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A fiddle is like a dog -- it can sense fear - Mike Seeger, encouraging a beginning fiddler

Author Topic: Alex Moore  (Read 3132 times)

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Offline Bunker Hill

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Alex Moore
« on: June 25, 2006, 12:23:02 PM »
I realise that the lengthy piece which follows concerns a pianist rather than a guitarist but stick with it because he has some interesting things to say about the Dallas blues community. (from Jazz Beat April 1965 p. 14-15)

WHISTLING ALEX MOORE
by CHRIS ROBY

"I  have been a lone piano player most of my life. I like blues, boogie and popular music ? it is my heart." Whistling Alex Moore, the Dallas blues singer and pianist who was recorded by Chris Strachwitz and Paul Oliver in July 1960, is fairly typical of a whole generation of Texas musicians. For the past forty odd years; his boogie-based piano and husky, good-humoured vocals have been a part of Dallas nightlife. The titles on Arhoolie F 1008 (issued in this country on 77 LA 12/7) give a new dimension to the phrase "bar-room piano". The session was cut in one and a half hours, without rehearsal, and Alex had not been playing for two months previously. Nevertheless, the album remains an essential for anyone interested in the more primitive forms of boogie woogie and blues piano.

Alexander Herman Moore was born on Hall Street in North Dallas, Texas, on 22nd November 1899. Hall Street, in his own words, was "the heart of North Dallas, where all of the Negroes congregated for dancing, taverns, good times, also the State Theatre, Smith's Drug Store, Papa Dad's Barbecue, the Apex Barber Shop and the North Dallas Club". Today he lives within five blocks of the street where he was born. His father, Jesse S. Moore was a candy maker and in 1905 the family moved to El Paso, returning to Dallas in 1907 where Alex went to school. One of his earliest memories of Dallas is of the disastrous flood in 1908 when the Trinity River rose over its banks, an event that has been commemorated in more than one blues. Alex's father died in 1910 and Alex was forced to leave school, where he had reached the sixth grade, and take a delivery job with a neighbourhood grocery store to support his mother and his younger sister and brother. At the age of 17 he enlisted in the U.S. Army but was sent no further than San Antonio, Texas. He was discharged in 1918 and returned to Dallas to work for the same grocery store. He also began to take a more serious interest in music as a possible means of earning a living.

Like about seventy per cent of Dallas' blues artists, Alex was self taught. At fifteen years of age he had begun to hold two bones between his fingers and rattle them. Next he turned to the harmonica and was soon good enough to play over WRR radio station. He was also proficient as a tap dancer but he became increasingly interested in the piano. In 1917 he arranged to take music lessons but after only one lesson his music teacher left for a trip to Oklahoma. By the time she returned, Alex had learned to play a little by ear and was not in the mood for any more lessons, at least not from a teacher. All his spare time was spent in clubs and bars, 'anywhere where there was a piano listening to anything other pianists and at every opportunity pounding away himself. "I almost drove many a person nuts" he recalls happily of those early days. Suffering customers would tell him "I'll sure be glad when you get off that piano!" Soon, however, Alex had worked out some tunes of his own and before long people were saying "Don't stop, play some more" or "We're going on to a party now, you come with us."

By 1920 Alex was much in demand at house parties and joints around Dallas. His first job, at twelve dollars a week, was for a Mr. Ed "Scorchy" Jones at the Idlewild Social Club on Elm Street. Jones later became a minister but the job led to other engagements at such Dallas nightspots as the Arabian Lounge, the Alpine Club and the Zombie Bar. Alex at this time was known as "Papa Chitlings" and for one spell during the twenties he played four nights a week at the Gay Nineties on Maple Avenue where the weekend attraction was Buster Smith and his Heat Waves. Smith, an excellent alto player and a good friend of Alex's later moved to Kansas City where his band included Charlie Parker. He has since returned to Dallas where he is still active as a bandleader. Apart from the local musicians, Dallas also had visits in the early twenties from Mamie Smith and her Jazz Hounds and from the Erskine Hawkins band. Working the Dallas clubs, Alex met many of the blues artists of the day, including Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Norris McHenry and Curtis Jones. Jones, who left Texas in 1929 and reached Chicago by way of Kansas City, now lives in Europe, but still hears from Alex occasionally although the two have not met for some thirty five years.

In 1928 Alex and Blind Norris McHenry went on a trip to Chicago where they recorded for Decca Records and also appeared together at several nightclubs. The titles Alex cut were "Hard Headed Woman", "Bull Corn Blues", "Come Back Baby", "Whistling Blues", "West Texas Woman" and "Blue Bloomer Blues". He also recorded some tracks for the Columbia 14000 series the same year. This trip to Chicago was the only occasion on which Alex has been out of Texas. Until the Arhoolie session, his recording opportunities have been almost nil. He remembers playing piano on a record by the late Smokey Hogg for Ripples Music Co. in the thirties. An avid record collector he has a number of Smokey Hogg's records, also some by fellow Texans Norris McHenry and T Bone Walker and by the boogie pianists Meade Lux Lewis, Albert Ammons and Pine Top Smith.

