The bassist Bob Moore, a member of Nashville’s legendary A-team of studio musicians, has died at the age of 88. He played on some of my favourite pop records of the 1960s, but to be honest I’m not sure that I ever noticed the bass on any of them. That’s how good he was.
As a boy he had a shoeshine stand on a street corner close to the rear entrance of the Ryman Suditorium, home of the Grand Ole Opry, and he got his start after putting a regular five-cent polish on the cowboy boots of Ernest Tubb’s bassist, Jack Drake, who gave him informal lessons. His break came in his early teens when the great pianist and producer Owen Bradley called him in for his first session.
He wasn’t a James Jamerson or a Bootsy Collins, in the sense that he became famous for changing the role of the bass in popular music. But here are some of the hits on which he played: Patsy Cline’s “Crazy”, “Walkin’ After Midnight” and “I Fall to Pieces”. Elvis Presley’s “(Marie’s the Name) His Latest Flame”, “All Shook Up” and “Return to Sender”. Roy Orbison’s “Only the Lonely”, “Running Scared” and “Dream Baby”. Tammy Wynette’s “Stand By Your Man”. Don Gibson’s “Sea of Heartbreak”. Jim Reeves’ “He’ll Have to Go”. Leroy Van Dyke’s “Walk On By”. Hank Snow’s “I’m Movin On”. Brook Benton’s “Rainy Night in Georgia”. Floyd Cramer’s “Last Date”. Marty Robbins’s “El Paso”. Conway Twitty’s “It’s Only Make Believe”. Brenda Lee’s “Sweet Nothings”. Claude King’s “Wolverton Mountain”. George Jones’s “She Still Thinks I Care” and “He Stopped Loving Her Today”. Jeannie C. Riley’s “Harper Valley PTA”.
Some people, Moore once said, can play a hundred notes a second without making a contribution. Another person can play the one note that makes a better record. It’s not hard to guess in which category he belonged.