Chicago Blues Pianist Aaron Moore Dies at 95
Aaron Moore, a formidable blues and boogie-woogie piano player who grew up on a Mississippi plantation and forged his musical career in Chicago, died Nov. 27 of cancer at Rush University Medical Center at age 95, according to his wife, Katie Moore.
Though Aaron Moore was considered a virtuoso pianist and a mighty vocalist by blues connoisseurs, he didn’t attain the global fame of the musicians he often backed, such as Little Walter, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King and David “Honeyboy” Edwards. In part, this was because Moore worked a day job for the City of Chicago for 36 years, playing music on the side.
“He was more focused on his family,” said Michael Frank, CEO of Earwig Music Company Inc., which recorded Moore.
“But for one thing, he was a serious two-handed piano player, with a strong left hand. A lot of (blues) piano players are good on the right hand – not too many are heavy on bass. He was a master at that. Not surprising, because he was influenced by (pianist) Roosevelt Sykes.
“He was a great boogie-woogie player. He was a real strong singer, too.”
After Moore retired from his day job, in the 1980s, he picked up the tempo of his musical career, releasing his first album under his own name, the aptly named “Hello World” (Delmark Records) in 1996. He followed that up with “Boot ’Em Up” (Delmark) in 1999. And he played on several Earwig Music albums, including Rob Stone’s “Back Around Here” and Tim Woods’ “The Blues Sessions.”
Moore was born Feb. 11, 1918 on a plantation 28 miles outside Greenwood, Miss., and was taught the basics of the piano by his mother, a music teacher. But he quickly moved away from the church tunes she offered and toward the blues music he heard on the streets.
After finishing high school in Greenwood, Moore moved to Chicago amid the Great Migration of Southern blacks – and, specifically, Delta blues musicians – heading north for better opportunities. He became close to pianist Sykes and performed often with him, Moore’s emerging keyboard wizardry earning him engagements with Chicago blues royalty.
“He played with everyone,” said his wife, Katie Moore. “He was a hell of a piano player.”
Katie Moore said her husband played his last public performance at Buddy Guy’s Legends “about two years ago.” But she recalled that when she came to visit him at a nursing home three months ago, she couldn’t believe what she heard.
“I was walking in the parking lot, and just as I got in there, I thought, ‘That sounds like him playing the piano,’” she said. “When I got there, the people were standing around (him). They never heard anyone play a piano like that.”