Tickling the Ivories with Deacon John Moore

Jul 12, 2012

Deacon John's mother wanted him to be a singer, but she hated rock 'n roll.

Oh well.

Mrs. Moore's little boy picked up a guitar, and it wasn't long before rock 'n roll came tumbling out. His bandmates named him Deacon John. But he also recorded at least one song under the name Johnny Moore. Deacon John's early recordings were high energy and danceable, just like his stage show. But "You Don't Know How (To Turn Me On)" and "Haven't I Been Good To You," signaled only a fragment of what the Deacon could do.

Deacon John's band, the Ivories, at one time or another featured the Neville brothers, pianist James Booker, drummers Zigaboo Modeliste, Bob French and James Black, bassist George French and many other luminaries of the New Orleans music scene. And as the line up changed, the band's repertoire changed with it, from early R&B and rock 'n roll, to hard rock, soft rock, psychedlic rock and folk, not to mention early funk. Today, the Ivories play most everything, including the kind of gospel music of which the good Deacon's mother would approve.

But Deacon John's biggest imprint on music is as a sideman. His guitar figures on a long list of hit records made in New Orleans and heard around the world, including Lee Dorsey's "Working in a Coal Mine" Robert Parker's "Barefootin'," Aaron Neville's "Tell it Like It Is" and Irma Thomas' "Ruler of My Heart."

Much of Deacon John's session work was with the great songwriter, producer and arranger Allen Toussaint.

"When I see Allen Toussaint now, I can't thank him enough." Deacon John tells Music Inside Out. "… I'll be forever grateful to (him) for making me a part of the indigenous culture."

Deacon John's career spans six decades and tells a uniqe story of the evolution of popular music. Mrs. Moore's little boy may not be an actual church deacon, but he makes turning on the radio a blessed event.

Deacon John "Many Rivers To Cross" (Live on 'Music Inside Out') from Elephant Quilt Productions on Vimeo.

Music Playlist

James Booker

Ride Your Pony
Lee Dorsey

Working in a Coal Mine
Lee Dorsey

Tell It Like it Is
Aaron Neville

Ruler of My Heart
Irma Thomas

Let the Good Times Roll
Shirley and Lee

Hey, Good Lookin'
Hank Williams, Deacon John

Honky Tonk
Deacon John

Good Rockin' Tonight
Professor Longhair

Going Back to New Orleans
Deacon John

Any Day Now
Deacon John

One Mint Julep
Deacon John and the Ivories

I Wanna Hold Your Hand
The Beatles, Deacon John

Bo Diddley
Deacon John

Deacon John

Proud Mary
Deacon John

Land of a Thousand Dances
Chris Kenner

I Like it Like That
Chris Kenner

Robert Parker

Haven't I Been Good To You
Deacon John

You Don't Know How (to Turn Me On)
Deacon John

Ernie K-Doe

Tell It Like It Is
Aaron Neville

Losing Battle
Deacon John

That's Alright
Deacon John

Many Rivers to Cross
Deacon John

James Booker

This episode of Music Inside Out was produced by Jason Rhein, Lynette Johnson, Brigid McCarthy, Jenni Lawson and Thomas Walsh.

This episode has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: July 13, 2012

The audio for this episode of Music Inside Out originally stated that Lee Dorsey performed Barefootin', instead of Robert Parker. The playlist above is correct, and we're in the process of fixing the audio.

Also, a different Johnny Moore recorded Gloria. The text has been revised to reflect this correction, and the playlist has been revised as well.