Note: We are grateful to Marge Moore, Carl's wife
for providing us with an extensive article on her husband's career
written by Joseph E. Bennett. We've included the highlights here
along with notes from other articles we have found.
Carl Lee Moore was born in Paragould, Arkansas, the son of Charles
and Mattie Willis Moore. His father
was called "Skinny" Moore and was a baseball pitcher for New Orleans.
Two months before Carl was born, his
father was killed in a railroad train wreck. Awhile after the
tragedy, his mom remarried W.O. Marcom of
There were three Marcom children: Oscar, Paul, and Amy
- who became instant siblings for Carl. Their new home was
in Jonesboro, a small city about 1,200 miles northwest of Memphis, Tennessee.
By the time Carl was six he had become fascinated with the drums.
He would use pencils at school to practice playing the 'drum'. Later,
he was able to order a pair of drum sticks from Sears and Roebuck,
which he used on most anything stationary.
But, it wasn't too long before a complete set
of drums was ordered from the mail order firm.
He was completely self-taught;
he got his inspiration watching the theatre drummers
who performed impressive gyrations with their sticks
while never missing a beat of the music.
It wasn't long before young Carl Moore was considered one
of the flashiest young drummers around.
He got himself a job after school at Link's cafe to
get him spending money, working as a dishwasher and occasionally
as a waiter. He spent the off-hours he could find listening
to the drummers in the small bands that played at the cafe
and the local theatres. He formed his own band while in high
school in Jonesboro and impressed the audiences with his mastery
of the drum sticks.
When Carl graduated from high school, he started working with the old
five and dime retail store chain, the legendary F.W. Woolworth Company,
as a delivery boy. He must have been a good worker, because in a few
months he had worked his way up to assistant manager.
After graduating from high school, he enrolled in the University
of Arkansas, but show business had gotten into his blood. He took
his small band on the road, playing throughout the South. Often
in tobacco warehouses, which made good, inexpensive dance halls
in the smaller towns.
Mr. Bennett writes that "Margie Moore remembers Carl remarking frequently
that they made considerable money, stuffing it in their old
suitcases for safe-keeping. It was a peripatetic life, but
Carl loved it. In fact, the wandering band never appeared to
suffer the lean financial times most musicians endured as part
of their apprenticeship."
The quality of the band, particularly Carl's role as a leader,
improved steadily during the months on tour. Carl developed
a series of comedy skits with novelty songs, delivered in a broad
hillbilly twang of an Arkansas preacher, a persona he
assumed throughout his band-leading career. He was a natural
actor and he developed routines worthy of a vaudeville trouper.
In 1921, band leader Phil Baxter was touring Arkansas and
happened to see Carl perform. He saw the talent and
offered him a job with his band. Carl took the job to help
advance his career.
Baxter was a song composer of some distinction who had several popular
hits over the years. His most successful
was "Piccolo Pete." He also wrote "Faded Summer Love" and
"Harmonica Harry." His most renowned work was one in which he collaborated
with Carl Moore, "Ding Dong Daddy From Dumas."
Carl used the number for years as his most famous solo,
and drummer-singer Phil Harris also enjoyed some success
with the song. The song was inspired by the Arkansas town
of Dumas, a city of 6,000 that is about 100
miles southeast of Little Rock.
In 1928, he was working with the Marshall Field Department Store chain
in Chicago. It was stated that he got to be on the nation's first television
show then. That show was broadcast from the store front to the fourth floor.
Well, back then they called it a "big deal". As a little trivia notemovie
starlet to be Dorothy Lamour was working as an elevator girl there and at the time
was taking singing lessons from Jack Hawkins.
Carl "Deacon" Moore is also the composer of record of
other more famous numbers. In fact, they became standards over
the years. Those two successful compositions were "St James Infirmary
Blues" (originally titled "Gambler's Blues")
and "Bye Bye Blues". These songs all became part
of Carl's repertoire, but his most successful number while with
Baxter was "Yes, We Have No Bananas".
