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MOORE, ALEXANDER HERMAN

Alexander Herman Moore (1899-1989)

Alex Moore performing at the Southern House,
a “White Patrons Only” club, in Dallas in 1947.
Moore always worked a day job in addition to his piano
engagements. In this photograph, he is still wearing his white
work coat, and he plays the piano while the Southern House
owner and his wife are dancing in the background.
Courtesy Alan Govenar, Documentary Arts, Dallas.

MOORE, ALEXANDER HERMAN (1899–1989). Alexander Herman Moore, blues pianist, was born in the part of Dallas known as Freedmen's Town on November 22, 1899. (His headstone gives the month as October.) Because of the death of his father, Moore dropped out of the sixth grade at Dallas Colored School No. 2 (renamed B. F. Darrell Elementary) to support his mother and two siblings. While working odd jobs, he learned to play the piano before entering the United States Army in 1916. He arrived at his unique sound during the 1920s by combining elements of various musical styles, including blues, ragtime, barrelhouse boogie, and stride. In the 1920s he acquired the nickname "Whistlin' Alex" for a piercing whistle he made with his lips curled back while playing the piano.

Moore was among the first of his peers to record in a studio. He recorded six tracks for the Columbia Company in Chicago in 1929. Although he made other recordings in 1937, 1947, and 1951, he had little regard for commercial endeavors. In addition to his piano engagements, he continued to work his day job until his retirement in 1965. Though he was soon forgotten in his native surroundings, he was rediscovered during the 1960s throughout the United States and Western Europe. In 1969 he toured with the American Folk Blues Festival in England and Western Europe, performing with such blues artists as Earl Hooker and Magic Sam. He also recorded a session in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1969, which produced the popular album Alex Moore in Europe.

Listen to this artist

During the 1970s and 1980s, Moore could be found at the Dallas YMCA playing dominos or at a local blues club playing his piano. He was inducted into the Junior Black Academy of Arts and Letters in 1984. In 1987 he was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts. He became the first African-American Texan to receive this honor. The state of Texas designated his birthday, November 22, 1988, as "Alex Moore Day." That same year Moore celebrated his last record release, entitled Wiggle Tail, which was recorded live at a Dallas show. About his bachelorhood he remarked, "I say the reason why I never got married is I always been married to my piano—my piano's my wife, my girlfriend, my lady, my bed." He died of a heart attack on January 20, 1989, and was buried in Lincoln Memorial Cemetery in Dallas. He was survived by a son and daughter.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Dallas Morning News, January 24, 1989. Alan Govenar, Meeting the Blues (New York: Da Capo Press, 1995). Sheldon Harris, Blues Who's Who: A Biographical Dictionary of Blues Singers (New Rochelle, New York: Arlington House, 1979). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Randi Sutton

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Randi Sutton, "MOORE, ALEXANDER HERMAN," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fmobh), accessed December 29, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on October 2, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.