Hillbilly-Music.comThe People. The Music. The History.
About The Artist
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 Jonesboro, Arkansas. 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 musicianship.
Mr. Bennett noted some of the major venues and locations that Carl Moore and his band played touring their touring days:
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
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,
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 Broadcast Corporation.
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 Imperial convertible.
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.
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 fishing.
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
Sound Sample(YouTube Video Format)