Eventually, Carl yielded to the urge to resume touring with
his own band, and made an amiable departure from Phi'
Baxter's employ. He continued the familiar routines which has
proven successful! with his original group, rind polished
his image as tile singing Arkansas preacher. During the late 1920's,
Moore's reputation grew, finally attracting tile attention of
Freddy Hamm, leader of a very successful band based in
Chicago and represented by MCA. Carl was hired as tile band's
drummer and featured headliner, billed as "Squint, the Arkansas Kid".
A 1929 publication titled "This Week In Chicago" chronicles tile
top entertainment available for the week of November 10th through
the 16th. Carl Moore's photo is prominently displayed, as the
chief fun-maker and drummer for the Freddy Hamm orchestra.
That was the beginning of a successful five-year association with
Hamm, during which time they played leading hotels and clubs in
New York, Detroit, Florida, and throughout the midwest.
Carl's tenure with the Freddy Hamm orchestra ended With the
death of the leader in 1934.
Nevertheless, the Deacon Moore company was more than a band.
He presented a complete variety show, making every evening at the
club a memorable experience for the happy patrons. When the
Deacon sang, his sophisticated aura evaporated. Carl's vocal offerings
were country novelty tunes, many of which were his own compositions.
He delivered them in a nasal twang somewhat reminiscent of
the great Phil Harris, with a touch of Tiny Hill thrown in.
However, the Deacon pre-dated both of those great entertainers with
that particular style of singing.
Carl Moore built his entire show around the country-western character
he portrayed, and most of his orchestra members were pressed into
service in supporting roles. While the Deacon cavorted in his vintage
country skits, usually as an Arkansas preacher, the band provided
appropriate background music. The switch to conventional dance
tempos always came as something of a shock. Tile strange mix of
hillbilly vaudeville routines and popular contemporary dance arrangements
proved to be highly popular with the patrons, though.
The Carl "Deacon" Moore band enjoyed a great reputation among
America's dancers for years.
Acting as his own announcer and master of ceremonies, he invariably opened his
broadcast with tile greeting, "Howdy, folks, this is the Deacon
speakin'." He opened the program with a brief monologue
about his "little one-lunger", a small organ which was part
of his musical act, along with a testimonial about his vocalists,
the beautiful Marge Hudson and the band's tenor, Munson Compton.
Carl continued working in Chicago with a band he organized himself
after Hamm's death. His agent frequently booked orchestras into the
leading hotels in Chicago, and was providing musical entertainment
for the newly-opened Drake Hotel. It promised to be one of the most
popular in the city. Mrs. Moore recalled the booking agent thumbing
through his talent catalogue in the office of the hotel manager,
trying to select a band who would be popular. lie flipped past
a picture of Carl Moore, but the manager stopped him and asked
who it was. The agent remarked that Moore's band was 'too
country' for the Drake, but that did not deter the manager.
He stated, "We'll sign him for two weeks and see how it works out."
With an expanded band, the novelty tunes, and Carl's
hilarious singing style, the band's performance was sensational
at the Drake. They stayed for 18 months, broadcasting almost
nightly over station WGN, who had a wire into the hotel.
During that engagement, Carl signed a management contract with the
Kenneway Corporation, a New York firm, with offices in
the major cities. It was during that time frame that Carl's
future wife heard his band the first time over WGN. Margie was
a fan big bands and habitually tuned them in at"night back
home in Freeport, Long Island, in New York. She was thrilled
with Carl's singing antics and the band's music.
It was beyond the scope of her imagination to think that radio
voice belonged to the man who would someday be her husband.
