. Currently more than 2,600 of Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's Outfitters are veterans or active-duty military personnel.How did John Morris make all his money? ›
John Morris is founder and CEO of $6.5 billion (sales) outdoor gear retailer Bass Pro Shops. Morris started the company in 1972 by selling fish tackle from the back of his father's liquor store in Springfield, Missouri. In 2017, he bought rival Cabela's for $5 billion, nearly doubling the size of Bass Pro Shops.