An Interview With Jerry Moore – AKA J’Mo.
Pictured above is the band Sawdust, an early years band that Jerry Moore was a member of that played in-and-around Newnan and opened one night for Merle Haggard.
Featured Artist of the Month – Jerry Moore
This month, The Paper features Jerry Moore – also known as J’Mo – who as a lifelong Coweta County resident and family man from the Welcome community, became a multi-talented musician, retiree from the Coweta County school system as a skilled craftsman, a mentor to the young and a source of inspiration to the more seasoned musicians.
One of his friends, Clifford (Chunk) Dingler, was also a teacher to Jerry. As a master musician, Chunk was awarded a grant from the Georgia Council of the Arts Folklife Program, to share the craft of playing Western Swing Music, to make sure this art was kept true and original as it began in the 1920’s. Jerry was Chunk’s official apprentice.
We talked with Jerry about his life, his love for music, and the influence of the characters and musicians along the way. He has a story to tell. Check it out here below.
Please note: The interview is dedicated to Trenton Ewing, who was a talented young man with a passion for music – gone too soon.
His story – Jerry Moore, AKA J’Mo
I was not born into a musical family, however, there were a few relatives scattered around who were playing music during my youth. My earliest recollection of this was probably hearing Grandma Moore on her piano. She played in church & Grandpa led the choir with his stern voice. ‘How Great Thou Art’ was sung at his funeral and has been a favorite of mine since then, and was my Dad’s favorite as well.
My Grandpa had an old fiddle that lay around the old home for years and during a house cleaning he flung it, along with the bow, across the yard. My sister asked for it, received it but I eventually acquired the fiddle. (This probably doesn’t have any meaning to this story…but it may.)
I grew up in a rural community known as Welcome, just west of Newnan. Fishing and hunting were necessary, and not just for sport or fun. We were not poor by any means. Like the lyrics in an Alabama song ”somebody told us Wall Street fell. We were so poor that we couldn’t tell”. Our family was indeed strong. I was always ready to ramble. I slipped off every chance I could on my bicycle and would stay gone as long as I could. Just better be home when the RD Cole whistle blew! Daddy was coming home … supper on the table!
My younger sister had a need to play music next, and we moved a piano into the house. She took lessons, showed me what she knew, and then the piano was gone. I don’t remember why. The same sister then wanted a guitar. Daddy found one, she learned a chord or two on it and proceeded to share them with me. (It was beginner G, C and D chords). So here comes Mel Bay!!!! Red River Valley and the like. My older sister dated a guy who played in church sometimes. He taught me some of the strumming techniques and the runs from chord to chord.
I learned a few more chords from Jerry Helton, a friend from high school. He knew ‘House of the Rising Sun’ which was the ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ of the day.
This sounds exciting in every way but one. I never played in front of anyone….not ANYONE!!!! I would eventually overcome this to a small extent.
I dropped out of high school in the 10th grade after failing the 9th and 10th. Hey, that’s twelve years! (That was the agreement wasn’t it?).
I was a high school dropout and Carroll Tech bound. A year of Auto Mechanics training, marriage and a new baby boy (Marcus Moore our bass player). I always had an old Teisco Del Rey or something like that in the corner and squeaked on it through an amp of some kind. Life was good…
I did some songwriting from time to time but only my wife Shari ever heard these tunes.. She was proud of my sad, sad songs. They are mostly still unheard & I’m hoping they’ll remain that way.
Around 1985 I bought a real acoustic guitar – Made in the USA!!
I felt I needed lessons at that time to find out how to become a star. I had been hanging around Doc’s Music in the old shopping center in Newnan and if you showed up early Saturday morning all the pickers were there showing off. (This Saturday hangout would later become Newnan Music and a new friendship was established with Steve Standley.) After begging Doc he agreed to give me lessons BUT he only knew the old tunes- Western Swing stuff! I was hooked. Friday lessons sharpened my skills to a new dull. And then Doc was gone…..where now.
I showed up at Chunk (Clifford) Dingler’s door like a lost puppy. “I’ll show you all I know but I won’t charge you” was his deal.
(The Georgia Council for the Arts Folklife Program awarded Chunk a grant to teach Western Swing so that the art of this musical style would not be lost. Chunk chose Jerry as his official apprentice.)
Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys was the new sound for me.
From this came knowledge, but the fear of playing remained.
Out of the blue one day, Chunk booked us at Canongate Elementary School to play for a Fall Festival. WHAT?!! What will we play? What chords? I was in a panic!!! What had he done to my fun….Why do I want to play music out in public? Playing while I watched the Braves on TV was good enough.