Even though the band was widely acclaimed by the end of their stay
at the Drake Hotel, they would achieve even more popularity in
the years ahead. The leader was universally known as "Deacon"
Moore by this point in time, primarily because of his portrayal
of an Arkansas preacher in his always popular monologue. They
had an abundance of booking opportunities which continued unabated
right up until the beginning of World War 11. The Deacon worked
every type of venue during his tours around the country. The band
played engagements in numerous fine hotels and popular night clubs,
as well as conventions, theatres, amusement parks, and every
conceivable location which offered dance music to the patrons.
All of the introductory remarks by the Deacon were delivered
in a broad hillbilly twang which instantly reminded one of
the great Will Rogers. By virtue of tile opening monologue,
one might expect to find a genuine country philosopher
in bib overalls when you first saw the Deacon in person.
But, the surprise was to find a handsome, slender
young man immaculately arrayed in a spotless tuxedo, leading an
orchestra which was equal in appearance to the most impressive
New York ensemble. The band's music was tasteful and modern, with
an impressive mix of popular up-tempo numbers and traditional
lush ballads, all delivered with an obvious high degree of
Mr. Bennett noted some of the major venues and locations that
Carl Moore and his band played touring their touring days:
- Stevens Hotel, Chicago
- the Morrison, Chicago
- The LaSalle, Chicago
- Drake Hotel, Chicago
- Paramount Cafe
- Maner Hotel
- Euclid Beach Park
- Rainbow Ballroom
- Elitch's Gardens
- Netherland Playa
- Castle Farms
- Coney Island
- Paducah, KY - Irvin Cobb Hotel
- Memphis, TN - Claridge Hotel
- Houston, TX - Rice Hotel
- Kansas City, MO - Muehlbach Hotel
- San Antonio, TX - St. Anthony Hotel and Olmos Club
- New Orleans, LA - Jung Hotel during Mardi Gras week.
- Boston, MA - Normandie Ballroom
- Hershey, PA - Hershey Park Ballroom
Carl and his band made several movie shorts for Warner Brothers,
that featured the Deacon in his famous Arkansas persona and was assisted by
Munson Compton and the band. The Deacon included his famous little
reed organ, "the one-lunger", among his props in the features.
He declined a conventional movie contract because he would not leave
the members of his band. His concern over the welfare of his
musicians was widely known, and Margie Moore still extols the Deacon's
great human virtues.
The band recorded for Decca on a limited basis. Four of their classic
numbers survive as rare musical treasures in the archives of a
very few collectors. Among those classic discs are
- Waiting For the Evening Mail
- Nobody Knows Where She's Gone
- A Woman Gets Tired
- Evolution Mama
Mr. Bennett had a soft spot for the tune, Evolution Mama.
He related from one performance, "When the Deacon was building to the climax of his show, and came
to the final chorus of "Evolution Mama", his voice rose as
he half-spoke, half-sang the words,
"I've got a knife,
and I've got a gun.
I'm gonna cut you
if you stand still,
and shoot you if you run.
don't you make a monkey out of me!"
The audience roared approval, while the band
rose in an FFF ending to close with a grand flourish. It was
a boffo performance. and it's sad that musical historians have not
made more of an effort to record the story of the
"Squeakin' Deacon the way it was.
All of the Decca recordings featured the Deacon's
Arkansas-style vocals. He also did
some transcribed recordings, primarily for the Trans-American
A testimony to the Deacon's lasting and memorable popularity
as a performer was published in the February 16, 1977
issue of the Memphis Press-Scimitar.
Columnist Clark Porteus recounted the glory clays of Memphis'
venerable Orpheum Theatre, observing that the greatest money-maker
who ever played there was Carl "Deacon" Moore. Porteus waxed
sentimental over the Deacon's version of "A Shanty In Old Shanty Town."
Late in the 1930's, the Deacon signed with Consolidated Radio Artists
who took over his booking assignments. In late 1940, he was
booked to play in New York City at a Greenwich Village club,
"The Village Barn". He was booked to
play an engagement in New York City at a Greenwich Village club
called The Village Barn It was late 1940. The engagement was successful
for the band, but was also notable to Carl for another lasting reason.
