DAVE DAVIES, HOST:
This is FRESH AIR. Jackie Moore isn't exactly unknown to soul music fans, but she's not as well-known as she could be. She recorded with great producers, had great songwriters feeding her material and was an early beneficiary of the Philly sound. Much of her work was unreleased at the time she recorded. Rock historian Ed Ward says some of her best stuff didn't get the recognition it deserved, but that might change with the release of a double disc of her recordings for Atlantic Records.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "COVER ME")
JACKIE MOORE: (Singing) Call me. Call me. Spread your precious love all over me. Oh, can't you see the need in me? Cover me, oh, cover me, oh, baby.
ED WARD, BYLINE: Unlike a huge number of soul singers, Jackie Moore's singing didn't start in church back home in Jacksonville, Fla. Instead, she and her girlfriends grew up idolizing soul singers like Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight and Mavis Staples, who had grown up in church. Jackie entered talent contests, had a high school group called Jackie and the Jackettes (ph) and took encouragement from her cousin, producer and songwriter Dave Crawford. When she left high school, she moved to Philadelphia where she lived with relatives, sang in clubs and tried to get a demo tape to producer Bobby Martin. Finally, she succeeded and he got her signed to Bert Berns's Shout label, which released two singles that did OK in Philadelphia. The head of the label had his wife manage her and she knew Jerry Wexler at Atlantic who bought out her contract and gave her one that stipulated that she work with Dave Crawford, who was already working at Atlantic. They went into the studio and cut a single.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WILLPOWER")
MOORE: (Singing) All my friends, oh, they asked me, Jackie, how you make it, oh, yeah, with your man always gone? Tell me how you take it. That's what they say. They ask me how do I resist temptation being all alone. This is what I tell them - it takes a home, but I will not run till my man comes home.
WARD: Featuring Atlantic's Criterion Studios house band, The Dixie Flyers, augmented by Dr. John and killer production by Dave Crawford, everyone was happy with "Willpower." But when the radio started getting requests, it was for the other side, so they played it instead.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PRECIOUS, PRECIOUS")
MOORE: (Singing) Precious, precious, precious, precious, precious, baby, you're mine. If you don't love me I'm used to that. If you don't need me, baby, I can adjust to that. If you don't want me, honey, that's all right. If you ain't willing, baby, there sure won't be no fight 'cause I'm still satisfied in loving you. And I'll be waiting 'round when you get through. Oh, you're precious, honey, you're so precious, precious, baby, you're mine.
WARD: "Precious, Precious" just sold and sold, even making it onto the pop charts and giving Jackie her only gold record. She'd co-written it with David Crawford, so she even made money off of it. Not wanting to stop a winning streak, they recorded at Criterion again with the same musicians, minus Dr. John, and again came up winners.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SOMETIMES IT'S GOT TO RAIN")
MOORE: (Singing) You say your days have always been stormy. Hey, your eyes are all red and flooded. Yes, they are. You say you scraped the bottom of the barrel and all of the water down there is showing up muddy. So listen here - sometimes it's got to rain in your love life so you appreciate the sunshine of my love. Sometimes it's got to rain in your love life.
WARD: "Sometimes It’s Got To Rain" was a Top 20 soul hit and Jackie's future looked bright. Crawford had joined forces with a young up-and-coming producer named Brad Shapiro, who would later turn Millie Jackson into a star. Their next attempt was a song by The Elgins, an obscure Motown group.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DARLING BABY")
MOORE: (Singing) Darling, baby, life is so lonely without you. Life is so lonely without you since you left these arms of mine. I've been alone crying, wondering why you left me behind, darling, baby.
WARD: This was a smaller hit, as was her follow-up, "Time," a Dave Crawford song. Her sales were declining, so Atlantic moved her back to Philadelphia for some sessions in early 1973 and had her switch producers to three guys, Phil Hurtt, LeBaron Taylor and Bunny Sigler, who called themselves the Young Professionals.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SWEET CHARLIE BABE")
MOORE: (Singing) There's a guy that they call sweet Charlie baby, the finest man that the Lord had ever made. Oh, yeah. I was born not to look at his eyes. Many girls had been left hypnotized. Sure, he has other girls in town, but he's got enough to spread it around. I'm in love. I'm in love with sweet Charlie baby. Oh, yes, I am.
WARD: "Sweet Charlie Babe" was a pretty good hit. It even cracked the pop charts, but Jackie's days on Atlantic were numbered. The label was concentrating more effort on rock, with Led Zeppelin outselling anything they'd ever released before, and soul music was beginning to take a backseat to disco. Now, I've always said that a lot of disco was soul music by different means, but Atlantic wasn't very good at it at first. And so in 1975, Jackie left, spent a couple of years assessing a new situation and came back as a disco artist, eventually signing with Columbia and making a record with Barry White. By the late '80s, Jackie retired to raise her kids, but she's still making occasional appearances and knocking them dead.
DAVIES: Ed Ward reviewed Jackie Moore's complete Atlantic recordings on the Real Gone Music label.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PRECIOUS, PRECIOUS")
MOORE: (Singing) What people say about you sure ain't no fun. But what they don't know about you, you're like two men wrapped up in one. We got a life so let's make it. It's our chance, so come on, baby, let's take it. Oh, you're precious, baby. You're so precious. Precious, baby, you're mine. Yes, honey, you're so precious, baby. Precious, baby, you're mine.
DAVIES: Coming up, Maureen Corrigan reviews the new Kate Atkinson novel, "A God In Ruins." This is FRESH AIR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.