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Ironing Board Sam

Taken from the liner notes of the debut album The Human Touch.

Despite the fact that Ironing Board Sam has been an active blues artist for more than 35 years, his file is pretty slim. The reason for this seemingly is his inability to be in just the right place at the right time, as well as his mild distrust for the record companies and producers. Hopefully with the release of “The Human Touch” this situation will be remedied.

 

An engaging singer and keyboardist, he is also one of the most interesting characters you'd ever want to meet. Besides designing and sewing his own intricate stage costumes, Sam is also an inventor.

 

One of his recent inventions is an air pollution control system which consist of mothball sized filters one puts in their nostrils. He has packaged these filters and placed these packages on boards that are ready for store display.

Ironing Board Sam's real name is Sammie Moore and he was born in 1939 at Rockhill, S.C. He spent a year-and-a-half in college but had to drop out when he got married. Sam learned to play on his father's pump organ and played with several groups around this area. His first true professional job was with Robert "Nature Boy" Montgomery, a blues singer and harmonica player who worked out of Miami.

Sam's confidence grew to the point where he formed his own group and worked clubs around South Florida. In 1959, Sam moved to Memphis where he picked up his colorful "nom de bisque." Sam didn't have the regular legs to support his electric keyboard, so he improvised and used an ironing board. He didn't like it at first, but he was tagged Ironing Board Sam and it stuck. In fact one of the clubs where he worked gave away a free ironing board on the nights he played.

In the mid-1960s, Sam tried to audition for both Stax and Hi Records but was told they had more than enough artists to work with [and] try somewhere else. It was Hi's Willie Mitchell who suggested Sam try Chess in Chicago.

"I did one session at Chess," said Sam. "When I went back to find if they were interested, they told me the producer I'd worked with had been fired, so I was out in the cold. At that point I was totally discouraged with the record business. I knew I had what people wanted, but the record companies wouldn't let me prove it.

Sam played around Chicago for about a year before Earl Hooker got him a lucrative gig in Waterloo, Iowa, at Jimmy Hunt's Lounge. After a year-and-a-half in Waterloo, Sam moved to Los Angeles for five years before returning to Memphis in 1973. Along the way he managed to cut isolated singles for Atlantic, Styletone, Holiday Inn and his own Board label.

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A year later, Sam's journeys took him to New Orleans. Sam got a regular gig at Mason's VIP Lounge which was then the top black night spot in New Orleans. Sam had cut another single in the late 1970s for Sansu records but he found the era rather frustrating. Sam's gig at Mason's fell apart after the owner ran a foul with the law.

Sam's first step toward becoming an "entertainer" occurred in March of 1978 when he made plans to play 500 feet over Jackson Square in a hot air balloon. Sam was going to run cables down to a PA system and an amplifier on the ground while he played up in the clouds. However, after tacking posters up all over New Orleans, the show had to be canceled because it was too windy and the balloon couldn't be stabilized.

Sam's next piece of self-promotion involved a 1,500 gallon tank filled with water. He devised a way to play underwater and debuted the show at the 1979 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

"I went on the road with the tank," said Sam. "But I found out the tank was too big to get into a lot of clubs. I worked some in Asheville, North Carolina, and then I moved back to Memphis. In Memphis I played in Handy Park a lot and helped get Beale Street revitalized."

In 1982, Sam was back in New Orleans but he was still finding it hard to work. At that point he developed yet another novel form of self-promotion.

"People didn't want to hear live music," said Sam. They just wanted to play records or the jukebox. I was hurting so I decided to become "The Human Jukebox." I build a giant jukebox that I fit into with my keyboard and amplifier. I had slots built into it where people put money when they wanted me to play their request."

Sam was playing on the streets in the French Quarter for several months when fate stepped in. The producers of "Real People" saw Sam and shot a feature on him that aired nationally. In the mean time though, the police arrested Sam on a noise violation which took him off the streets. The attention from "Real People" did get him a few out-of-town dates and helped him get back into some New Orleans clubs.

By the early 1990's, Sam had made his first tour of Europe.

The majority of "The Human Touch" was recorded in the fall of 1995, with one song originating from a 1991 audition tape. Sam's keyboard, vocals and eclectic, original lyrics are the centerpiece throughout as supporting instrumentation is effectively kept at a minimum. Despite the sparse support, listeners will be entertained by what they hear.

"I prefer doing my own material because I can feel it better," said Sam. "I was definitely in a groove when we cut this. I was relaxed, just like when I play in a club."

---Jeff Hannusch, June 1995

Jeff is the author of "I Hear You Knockin': The Sound of New Orleans Rhythm and Blues.

releases

Ironing On The Baby Grand / Wino / I Love You / Phone Booth /

Jealous Hearted Man / Hanky Panky Girl / The Human Touch /

Chillin' Like An Ice Cube / Bound To Get There /

Many Many Reasons / Oh Danny Boy

Ironing Board Sam
The Human Touch

Originally Released: February 16, 1996 _________________________________________________ Ironing Board Sam - Electronic Keyboards, Keyboard Bass & Vocals Earl Stanley - Electric Guitar Michael Voelker - Drums Fred Koela - Lap Steel on "Phone Booth" Recorded at Orleans Records Studio, 1995 - "Oh Danny Boy" recorded in 1991 Engineered by Carlo Ditta Mastered by Parker Dinkins at Masterdigital, NOLA All songs by Sammie Moore AKA Ironing Board Sam © 1996 Attid Music Co., ASCAP except "Phone Booth" written by (D. Walker, R. Cray, R. Cousins, M. Vannie), Calhoun Music, BMI and "Oh Danny Boy", traditional Produced by Carlo Ditta Cover Artwork & Hand Lettering by Marc Arceneaux Photography by Carlo Ditta / Package Design & Layout by Steve Winn

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