During the band's run at The Village Barn, he met a young Long
Island girl who had admired his music from a WGN broadcast
some years before when he was playing at Chicago's Drake Hotel.
The young lady was Margie, who would be his future wife.
It wasn't long before a romance developed, even though the Deacon was a
few years older than Margie. They were married on May 20, 1941, beginning
a union which lasted 44 years when his death separated them.
During those early years, she would help out answering the volumes
of fan mail that Carl would get from admiring fans.
The Moores were parents of one child, daughter Carole Lee, who eventually
presented them with three grandchildren.
Deacon Moore never forgot his roots back in Jonesboro, Arkansas.
He made numerous trips home and was even presented with a license
plate with the number 000-000 by the governor for his 1939 Chrysler
Margie recalled one of the visits back to Jonesboro for Mr. Bennett in
his article that occurred shortly after they were married. The Deacon
was surprised by the town with a parade for his return and the Mayor
had declared it an official holiday, with all of the businesses
and banks closing for "Deacon Moore Day". The band then put on a "...
rousing performance that evening at 'The Patio', the Hotel Noble's night
club, Jonesboro's most elegant venue."
The Deacon had to break up the band in 1942 because of World War II.
Travel restrictions put a dent in any kind of touring. He was also
just over the age of military service, so he and his wife Marge
decided to settle down in Cincinnati to try out other opportunities.
Mr. Bennett wrote that it was their first permanent address since
he had left Jonesboro.
He began a morning program on WLW.
Margie recalled for Mr. Bennett,
"...that the Deacon would appear for the daily show, deliver
a brief monologue, act as master of ceremonies to introduce
an act or two, and come home." One of the regulars on that
show was a young singer by the name of Doris Day, who would
go on to her own fame, too.
Another opportunity came up, this time for a show in
St. Louis that aired over KMOX, The Shady Valley Gang.
There he did his traditional musical skits and monologues
in the familiar hillbilly style that had made him so popular.
On top of that, his radio persona continued
to remind many listeners of the immortal Will Rogers.
So much so, that when a movie was under consideration to
relate the story of Rogers, Carl was contacted with an invitation
to come to Hollywood and audition for the part of Will Rogers.
Carl made the trip and did the audition, but Mrs. Will Rogers
eventually decided that her son, Will, Jr. would be cast in the role.
The movie was eventually made and was released in 1952.
In 1947, he and Margie moved to Los Angeles, California.
He heard that a radio station in Pasadena was auditioning for a disc jockey
opening. He went and applied, that is he and 300 others.
But Carl's talents won out over the field for the job at KXLA,
now KRLA. He was a natural as a master-of-ceremonies after his many
years as a band leader and radio work elsewhere. He also seemed
to be a natural as a country and western disc jockey, with an easy
style, Arkansas accent and 'homespun humor' helped entrench him
in the role.
During his DJ days, the name "Deacon" acquired a new twist as
Mr. Bennett related in his article. "Some of the youngsters,
including his own grandchildren, began calling him
the "Squeakin' Deacon". The adjective became a permanent
adjunct and Carl adopted the new sobriquet for his radio
image. The greeting became 'This is the Squeakin' Deacon speakin'",
used continuously in his climb to the top ranks of country-western disc jockeys He was one
of the pioneer DJ's to achieve success on the west coast."
By 1953, Squeakin' Deacon had been throwing a gala Christmas party
for the previous seven years for his "shut in" pals. He would get
refreshments donated by his radio and television sponsors and the
entertainment was provided by the hillbilly music stars of the day.
At his party in 1952, he had over 500 guests.
In the 1960's, the Squeakin' Deacon had taken his talents
to radio station KFOX out of Long Beach. He would do a remote
hookup on his daily program and would host many of the great
country music stars on his show over the years, such as
Cliffie Stone, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Merle Travis and Barbara Mandrell
were among the many guests.
