Final Notes, Spencer Moore

Southwest Virginia singer and guitarist Spencer Moore died on June 5, at the age of 92, in Chilhowie, Virginia. Josh Rosenthal of the Tompkins Square label, producer of Moore’s 2007 self-titled album, shares the following information.

Born into a family of 11 children on February 7, 1919 in the northwestern corner of North Carolina, Spencer was introduced to old-time music early on.  After the family moved across the mountains to Laurel Bloomery, Tennessee, the Moore family was exposed to more old-time music via their neighbor, the blind fiddler and singer G. B. Grayson. Spencer’s father acquired a phonograph and records.  Hearing records by the likes of Charlie Poole, Jimmie Rodgers, Riley Puckett, and G. B. Grayson, stoked the fires of Spencer’s love of old-time music that much more.  A few dollars bought him a guitar from Sears and Roebuck via the mail.  In 1933, at age 14, Spencer attended the famous Whitetop Mountain Folk Festival. 

By the late 1930s, Spencer and his brother Joe were performing publicly as the Moore Brothers, in the Delmore Brothers’ style. It was during this period that the Moores performed in a tent-show with the Carter Family.   

In 1959, Alan Lomax, along with Shirley Collins, came into the hills of Southwest Virginia to collect music. Lomax recorded Spencer playing a number of pieces including “Jimmy Sutton” and “The Girl I Left Behind.” The performances were released on Atlantic and Prestige Records. Lomax called him “as genuine as a rail fence.”

Knowing between 500-600 songs by heart, he could sing you most any old-time song known in that part of the Blue Ridge. We have lost one of the last links to early country music, and the true roots of Blue Ridge mountain music. 

-Josh Rosenthal


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