Super Senior: Joe Moore

Published: Jun. 2, 2022 at 2:52 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Joe Moore lately has been feeling the blues.

“My mind hasn’t mellowed, but my body has,” Moore said. The 73-year-old saxophonist has an assortment of ailments, from prostate cancer to nerve damage from neuropathy -- a lack of feeling in the fingers. “I need the hands to play the horn. I mean, I need the hands to flow.”

The musician is practicing for a gig later in the month. “I said I’m going to have to dig up all my 47 years of experience to do anything, to do these jobs,” he said.

Faded pictures tell a story of a young man and his sax who grew up in Winter Park, Florida. “All Black section, all Black section. I didn’t see no white people at all,” Moore said.

He hit the road with his horn at 17, playing in bands near Miami to all Black audiences. “I used to put on a show and walk the tables,” Moore said.

Later, he headed north to Jacksonville, joining a big band that played for white patrons. It was the ‘60s in the segregated south. “Down there, you don’t look at nobody’s wife at all. Because if you do, you’ll probably get shot or cut,” he said. “I went to take a seat after finishing playing and said, ‘No, no, no. You’re not allowed to sit in the audience. you got to sit in the back.,”

Moore eventually Joe migrated up the East Coast, playing for the superstars of soul. “Wilson Pickett asked me to join his band,” Moore said. “I knew Wilson Pickett from ‘I’m Not Tired’ and ‘The Midnight Hour.”

He passed through the Green Mountains for a gig in Montreal. “I ended up in Vermont only by chance,” he said. “I would say, I’m glad I’m not in this place. There are no lights or nothing. Everything is dark and gray.”

With little cash, the border guards turned him away and he ended up just down the road. “I got in a lot of trouble in Saint Albans, I tell you that,” Moore said. “I got put in jail. I got called all kinds of, you know, all kinds of N-words.”

From the early ‘70s to today, the music man has now been in Vermont for most of his life. ”It’s just like I’m home when I’m doing this man,” he said. Home on this night is the Saint John’s Club in Burlington, the performance he was practicing for. “I don’t feel 100% I have to admit,” he confided. “Each note, I worried that I hit the wrong note!”

“I think it’s very hard on him. He’s a meticulous, whole-hearted musician who plays hard and long and never wants to disappoint an audience,” said Bill Darrow, a guitar player:

Moore admits the first song was a bit rough, but after a little warmup, his digits start to dance on that sax, along with a bit of soul. “If you see me worry, see me worry, it’s because I hate to lose,” Moore sings.

And even with his health issues, Moore plays on.

An all-day musical benefit is being held for Moore on June 26 at the “THE GREEN” at Double E Performance Center in Essex.

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