From 1947 to 1950 Alex played nightly at the Southern Steak House on Lemon Avenue for Walter E. Wilder. It was a good steady job and Alex wrote a number of tunes there which came to him as he was playing the piano, including "The Southern House Blues" which was used as a commercial for the restaurant:

Southern fried chicken, T-Bone steak,
Look out boy, don't you make me late.
I got a brand new date and no time to lose.
I got them Southern House Blues.
I ain't been there but I've been told
The Southern House is the place to go.
You may not know which you like the most
But just take another bite of that garlic toast.
Old Alexander, playing at the piano,
Knocking it out in a boogie woogie manner.
When you read the menu, yes it will send you.
I'll send you with the tune of the Southern House Blues."

Walter Wilder later moved to Houston, where he opened the Safari Restaurant and featured Alex there for two months in 1962. Through the fifties and sixties Alex has continued to work the clubs around Dallas with occasional bookings in Houston or Palestine. Generally he works as a single but if a larger group is called for he uses a quartet comprising himself on piano, "Sweet Daddy" on saxophone, Frank Demings, guitar and vocals, and George Washington on drums. He gave up tap-dancing in 1959 after a final appearance at the Kenny Morris Steak House with Bill Robertson II. He writes all his own material and copyrighted another song, "If You Don't Apologise", only recently.

Today Alex seems a remarkably contented man, if not exactly a rich one. A great-grandfather at sixty five, his eldest daughter, who lives in Los Angeles, is 48 and his youngest son, Alexander Moore Junior, is five. His mother, Mrs. Lula Moore, died in 1957. Arhoolie Records deserve a special vote of thanks for preserving a recent example of the work of this talented and very likeable artist.

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Alex Moore
« Reply #1 on: November 09, 2006, 01:19:21 PM »
Thanks for redirecting us back to this, BH. I think I missed it first time round. Much new territory for me so very interesting to read. Did Alex Moore ever discuss Blind Lemon in any interview? I don't recall his name coming up in anything I've read about Lemon, but then I have a terrible memory. :)

"You may not know which you like the most
But just take another bite of that garlic toast."

Too funny.
« Last Edit: November 09, 2006, 01:21:03 PM by uncle bud »

Offline phhawk

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Re: Alex Moore
« Reply #2 on: November 09, 2006, 08:28:33 PM »
Howdy folks, I did notice in the article about Alex Moore that it stated that Alex Moore and Blind Norris went to Chicago in 1928 where they recorded for Decca and Columbia. Actually, according to Dixon and Godrich, all those records were recorded in Dallas. The Columbias were recorded in 1929 and the Deccas in 1937. I think Decca didn't start recording in the US until about 1934.

One other thing, Dixon and Godrich show Blind Norris as possible guitar on a couple of the Alex Moore Columbia sides. However, it sounds like Coley Jones to me, albiet a bit loose; who was also recording for Columbia in Dallas that day, December 6 1929. Also recording that day were Perry Dixon and Bobbie Cadillac, both probably backed by Jones and Moore.

The 1950 sides that Moore made that were released on RPM are quite  a bit more upbeat than the early recordings. You'd hardly know that it was the same person.

Anyway, just thought I'd toss that in,  Phil

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Alex Moore
« Reply #3 on: November 09, 2006, 11:34:32 PM »
Howdy folks, I did notice in the article about Alex Moore that it stated that Alex Moore and Blind Norris went to Chicago in 1928 where they recorded for Decca and Columbia. Actually, according to Dixon and Godrich, all those records were recorded in Dallas. The Columbias were recorded in 1929 and the Deccas in 1937. I think Decca didn't start recording in the US until about 1934.
To be fair to Roby he was probably just reiterating what Moore told him. The first edition of B&GR was published the previous Fall and only real nerds like myself would have had that for reference. Out of interest Moore's entry in that is much the same as in the current edition thanks mainly to Dan Mahoney's copying of the Columbia files in the 50s.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Alex Moore
« Reply #4 on: November 09, 2006, 11:44:18 PM »
"You may not know which you like the most
But just take another bite of that garlic toast."

Too funny.
Wonderful isn't it. Check out this

http://www.arhoolie.com/titles/408.shtml

Offline phhawk

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Re: Alex Moore
« Reply #5 on: November 10, 2006, 06:06:26 AM »
BH, I'm sure you're right about Roby just writing what Moore was telling him. I just thought it wouldn't hurt to clarify the facts in the unlikely event that some dummy like myself ran around quoting that part of the article as fact.

