Jump to Navigation

Arnold Dwight Moore

Cryin' and Sing's by Gatemouth Moore

Singer, minister, actor.
Born: November 8, 1913, Topeka, Kansas
Died: May 19, 2004, Yazoo City, Mississippi

Born in Topeka to Georgia E. (Porter) Moore on November 8, 1913, Arnold Dwight “Gatemouth” Moore grew up in Topeka’s “Mudtown” a community with many African American businesses and residents. He attended public school in Topeka was attended the Mount Carmel Baptist Church where his mother was active. Gospel singing was an important part of his upbringing. By the age of nine Moore was performing. He was booked to sing on Topeka’s WIBW Radio, performing “Trees,” “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling,” and “My Yiddisher Mama.” Moore conducted an interview in 1995 and claimed he was first to perform as "Buckwheat" on The Little Rascals. His vaudeville tours as a child took him to Kansas and Nebraska. As a teenager performing in Kansas City, Missouri, he drew the attention of band leader Bennie Moten. Moore went on to perform with the Moten band, including the band’s pianist Count Basie.

Moore’s quartet, the Four Sharps, with Orville Cox, Jimmy McGary, and Earl Burch, connected with a traveling carnival at the 1930 fair in Topeka. Their travels reached Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. When Moore was performing with a musical revue, the Darktown Scandals, a member of the audience called out what would become his nickname, Gatemouth. Moore continued a busy tour schedule from New Orleans, Chicago, and Washington, D.C. He returned for a more permanent gig at the Chez Paree in Kansas City in 1941. Ileon Gilmore, wife of Quincy Gilmore with the Kansas City Monarchs, recorded Moore on her record label. The recordings helped Moore gain the attention of National Records and Herb Abramson. Moore, living in Memphis by 1942, was promoted as the “No. 1 blues stylist and top-ranking emcee.” Moore was credited as the first blues singer to perform at the Apollo Theater and Carnegie Hall in New York. He developed a reputation as a crooner with entertaining theatrics, stylish suits, and wide smiles to charm his audience. He performed with Ma Rainey, Tommy Douglas, and other blues artists.

Moore’s performance at Chicago’s Club DeLisa, in December 1948, brought a dramatic end to this phase of his career. In the middle of his hit, “I Ain’t Mad at You Pretty Baby,” Moore stopped. Onlookers said he was “struck suddenly dumb,” no sound would come forth. Moments later he began singing the gospel tune, “Shine on me, let it shine on me.” His band quickly caught up with the change of course. The audience began “hollering and screaming.” Moore announced he was leaving the blues. “. . . contrary to all rumors, by the time you read this he will be ordained a minister,” the Kansas City Plain Dealer reported in January 1949. Ordained by the First Church of Deliverance in Chicago in 1949, Moore brought a level of showmanship to his new role as preacher, gospel singer, and evangelist. He assisted in the Passion Services at the Golden Gate Ballroom in New York City in 1949. Moore began hosting a daily two-hour show on WDIA, a Memphis station among the first to have an all-Black format. Others featured on the station were B.B. King and Rufus Thomas. As a pastor, Moore served several churches in Mississippi and Louisiana. Moore’s dynamic style made his a popular emcee at blues festivals, religious conventions, and baseball games.

A document examining his life was directed by Louis Guida in 1993, Saturday Night, Sunday Morning: The Travels of Gatemouth Moore. Moore died in Yazoo City, Mississippi,at the age of 90 on May 19, 2004.

Entry: Moore, Arnold Dwight

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: February 2024

Date Modified: February 2024

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.