Bassist Bob Moore, one of the most important musicians in Nashville history, died on Wednesday, Sept. 22, at the age of 88.
A Nashville native who was playing professionally by the age of 15, Moore was a member of the original A-team of first-call session musicians who fueled the city’s rise as a recording center. He is one of the most-recorded bassists in the history of popular music, playing on more than 17,000 sessions during a career spanning more than half a century. His session credits include influential recordings with Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Brenda Lee and Patsy Cline. In addition to countless hits by country legends such as Johnny Cash, George Jones, Ray Price, Dottie West and Tom T. Hall, he also recorded with an array of pop, rock, R&B and jazz greats, including Bob Dylan, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roger Miller, Kenny Rogers, Burl Ives, Patti Page, Pat Boone, Perry Como, Brook Benton, Clyde McPhatter, Ruth Brown, Al Hirt and Pete Fountain.
“Bob Moore was the bassist Nashville needed,” says bassist-producer Norbert Putnam, who followed in Moore’s footsteps as a session musician in the city. “He wasn't just a country guy — he could cover it all, you know. He could play light jazz, country, pop, rock. The early stuff he played on with Elvis was just excellent. But I thought the work he did with Brenda Lee and Owen Bradley was his greatest playing.”
Moore, who was the father of renowned home recordist R. Stevie Moore, was one of the group of session musicians billed as the Nashville All-Stars who were scheduled to appear at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1960. Their appearance was canceled as a result of a riot at the festival the day before, but the trip was not a total loss: They ended up making an album on the lawn of a Newport mansion that was released by RCA Records as After the Riot at Newport.
When Monument Records first moved from the Washington, D.C., area to Nashville, Moore was an investor in the label. Although he later sold his interest, he will always be identified with the company. His work as an arranger and session leader on recordings by Orbison, the label’s biggest star, helped forever broaden the scope of rock ’n’ roll. Original pressings of Orbison hits such as “Candy Man,” “Crying” and “Only the Lonely” are credited to “Roy Orbison with Bob Moore’s Orchestra and Chorus.” In 1961, Moore scored a hit of his own for the label with an instrumental recording, “Mexico.” The single, which was credited to Bob Moore & His Orchestra, spent 10 weeks in the Billboard Top 40, peaking at No. 7, and topped the trade paper’s Easy Listening chart.
“Bob Moore played a huge role in Nashville’s evolution into Music City,” says bassist Dave Pomeroy, president of AFM Local 257. “His big sound, propulsive rhythms and melodic playing defined the role of the acoustic bass in thousands of recordings over his long and epic career. Records like Roger Miller’s ‘King of the Road’ and Patsy Cline’s ‘Crazy’ would never have been the same without his iconic bass parts, and those two examples are just the tip of the iceberg.”
Jerry Kennedy, who as a producer and session guitarist worked often with Moore in the ’60s and ’70s, says no one had better chops. “During my time, he would have to be the number one player,” Kennedy says. “He knew exactly what to do when he walked through the door, plus he had great instruments. And he could sight-read — you could put a piece of music in front of him, and he could play it right then.”
Kennedy credits Moore and the other members of the original A-team as laying the foundation for what was to come. “Those guys kicked the door open for all of us who followed.”
Moore is a member of the Musicians Hall of Fame and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. In 1994, he was named by Life magazine as the greatest country bassist of all time.