Jazz Sides: Deacon John Moore
by Bob Putignano.
Taken from the March issue of Goldmine Magazine
One would think after having played and recorded
with Allen Toussaint, Dr. John, Henry Butler, Fats Domino, Aaron
Neville, Little Richard, Johnny Adams, Irma Thomas, Wardell Quezergue,
and so many of the great New Orleans artists that Deacon John would be
more of a household name. Up
until the first quarter of 2003 Deacon was nationally and
internationally mostly unknown, that is unless you had the pleasurable
experience of seeing Deacon perform in New Orleans, (often as a
headliner at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival) you are
probably not aware of the brilliance of Deacon John.
Since the June 2003 release of the live DVD/PBS
special and CD release of “Jump Blues” both on the VCC label, (www.VetterCommunications.com),
life has really changed for Deacon.
With rare out of New Orleans gigs at the Towaco Jazz Fest in New
Jersey, and at Mountain Stage WV, which will be a two hour national
broadcast in Jan 2004, a appearance on Nick Spitzer’s nationally
syndicated radio show, “American Routes”, and to top it off , Deacon
was the closing feature on one hour New Orleans TV show on the ABC
network’s “PrimeTime” which aired coast to coast on a Monday night
from 9-10pm, in October 2003.
Not many blues performers get this kind of media
coverage, which speaks volumes about Deacon John and the “Jump
Blues” project! What is
puzzling, is during this years selection process for The Blues
Foundation’s Handy Awards, (which I am proudly part of the nominations
committee), Deacon’s name only turned up once in a category for best
comeback artist of the year. One
would think with the blues industry which is having its share of issues
in retaining and expanding its listener base, I would have thought the
nominating committee would have jumped all over Deacon in at least 3-4
categories, specifically for Best CD of 2003.
It’s been a pleasure working with Deacon’s team
at VCC, especially Glen Prejean and Cyril & Gabrielle Vetter.
Getting to know Deacon has been a special experience for me,
bringing him to the Towaco Jazz Fest (with Cosimo Matassa), and
hanging with him to hear him talk about all the great New Orleans
historical stories he shared with me.
It was both educational and a joy and honor for me to be a part
You have to tell me Deacon, how did John Moore
become Deacon John? Al
Miller who was Professor Longhair’s drummer and also a trumpet player
in Roy Brown’s band gave me the name.
You know the Roy Brown song “Good Rockin’ Tonight”?
Tthere is a line in it, which goes “Deacon John and Elda Brown,
two of the slickest cats in town.”
I hated the name! But the band wanted a distinctive name when I
was with The Ivories. Well
anyway, I was doing a bit of preaching stuff in those days, so the name
stuck, and here I am, with no regrets!
Who gave you your first break?
Allen Toussaint! Who saw me one night at the Dew Drop Inn in New Orleans,
and felt I was a hot guitar player.
Two to three days later Allen invites me to record at Cosimo
Matassa’s J&M recording studio at 838–840 North Rampart Street Quarter,( which was
officially designated as an historic site on the 50th
anniversary of the first recording session there by Antoine
"Fats" Domino and Dave Bartholomew on December 10th,
1949). And most significantly, Allen paid union scale wages, wow!
When did these first sessions begin for you, and how many recordings were you
on? Oh man, there must have been several hundred sessions at
Cosimo’s recording studio, and this all started around 1958-59, when I
was about 17-18 years old.
Please tell me about some of the recording sessions you played on?
Well I have been on sessions with: Irma Thomas, Aaron Neville, Johnny Adams,
I also recorded on Ernie K-Doe's "Mother in Law," Lee Dorsey's
"Workin' in a Coal Mine" and Irma Thomas' "Ruler of My
Heart", as well as Chris
Kenner’s “I like it like that”, “Ride Your Pony”,
“Land of a 1,000 Dances”, and Robert Parker’s, “Barefootin”.
In fact, the only thing separating me from the list of all-time
R&B greats is the missing ingredient of a hit record of my own.
How many releases of your own did you have from
the late 50’s into the early 80’s?
Ha! Just three 45 singles!
I have always been a big fan of Wardell Quezergue who I think is a genius,
how did you guys hook up?
Wardell is a genius! We
have known each other since I was a child.
Wardell actually did the string arrangements on my first
recording, “When I am with you” which was recorded on the RIP label
in 1961. We are life long
friends, and it was great to record with him on this years “Jump
Blues” project, but we have always collaborated over the years.
He has got to be one of the most respected musician/arrangers who
is held in high esteem by anyone who has ever worked with him or who had
the pleasure of knowing him.
How did the “Jump Blues” project begin?
Funny you should ask, as my producer Cyril Vetter saw me
performing in front of Wardell’s big band at the Big Easy awards and
was blown away. So Cyril
got this vision to pay homage to the indigenous culture of New Orleans
artists, song- writers, and producers, using me as a centerpiece.
Please tell me more about what is in store for
Deacon John’s Jump Blues? Well
we are through the first two phases. The first being the studio CD
recording, and the second being the DVD live performance, which was
aired by PBS around the country. The
third and final phase will be a film which will be released at the 2004
New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Fest, which will feature concert footage
and interviews, new and old of: Professor
Longhair, Lee Allen, Dave Bartholomew, Irma Thomas, Cosimo
Matassa, Earl King, Johnny Adams, Henry Butler, The Zion Harmonizer’s,
Dr. John, and a piece on second line drumming.
Generally the history and culture of New Orleans music.
2004 should be quite a year for me, perhaps more so than 2003.
I have to agree with
Deacon that 2004 will be a very good year for both Deacon and New
Orleans music. Finally, the
rich musical culture of New Orleans is finally being captured and
documented. Not since John Broven’s book, “Rhythm & Blues in New
Orleans” has there been so much effort devoted to perhaps one of the
most significant pieces of American music and history.
It’s about time!
Radio Host WFDU’s “Sounds of Blue”
President of the NY Blues and Jazz Society