Teacher's Blues

Robert "Wild Boar" Moore sticks it out in Miami

Then Moore joined up with saxman Little Bobby, a session player for Chess, and singer "Big Voice" Odom. They played in blues clubs on the West Side and the South Side, like Buddy Guy's Checkerboard Lounge, where Moore was sometimes the only white face in the crowd. They played clubs on the North Side, like Kingston Mines, where white owners wanted to see black musicians onstage. In deference to Chicago's burgeoning tourist industry, some found the look more important than the sound.

Toward the end of the Seventies, Moore was auditioning for Lonnie Brooks when he got a call from John Lee Hooker. "I heard he needed a guitarist for a tour he was doing, so Eddy Clearwater put a good word in for me," says Moore. "John Lee Hooker was in town shooting The Blues Brothers movie. He called me and said, “I hear you're quite a guitarist. Would you like to do a tour with me?' I said, “Sure.' After the tour, when I got back, I said I wasn't gonna drive a cab anymore; I was just gonna be a musician."

But with a chronic back problem, an ulcer from his drinking habit, gigs that paid only $25 per night, and the racial preferences of the Chicago club owners, Moore was ready to throw in the towel. He truly had the blues. "I was under 30 and had already played with the biggest names in the field," remembers Moore. "And we'd have to go out in the car during breaks to drink, because we couldn't afford to drink at the bar."

Steve Satterwhite
Steve Satterwhite

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Discouraged, Moore got his degree and started teaching high school. He visited clubs in his free time, sitting in with the likes of Jimmy Rogers or James Cotton. In 1987 he moved to Miami. "I wanted to find out if I could build a following somewhere new, if I could put something together down here," explains Moore. "And as a teacher, I thought it might be interesting to teach an ethnically diverse population."

But in a place where local musicians start packing their bags at the faintest whiff of success, Miami has been no friend to Moore or his current band -- Rob "Wild Boar" Moore featuring Clifford Hawkins. In the beginning his teaching jobs were part-time or came only in spurts, and his efforts to keep a band together were troubling. "I had a great band for a while with Sheba and Piano Bob, and a great rhythm section. But we could not get any gigs," complains Moore, who more than once thought of giving up. "There were times when I wanted to leave, but I was so poor I couldn't."

It wasn't until 1993, when he began working with Hawkins, that a band started to take shape. Even so, gigs have never been easy to find. Life, however, has evened out for Moore with a tenured position teaching English at Miami-Dade Community College since 1998 and a long-time partnership with Hawkins. The band has even enjoyed some success. It was one of only two local bands (Iko-Iko was the other) featured on the mainstage of the Fort Lauderdale Blues Fest for the past two years. And it was selected as the best of 56 bands at the local Summertime Blues Jam in 1999, picked to represent South Florida in the Sixteenth Annual International Blues Challenge on Beale Street, Memphis.

If Moore has learned anything from his years in the business, it's that famine always follows feast, and vice versa. But he can live with that. "I guess I have a blues attitude about it," he quips.

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