A friend once told me that when the crowd applauds your performance for the first time you will be hooked & I was.
The next chapter in my musical journey was with Andy Denny. This man knew Tony Joe White stuff! I was a big fan of TJW! Andy knew the words to thousands of ALL the right tunes & played like a clock ticking.
Playing with Andy helped me to find my personal style of playing or how I thought I wanted to sound. It was fun. Playing with Chunk was necessary to achieve what my ear wanted, but hard stuff! I still love it today…Thanks Clifford.
Doug Kees helped me understand why Chunk played the chords he played. That’s the Five of Five rule, he explained. (I still don’t understand it.) Doug taught me theory and a ton of licks and I’m obliged for this.
Years go by. People are met. Friends made…friends lost.
Steve from Newnan Music was my influence to start repairing musical instruments. His analogies and wit were always on the mark! He believed in me.
One Saturday Steve mentioned the names of Steve Sewell and George Applegate. (He knew what I needed.) I went to hear them play at a wing place and…well…this is what I wanted. I became a ‘What’s Left?’ group member. Their style was very different. I wanted that and we had fun!
After a few years with George and Steve and the many ‘Leftovers’ that played with them from time to time I was ready for a change.
Enter Honky Tonk music, and Cody Deal, Jason Justice, Bret Short, Alex McCullough, Warren Hall, and so many others that had awoken this twang in me that had lain dormant since Daddy brought me a Waylon Jennings album. (back when he slicked his hair down), along with Buck Owens, Johnny Cash, & Earnest Tubb.
I kept up with Honky Tonk Deluxe as much as I could being a married man with a job.
Terry Stapleton was my son Marcus’ best friend, and still is, through school and beyond. Marcus was a pretty good picker at the time. He and Terry took up picking and singing during high school and we played a lot at the house. Another group of friends added here. Too many to list. Time marches on…
Terry had been going to Open Mics around town. Something bashful me was not going to do!! One night at an open mic he said “let’s play Folsom Prison Blues”. I said WHAAAT they’ll laugh us out of here man! I was wrong. They loved it!!!
That night Terry and I stayed in the Loco’s parking lot ‘discussing music’ till 4 a.m. I remember telling Terry about this sound in my head and asked if he thought we could do something with it.
Terry named our band ‘SawDust’ because I was a carpenter for the school system at the time.
A dear friend of our family, Vicki Burnham, demanded that I provide music for her daughter’s graduation party. SawDust DID NOT exist yet but with 12 or 13 songs in our set list, we played them over and over. Terry’s brother Michael (Mick) had a set of drums. I bought Marcus a fifteen dollar Univox bass (Bart) from the Pawn Shop that he played through an old PA head. Terry had an acoustic and I had my Les Paul through some kind of amp. We ROCKED IT!!!
SawDust continued to play all around Newnan and surrounding towns and HEY we were the opening act for the great Merle Haggard. (Thanks Tony O!)
I met Kris Youmans through Warren Hall as I recall. Her talent as a musician and songwriter astound me. Her ability to ‘paint’ a song is second to none. ‘A Rose and a Promise’, thanks Kris. I’ve had the opportunity to play with them a few times and I must say I was honored.
I was asked about my stage fright. I still have it! Every time. I always will. We have from time to time had young performers get up and sing or play and on this particular night a young lady was getting ready to perform but was just terrified! Trenton was there so I asked him to console her. “Remember how scared you used to get Trenton? Help her out” The look on his face was one I have never forgotten-a look of trying to recall something…”But J’Mo, I’ve never been scared. I’m playing to my friends, why would I be scared?”
Golden memories…miss you my friend.
I’ve been asked if I feel today’s country music is a good representation of the more traditional country music that I grew up on. Again mentioning Trenton Ewing: It was difficult for me to be in Trenton’s band. I was not good enough. I remember telling him, “Bud this is your wave. You ride it. I’m on an older wave”. New Country is New Country. We have to be always willing to adjust. All the songs have not been written. There’s always a new guy around the corner and a new note being played. There’s a song lyric on some fellow’s lips about the love he lost or the one he wants.
I’ve reached a point in my life where a good jam session at the Bunker, a cold beer and good friends is total euphoria.
Thanks to Kris and Warren and to the staff at The Paper for what you do and for the opportunity to tell a small part of my life. Music is my life. So many names and stories I have not included in this. I hope that won’t cause any hard feelings. Trust me it is unintentional.
I want to dedicate this to Trenton Ewing. Trenton left an emptiness in me. Hugs to Ted and Emily.
SawDust Motto “DEPEND ON LIVE MUSIC.”
Dedicated to the dear ones that have gone on.