It is amazing the difference between Moore's early recordings and the later ones. It might be interesting for someone to do a show comparing recordings of artists that recorded in the 20's/30's with what they did in later years (hint, hint, Richard). I think one reason for the difference in Moore's recordings, is that he apparently worked straight through and would have had to adapt to the Boogie Woogie craze that seemed to have sweept the country in the late 40's, early 50's.

The little bit of research I did made me think about field recordings that the record companies did. This might also make for interesting programing. It's interesting to see all the artists that were brought together at these sessions and often used as accompanists for artists that they may never have worked for before. They must have been interesting sessions.   

Offline dj

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Re: Alex Moore
« Reply #6 on: November 10, 2006, 06:55:54 AM »
Quote
One other thing, Dixon and Godrich show Blind Norris as possible guitar on a couple of the Alex Moore Columbia sides. However, it sounds like Coley Jones to me, albiet a bit loose; who was also recording for Columbia in Dallas that day, December 6 1929. Also recording that day were Perry Dixon and Bobbie Cadillac, both probably backed by Jones and Moore.

Yet another argument for shipping the next edition of B&GR with a CD.  I searchable database to see who was in the studio where and when would prove to be very interesting.  One can but hope...

Quote
The little bit of research I did made me think about field recordings that the record companies did. This might also make for interesting programing.
 

I couldn't agree more. 

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Alex Moore
« Reply #7 on: November 10, 2006, 10:26:57 AM »
Yet another argument for shipping the next edition of B&GR with a CD.  I searchable database to see who was in the studio where and when would prove to be very interesting.  One can but hope...
Next edition? It's taken roughly 10-15 years for each revision, so not only could I be pushing up daisies but technology would have moved on deeming CDs a thing of the past and will probably appear in the form of a SIMM equivalent. :) ;D :) ;D

The ever cheerfully positive BH, eh?

Offline dj

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Re: Alex Moore
« Reply #8 on: November 10, 2006, 10:55:43 AM »
Quote
It's taken roughly 10-15 years for each revision

Which means we can start looking for the fifth edition of B&GR in... 2007!

Time flies, doesn't it?   ;D

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Alex Moore
« Reply #9 on: November 10, 2006, 12:29:32 PM »
Quote
It's taken roughly 10-15 years for each revision
Which means we can start looking for the fifth edition of B&GR in... 2007!
Time flies, doesn't it?   ;D
J--e--e--z, sho' nuff do, only seems like yesterday!! At that rate better forget a 5th edition in any shape or form....a-r-r-g-h-h.:(

Seriously, I've asked Howard Rye about this in the past and he was of the opinion that Bob Dixon is so immersed in his life long study of linguistic typology that despite the many B&GR additions and corrections that have been published in Blues & Rhythm's monthly column "I Believe I'll Make A Change", the best any of us can hope for is an addendum in the form of a "vanity" published booklet. But that was his personal view only.

Hey, I've been guilty of taking this way beyond where it started - apologies.

Offline phhawk

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Re: Alex Moore
« Reply #10 on: November 10, 2006, 06:55:54 PM »
As if the BG & R discography is not comprehensive enough with all the listings and 4 indexes; they have a section in the front on Race Labels that show where all the record companies were recording and who they recorded during certain time periods for the length of the race series. True they don't give a breakdown of who the musicisians were at any particular session, but along listings and with the index to accompanists you can get a pretty good idea who was at a specific session. True, it would be very interesting to have a session by session breakdown. I'll get to work on it. Expect the finished product when hell freezes over.

Though I'm sure it's been said a million times before, not enough can be said about the great discographies by Rust, Dixon and Godrich and Rye and now Tony Russell. These books never cease to amaze me. Had it been left up to me, I'd still be on page one of the first discography.

I know; where wandering off the subject. But that's the way conversations work.

Phil 

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Alex Moore
« Reply #11 on: February 03, 2007, 12:08:59 AM »
Do you mean Trevor Huyton's Highway 51 label which issued a couple of the titles following the circulation of a tape given to Chris Roby in the 60s? (see Roby's article kicking off this discussion). This tape was discussed briefly in a review in Blues & Rhythm of the Documentary Arts cassette and re-discussed when Arhoolie issued them on CD see http://www.arhoolie.com/titles/408.shtml

I'll check the Highway 51 LP for details if you don't have them.
« Last Edit: February 03, 2007, 12:11:00 AM by Bunker Hill »

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Alex Moore
« Reply #12 on: March 23, 2012, 04:53:20 AM »
In light of the Whistlin' Alex Moore folkstreams footage in Interesting Country Blues related video clips I thought I'd give this five year old topic a bump.

Later edit: I notice that the post above this has lost the link to the Arhoolie release which now seems to incorporate enthusiastic reviews:

http://www.arhoolie.com/blues/whistling-alex-moore-from-north-dallas-to-the-east-side.html?sl=EN
« Last Edit: March 23, 2012, 06:10:49 AM by Bunker Hill »

 


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