Areli “Jamal” Morgan River, also known as John Fields, Jamma Joe, Chapped Reggie and other personae, was an Iowa City writer, performer, painter, video producer, musician and fixture of Iowa City Public Access TV who died tragically last July. To commemorate River’s life and work, friends and fellow artists are putting together a tribute cover album of his songs, released under the name King Toad, that will be released next year.
As a teenager, River collaborated on some zany Iowa City Public Access TV comedy sketch shows that included: Naughty Pooh Pie, Wax Doll and Eggnog. In his 20s, he became a performer and organizer for “No Shame Theater,” a weekly open mic night on the UI campus.
River was eventually hired at PATV as a video programmer where he created hundreds of his own shows, including the sketch comedy programs Champy the Bee Man and My Head Is Shaped Like a Butt, and music video programs Cold and Grey and Songy Challenge which were often scored using his own music.
In addition to his King Toad solo music project, River recorded and performed with a variety of music acts including Furious Skinny, Three on a Match and The Michael Tabors. Collaborators on River’s tribute album are drawing from material of the 12 King Toad albums that were originally produced in River’s bedroom studio.
On YouTube and at Kingtoadmusic.com, some of River’s work is preserved including his vlog of cover songs, monologues (in which he talks about his struggles with multiple sclerosis and migraines), music videos and his old PATV shows (like Naughty Pooh Pie).