Time was when James Cornelius Morgan, whom most people called "J.C." and sometimes "The Keyboard King" or just "The King," played the piano for Ella Fitzgerald and he used to play with Duke Ellington at the old Paradise Gardens in northwest Washington.

He played on Arthur Godfrey's radio show once, years ago, but he stayed in Washington. He played at the old Howard Theater and the Charles Hotel and at many local nightclubs with the likes of Bob Burnside and "The Sweethearts of Rhythm" and T.N.T." Tribble.

For the past 15 years, "J.C." played at Mr. Smith's Restaurant in Georgetown - "just easy-listening jazz in the style of Fats Waller," says James F. Haight, the proprietor. "He'd sit there and play for hours and hours. He really helped our business a lot."

James Cornelius Morgan died of cancer Thursday at D.C. General Hospital. He was 63. He had been a professional musician on the Washington scene for almost 50 years.

His illness begin a few years ago, and it became difficult for him to work a regular schedule. "He'd come in whenever he wanted to - he was that good," says Haight. "People used to as k if he was there. Hundreds and hundreds of people came and asked about him."

Mr. Morgan, who was born in Washington, stayed with the old time favorites. He would play such tunes as "Satin Doll," Pennies from Heaven," "Deep Purple," and "Somebody Stole My Gal."

"I used to come here as a customer to listen to "J.C.," Haight says. "He was half the reason I bought the place. He is sorely missed."

Mr. Morgan's survivors include two sisters. Eva Manning, of Washington, and Mary Louise Murray, of Fairmount Heights.