The old Deacon became a familiar figure at high-profile country-western
events, often in the role of master of ceremonies. He was also
one of the early performers on television, with a daily show
on KNBC-TV in the early 1950's.
As testament to the popularity he had back then,
a 1950 edition of a Billboard Magazine annual
poll had him chosen as the "Favorite Folk Disc Jockey".
During that time, Deacon owed his success to the popularity
of his KXLA "Home Hour for Western Folks", a prime-time
hourly broadcast five days each week sponsored by Seaboard Finance
Company. The Deacon ranked sixth in the national popularity poll,
several positions higher than Tennessee Ernie Ford.
In fact, only three DJ's from the west coast ranked in the top 20.
Then, he had two programs, five days a week. On Sunday mornings, he
hosted another show for KXLA that was an amateur contest broadcast
live from the Riverside Rancho in Los Angeles. That show did discover
some new talents there, one of them being Gene O'Quinn, who was
recording on the Capitol label.
The Squeakin' Deacon's Theme Song
It's the Squeakin' Deacon speakin'
Takin' all your cares away.
Makes you feel that life's OK,
Bringin' you a happier day.
It's the Squeakin' Deacon speakin',
Makin' all your cares depart.
From when the Deacon's squeakin',
The sun comes a-peekin',
Right into your heart.
Courtesy of fan Tom Russell from his best recollection and memory (2010)
Squeakin' Deacon was a bit of a country philosopher with a bit of a
humorous touch. An article we found in an old Cowboy
Songs magazine had a few examples of that.
Speaking of success, he mentioned there is no end to success. He said
the toughest part of a career is to just hold on to the success you
attained. Success wasn't on merit alone - you need breaks too. He was
quoted as saying "...many a rose has blossomed and never been smelt."
And what did the Squeakin' Deacon attribute his success? He said, "The
good Lord had been good to me. Without faithful friends, fans and admirers,
You might as well go back to Arkansas. You don't eat without'em,
that's for sure. ... There's good in everybody if you only look far enough."
He would end up his little humorous performances as a hillbilly preacher
with something like, "...Oh mighty dollar be with me always.
If you can't come in person, send all your little imagessuch as
two bitzies and four bitzies."
Carl continued to maintain his popularity in the country-western
field until his retirement in 1969. But he never changed his format,
which was essentially the same as that which made him a successful
big band leader. Carl "Deacon" Moore continued to be the
quintessential image of an Arkansas preacher, and his fans
loved him in the role. In his article, he notes that Margie recalls the mountain of gifts that
would flood their home in observation of birthdays, anniversaries,
and important events in their lives. She said that she and Carl
remembered those country-western fans as the most generous and
loyal they had ever known.
During retirement, Carl and Margie were free to do the
things they loved. They golfed together, entertained family visitors
from Arkansas and New York, and generally enjoyed the good life
at their home in Huntington Beach. Carl even introduced
his half-brother, Paul Marcom, to the fine points of deep-sea
In 1983, the Deacon was diagnosed with prostate cancer
and gradually lost ground to the disease.
Deacon Moore no longer tours the highways and byways of the
United States, making friends and entertaining anybody within
hearing distance. Certainly, the Rev. Dr. Thomas Overton covered
that aspect of Carl's life, along with his fine character attributes,
when he delivered the memorial sermon. The Deacon's earthly
odyssey was the story of a quality life, to which we are able
to add a postscript. He is sorely missed after a decade.
Carl Moore's remains were laid to rest at the Westminster
Memorial Park near his California home. His memory never will be.
Credits & Sources
- Article by Joseph E. Bennett; Bandern, TX, provided
courtesy of Margie Moore, Carl's wife.
- Cowboy Songs Magazine No. 25; March 1953;
American Folk Publications, Inc.; Derby, CT.
|Sound Sample(RealAudio Format)
|Sound Sample(RealAudio Format)
|Sound Sample(RealAudio Format)