I simply cannot express in words the influence and impact this man and his music has had on me personally and on my career musically. When I was growing up we listened to The Stanley Brothers, Reno and Smiley and others. I can thank my dad for introducing me to bluegrass and my mother for the love of straight honky tonk country. Eventually I discovered other sounds of traditional bluegrass on my own as I became a student of the music and tried to absorb every known thing I could about it. But there was always Charlie Moore. Ever since the first notes I heard him sing on "Truck Drivers Queen", I knew I wanted to be a bluegrass entertainer, but even more importantly I wanted to SING like Charlie Moore.
As a kid, I found it frustrating that lots of people had never heard Charlie Moore. "Whats wrong with these people?" I asked myself. As I began to study him more, almost to the point of obsession, I began to understand that while a tremendous talent, he was human, with real human issues, and that coupled with poor distribution made for one of the tragic cases of our music. Someone criminally underheard and underappreciated.
I feel like I knew this man personally, even though he died just before I was born. I didn't set out to become an authority on Charlie Moore - it just kinda happened. Everything I have ever tried to do in this music, directly or indirectly has been to bring honor to his legacy, to preserve it and to make sure more people know about this great singer. I continue to work on a biography, and even named my band, Avery County in his honor. Hopefully this will help answer where the name came from. I am in fact not from Avery County, but Charlie Moore did live there a while in the mid 1970's where he married Lois Constable and where Lois' son Billy Constable still resides. (It should be noted that Billy is still a fantastic musician who recorded with Charlie amongst others. I even have had the pleasure of jamming with him some here in Asheville).
In 1978 Charlie recorded an album on Old Homestead Records entitled "Avery County" with a song of the same title. In searching for a name for my band to honor Charlie, we went with "Avery County."
For those who don't know Charlie and his music, above is the only known footage of Charlie Moore. I will also try to give a synopsis of the man and his music here. In tribute to him:
Charlie Moore was born February 13 1935 in Piedmont SC. An only child, Charlie was influenced early on by the sounds of Charlie Monroe, Bill Monroe, Clyde Moody, and Mac Wiseman. His talents started early on the mandolin, but he later switched to Guitar, playing in the thumb and finger pick rhythm style of folks he saw as child, folks like Clyde Moody and Lester Flatt. Graduating high school, he went to work in the textile mills of the Piedmont area of SC, realizing quickly that music was his calling.
In 1958 he would record the hardest bluegrass of his career in the form of 45's on Starday Records. Songs such as "Why Is Mother Buried," "Calvary's Cross" and others, while wonderfully written and featuring the young yet amazing voice of Charlie Moore, were not commercially successful, probably due to the tremors coming from Memphis at the time.
It would be 1962 when Charlie's career took off with the beginning of his partnership with former Clinch Mtn Boy whiz kid sideman Bill Napier. They signed a recording contract with King Records and began performing on TV in Greenville, SC, Spartanburg, SC, and down in Panama City, Florida. These were grueling times for the group as they would be up at 5am to do an early morning TV and Radio broadcast, then out in the evening to play personal appearances at bars and schoolhouses - only to do it all over again the next day. Such was the life of many bluegrassers of the time.
Their first King Record "Folk n Hill" featured a song that would acheive much success due to jukebox play all across the land. "Truck Driver's Queen" is still arguably Charlie Moore's more commercially succesful song.
The partnership would dissolve in 1969 after several albums. In that time some amazing music was made and Charlie wrote many songs that would sneak their way into the bluegrass standard songbooks. Unfortunately as was the case through Charlie's career, another artist would usually achieve the recording success with the song! These King Records are still amazing considering the circumstances and demonstrate just what an amazing talent Charlie Moore really was. Most of the time the songs were written on a napkin the day they were to be recorded!!
Charlie had spent time as a radio personality and station manager during his time with Napier and it was this work he would return to once the partnership dissolved. Charlie had an incredibly rich baritone voice and was so well spoken with a rich southern drawl and charisma that naturally he was also asked to MC at the new fangled bluegrass festivals.
It wasn't long though until the bluegrass bug bit and he reformed The Dixie Partners and his show hit the road. The early 1970's saw him write and record some of his biggest songs like "Lorena Go Home", "Wheeling", "Kentucky Girl", "Leaving Detroit" and probably the biggest of his songs "Legend of The Rebel Soldier."
Charlie Moore around 1963 in his Moore and Napier heyday.
While putting out many albums, and exhaustively touring, his health was in decline. Success seemed to flee him even though he appeared on virtually every bluegrass festival, on The Wheeling Jamboree, and even guest appearances on The Grand Ole Opry. He was plagued by personal issues and may thousands of miles were taking a toll on his body.
In the mid 1970's he began to find a rabid following in Europe in places like Belgium, France and Holland. While he was struggling in the U.S., Europeans took to him like a God while they cheered and hollered for more. His wife Lois became a part of the show singing sweet old time duest with Charlie and his step son Billy was playing some fine lead guitar and banjo in the group and it seemed that Charlie would finally find peace and contentment.
Charlie and Lois in Europe
It was not to be. Charlie continued to record and write powerful songs, but his health was failing and just past his thirties he looked old and frail. His voice was still strong though as he continued to tour. Apparently (though several accounts have been written) Charlie became ill on the way to a show in Milton Wva in November 1979. He was rushed to the hospital where he fell into a coma. He passed away on Christmas Eve 1979. He was just 44 and the voice was silenced forever.
Charlie Moore was the greatest singer in the world to me. He would take a song, pitch in the key he wanted to sing it in and put every ounce of his soul into the song. His phrasing grabbed me like nothing else ever will.
In talking with and interviewing many of his sidemen, friends, colleagues, and just plain admirers, along with listening to tons of live footage, Charlie was the same genial fellow he was onstage off it as well. He was definitely without question one of the most amazing entertainers that could grab an audience's attention just with his MC work. He could play the bass, mandolin, and banjo - all of the instruments with ease - and arranged his own material as well as being a great recording engineer. Probably the greatest example of these talents was his 1976 Old Homestead album "Wheeling" (available on CD www.countysales.com)
Ralph Stanley once told me that Charlie Moore was the greatest songwriter next to his brother Carter he ever heard. Jimmy Martin told me he was one of the greatest singers that ever lived country or bluegrass and relayed to me the fact that Charlie could have been a country star in the 1960's and refused to stray from what Charlie just always called his "Hillbilly Music."
This page is the very least I can do for Charlie. I always dedicate my records first and foremost to him, and I am working on doing a tribute album to Charlie. If I can get one person to buy a Charlie Moore record or seek out his songs and his music then I have done my job.
To Charlie's daughters Lisa and Pattie, I can only say thank you for sharing your daddy with the rest of the world. My life was changed forever because of it. To Charlie - thank you. You were my dad's favorite and his friend and I know you two have already sung one together. Your music will live on within me the rest of my days and I hope I can finally pick some mandolin for you one day.
Charlie Moore in Europe