Moore, John Dudley [Johnny] (1906–1969)

By: Amy Cockreham

Type: Biography

Published: December 5, 2006

Updated: September 27, 2015

John Dudley "Johnny" Moore, rhythm-and-blues guitarist and bandleader, was born in Austin on October 20, 1906. Moore's father was a violinist, and Moore began playing guitar for his father's string band in 1934. The family moved to Phoenix, and Johnny played in a duo with his brother Oscar before moving to Los Angeles, where Moore joined a group called the Blazes, with whom he performed until 1942.

He soon formed his own band, the Three Blazers. Eddie Williams played bass and Garland Finney played piano, although he left the following year to be replaced by Charles Brown. Brown, whom Moore had first seen at an amateur talent show, was not only a pianist but a singer as well. The Blazers began recording in 1944 for the Atlas label. Between 1945 and 1948, the group recorded extensively for Exclusive, Philo/Aladdin, and Modern. During this time the group became a household name with such hits as "Driftin' Blues," "Merry Christmas Baby," "Sunny Road," and "More Than You Know."

Moore's younger brother Oscar, who had previously been a member of the Nat King Cole Trio, joined the group in 1947. Shortly thereafter, problems arose and Brown left the Three Blazers. Moore tried to replace Brown with sound-alikes, but had only minimal success. One replacement vocalist, Billy Valentine, took the group to the R&B charts with "Walkin' Blues" on RCA Victor in 1949. After recording for Victor, Moore's Blazers recorded for a number of Los Angeles labels. Two successful label recordings were "Dragnet Blues" on Modern in 1953 and "Johnny Ace's Last Letter" on Hollywood in 1955.

Moore and Brown were reconciled in the mid-1950s, and the original Three Blazers reunited. They recorded for Aladdin, Hollywood, and Cenco. By that time, Moore's style of guitar, which has been described as cool, sophisticated, and melodic, was out of favor with most R&B fans. Moore performed solos on recordings by Brown, Ivory Joe Hunter, Floyd Dixon, and on tracks with his own group. Blues legend B. B. King lists Moore as one of the top ten guitarists of all time.

Moore recorded with various groups after the Three Blazers broke up, but was not professionally active for a number of years before his death, though he did teach young musicians. He had only one kidney, which complicated his ability to recover from the flu, and he died of kidney failure at his Los Angeles home on January 5, 1969. No obituary was published upon his death.

Dave Dexter Jr., "Dexter's Scrapbook," Billboard, March 8, 1969. Down Beat, March 6, 1969. Colin Larkin, ed., Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Volume 5 (London: MUZE UK, 1998).

  • Music
  • Genres (Jazz)
  • Peoples
  • African Americans

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

Amy Cockreham, “Moore, John Dudley [Johnny],” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 03, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

December 5, 2006
September 27, 2015

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