Bob Moore, an Architect of the Nashville Sound, Dies at 88

NASHVILLE — Bob Moore, an architect of the Nashville Sound of the 1950s and ’60s who played bass on thousands of popular recordings, including Elvis Presley’s “Return to Sender” and Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” died on Sept. 22 at a hospital here. He was 88.

His death was confirmed by his wife, Kittra Bernstein Moore, who did not cite a cause.

As a mainstay of the loose aggregation of first-call Nashville session professionals known as the A-Team, Mr. Moore played on many of the landmark country hits of his day, among them Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man,” Loretta Lynn’s “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and George Jones’s “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”

All were No. 1 country singles, and each typified the intuitive, uncluttered style of playing that came to characterize the less-is-more Nashville Sound.

Mr. Moore, who mainly played the upright bass, also contributed the swaggering opening figure to Roger Miller’s “King of the Road” as well as the indomitable bass line on Jeannie C. Riley’s skewering of hypocrisy, “Harper Valley P.T.A.” Both records were No. 1 country singles and major crossover hits, with Ms. Riley’s reaching the top of the pop chart in 1968.

Over 40 years Mr. Moore elevated the bass in country music from a subordinate timekeeper to an instrument capable of considerable tonal and emotional reach. By turns restrained and robust, his imaginative phrasing revealed a gift for seizing the dramatic moment within a recording or arrangement.

“No matter how good a musician you are technically, what really matters boils down to your taste in playing,” he once said. “A lot of guys can play a hundred notes a second; some can play one note, and it makes a lot better record.”

Mr. Moore’s forceful, empathetic playing extended well beyond the precincts of country music to encompass the likes of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Boxer” and Brook Benton’s “Rainy Night in Georgia,” among other pop and soul hits, as well as several notable rockabilly records.

As session leader at Monument Records, where he worked in the late 1950s, Mr. Moore created arrangements for recordings by Roy Orbison and others, including “Only the Lonely,” a Top 10 pop single for Mr. Orbison in 1960. The record stalled at No. 2 and might have gone on to occupy the top spot on the chart were it not for Brenda Lee’s “I’m Sorry.” Mr. Moore played bass on that one, too.

He had a Top 10 pop record of his own: the Mariachi-flavored instrumental “Mexico” (1961), credited to Bob Moore and His Orchestra. (The song was composed by Boudleaux Bryant, who, with his wife, Felice, also wrote hits for Mr. Orbison and the Everly Brothers.)

In 1960 Mr. Moore and some of his fellow A-Teamers received an invitation to appear at the Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island. After a series of violent incidents in Newport, some set off by an angry crowd of concertgoers who had been shut out of sold-out shows, the festival ended prematurely and Mr. Moore was unable to perform, so he and a group billed as the Nashville All-Stars, which included the vibraphonist Gary Burton, recorded an album of instrumentals called “After the Riot at Newport.”

“Anyone who has heard me play bass knows my soul,” Mr. Moore said, looking back on his career in a 2002 interview with the website Art of Slap Bass. “I am studied, solid, thorough, steadfast, bold and dependable.”

In 2007, Mr. Moore and his fellow A-Team members were inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville.

His son R. Stevie Moore is also a musician, having played a pioneering role in the lo-fi, or do-it-yourself, movement popularized by indie-rock artists like Pavement and Beck.

Bobby Loyce Moore was born on Nov. 30, 1932, in Nashville and raised by his maternal grandmother, Minnie Anderson Johnson, a widow.

When he was 9, Bobby set up a shoeshine station outside the Ryman Auditorium, then home to the Grand Ole Opry. One of his regular customers was Jack Drake, the bass player for Ernest Tubb and his Texas Troubadours; Mr. Drake became an early mentor.

Bobby appeared in local bands before going on tour at age 15 as a guitarist and stand-up bassist for the minstrels Jamup and Honey. Along with the future A-Team guitarists Hank Garland and Grady Martin, he spent time in the bands of the Opry stars Paul Howard and Little Jimmy Dickens before working with the singers Red Foley and Marty Robbins.

Mr. Moore’s big break came in the early 1950s, when the Nashville bandleader Owen Bradley offered him steady employment with his dance orchestra. Even more auspicious, Mr. Bradley promised Mr. Moore, then weary of touring, steady work on the recording sessions he would soon be supervising as the newly established head of the local office of Decca Records.

Over the next three decades Mr. Moore would appear on hits by Decca luminaries like Kitty Wells and Conway Twitty as well as others, like Jim Reeves and Earl Scruggs, who recorded for other labels. He appeared on virtually all of Patsy Cline’s 1960s recordings for Decca, including her hit “Crazy” in 1961, and much of Presley’s RCA output of the early to mid-’60s, including “Return to Sender,” released in 1962.

As a new generation of session musicians began supplanting the original A-Team in the early ’80s, Mr. Moore pursued other projects, including a stint with Jerry Lee Lewis’s band. A hand injury forced his premature retirement from performing later that decade.

In addition to his wife and his son Stevie, Mr. Moore is survived by a daughter, Linda Faye Moore, who is also a performing musician; two other sons, Gary and Harry; and two granddaughters.

In the early 1950s, when Mr. Bradley offered him a career as a studio musician, Mr. Moore discovered a life-changing musical fellowship as a member of the A-Team.

“We were like brothers,” he said in his Art of Slap Bass interview. “We had great musical chemistry and communication.” He continued: “We loved creating our music together. We were able to assert our personalities and express our feelings through our music in such an effective way that the public came to recognize our individual styles.”

Source: Read Full Article