Johnny Moore

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Like the mighty Mississippi dividing Tennessee and Arkansas, the magnificent jazz guitarist Charlie Christian basically separated the musical destinations of brothers Oscar Moore and Johnny Moore, a pair…
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Like the mighty Mississippi dividing Tennessee and Arkansas, the magnificent jazz guitarist Charlie Christian basically separated the musical destinations of brothers Oscar Moore and Johnny Moore, a pair of Texas guitarists who up until the Christian conversion, had been united in a kind of sibling ribaldry known as rhythm &blues. In the post-Christian environment, Oscar Moore began playing jazz, eventually settling into a lengthy accompanying relationship with pianist, vocalist, and hitmaker Nat King Cole. Older brother Johnny Moore remained devoted to rhythm & blues, his spirit hovering over the birth of rock & roll like a nervous father. He is considered an early influence on Chuck Berry's playing style.

In the beginning, the Moore brothers started out with string band music, whacking away on acoustic guitars. Although associated with Texas music history, the brothers' professional careers didn't pick up momentum until their family relocated to Los Angeles. Not to be confused with a variety of similarly named performers including one of the singers from the Drifters and the Chicago blues axeman Johnny B. Moore, this guitarist eventually led his own band known as Johnny Moore's Three Blazers. He introduced the important rhythm & blues performer Charles Brown to the public, giving him an important position in his trio as well as collaborating on songs, some of them verging on the sort of teen-oriented material described as "pimple rock." Publishing credits for one such ditty, "Groovy Movie Blues," indicate an ongoing brotherly relationship that transcended any disagreement about Christian guitar philosophy: the brothers Moore wrote the song along with Brown; sometimes a couple of other groovy dudes get credit as well.

While the Three Blazers acquired a reputation for championing at competitive band battles, the massive shadow of Nat King Cole wound up meaning more. The first company to sign Johnny Moore's group did so because it had already lost out on Cole and wanted something else which could at least be considered related. Producer Robert Scherman went a little too far, however, actually enlisting Oscar Moore to play on the record in hopes of totally gnawing on the Cole crowd, then going so far as releasing the sides under the name of Oscar Moore with the Three Blazers. Big brother blazed over this, understandably. He was also not happy with the amount of attention being garnered by singer and pianist Brown.

Nonetheless, the group prospered with the first commercial release of Brown's famous "Drifting Blues" in 1946. Further hits followed such as the pleasant "Sunny Road." the expansive "So Long," the flexible "Changeable Woman Blues," and the knowledgeable "More Than You Know," not to mention the seasonal "Merry Christmas Baby." Johnny Moore apparently muscled himself songwriting and publishing credits for works that were basically Brown's efforts entirely. The latter performer rebelled, extinguishing his relationship with the Three Blazers. In a fit of songwriting pique, Brown came up with "Get Yourself Another Fool" for his first solo release. Moore carried on with his group and his strategy of hiring singers that looked and sounded like Brown, including Lee Barnes and Billy Valentine. Mari Jones, a female singer on late '40s sessions, was linked with Moore romantically. In the '50s, Moore sometimes made it onto the Top Ten, or close enough, with topical songs such as the 1953 "Dragnet Blues" or the plaintive 1955 "Johnny Ace's Last Letter." Although unable to keep up with the rock & roll scene, Moore made a few attempts at recording in the '60s on small labels such as Lilly and Cenco.