‘Motown’ Moore is in a good place

Maurice Moore is in a reflective mood.

And when the R&B/soul/funk guitarist takes stock of his career and his present status, he is pleased.

Moore, of Warren, has been keeping a low profile while staying busy. But the recognition has been steady, first from abroad, and lately from his hometown.

Sometimes it seems that folks around the world know about his accomplishments, and the only ones who don’t are in the Mahoning Valley. But that’s changing. In March, Warren City Council issued a proclamation honoring Moore for his lifetime achievements.

Earlier this year, Melodies International of London bought the rights to re-release his 1976 album “Maurice,” which includes the single “Everything That Shines Ain’t Gold.” The label has an eager and appreciative market in Europe, Australia and elsewhere, where there is still a deep love for ’70s American soul.

In fact, every week or so, travelers from abroad knock on the door of his house.

“They know that I live in Warren, Ohio, just from reading the record labels,” said Moore. “Then they use social media to find my house.”

Moore, whose nickname is “Motown,” doesn’t mind that they drop by unannounced. He shows them his Town Sound recording studio, which is in his house, and the walls lined with his awards and plaques.

“I love it,” said Moore, who at 63 looks quite youthful. “It takes me in to my own element. They also look through my record collection, and when they walk out, they might have bought a couple hundred dollars worth.

“The love the Stax and Motown [labels] music, and the Philly Soul sound,” he continued. “They take it back to their own country and celebrate.”

Moore explained that he has an extensive collection of vinyl soul, Motown and R&B albums in great condition.

At his children’s urging, Moore has been writing his memoirs. It’s helping him keep fresh the music and friendships he has amassed that never seem to be that far away.

Enjoying his kids and grandchildren in his hometown with anonymity, playing with two Warren church choirs (Second Baptist and Grace AME), doing some music production and cashing royalty checks, makes for a sweet life. But these days, Moore is also interested in talking about his accomplishments, spurred by the recognition that won’t let him forget.

“My history is coming back to me,” he said.

Moore grew up in Warren and graduated from Western Reserve High School. He had several bands in his career – Soul Dimensions, Watchtower and Valley Boyz – and regularly played Youngstown clubs. He reeled them off: “There was Oldtimers in downtown Youngstown, Casablanca up on Hillman Street. We also played at Skeeters and Frieda’s in Youngstown, and also Mountaineer Park.”

Moore and his bands opened for just about every great funk and soul act of his day, including The O’Jays, Kool and the Gang, the Bar-Kays, the Dramatics, Parliament-Funkadelic and the Delphonics.

He also was a DJ on WRBP in Youngstown from 1997 to 2008, hosting the “Let’s Talk Jazz and Blues” show, and was inducted into the Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2005.

Moore also operated a DJ service, and taught a small studio of guitar students.

But the most interesting segment of his life has to be the mid- to late 1970s, when he lived in a hotel in New York City and led his band The Watchtower. He became close friends with the late David Ruffin and Eddie Kendricks, the legendary members of The Temptations, who lived in the same hotel.

Moore can recall many times performing – and then hitting the town – with the famous pair. He also took to heart some advice that Ruffin gave him back then.

“David schooled me,” said Moore. “He told me, ‘Start your empire at home. That way you can always be with your family.’ David always missed his family.” Moore was introduced to Ruffin and Kendricks by Greg Reeves, a bass player and musical colleague of his in New York. “Greg played in Crosby, Stills and Nash and [Ruffin and Kendricks] knew him because he also played in a lot of Motown acts in New York.”

Moore also befriended Motown music impresario Berry Gordy, and remains close to him and his family. He mastered his albums at Gordy’s Hitsville studio in California, and also named his own son Berry in his honor.

“Some people would complain to Berry for letting me master my work at his studio because I wasn’t part of his label,” said Moore. Gordy also wouldn’t interfere with the production. “Berry let me do me,” said Moore.

These days, Moore looks back with contentment. It’s clear he wouldn’t have changed a thing.

“Motown was good to me,” he said. “It’s been a gift that keeps on giving.”

Outside of finishing his book, he’s going to stay the course. “My kids tell me that I should record again, but I am happy with the royalties,” he said. “What I put out there came back to me.”

Moore then paused for a moment before summing up his satisfaction at this stage in life.

“I am happy,” he said. “I am blessed. I am good.”

Guy D’Astolfo covers entertainment for The Vindicator. Follow him on Twitter at @VindyVibe.

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