Ron Moore, who has died at the age of eighty-six, was a Glasgow guitar guru with a global constituency. His circle of friends, contacts and admirers included leading names in jazz, classical and pop music and through his former pupils he could point to his influence on Grammy-winning classical guitarists and session players who helped to shape George Michael hits alike.
The man who became a hugely respected Glasgow legend and whose music room played host to jam sessions involving some of the most prized fingers in the business was born in Huddersfield and during World War ll served in the Fleet Air Arm, occasionally entertaining his colleagues with his guitar on bases in Malta, among other postings.
At the end of the war he went to London and studied with Britain’s first guitar hero, Ivor Mairants, but on returning to Yorkshire, Moore found there were no paid outlets available locally for his newly honed talents. He played in restaurants in Manchester and around the north of England before, in 1954, deciding to try his luck in Scotland.
Arriving in Glasgow, Moore joined the house band at the Piccadilly Club in Sauchiehall Street, adding the occasional broadcast and session work with bandleaders Joe Loss, Lou Prager and Geraldo, and when the skiffle and early rock’n’roll eras heralded a boom in guitar sales, he opened a teaching studio in St Vincent Street.
It was his next moved that made Moore, if not a household name, then a household face. In September 1957, Scottish Television began broadcasting a lunchtime variety show, The One o’clock Gang. Fronted by Larry Marshall and featuring a cast including Dorothy Paul and Charlie Sim, the show proved an instant hit and every week from Monday to Friday long queues formed outside the Theatre Royal hoping to be part of the audience.
Sitting in the house band, a quartet led by drummer Tommy Maxwell, Moore became one of a select group of guitarists. Publisher, photographer and jazz guitar enthusiast Gordon Wright, who later became a friend of Moore’s, remembers running home in his lunch hour to watch Moore. “There was only really Bert Weedon and Ron playing guitar regularly on TV in those days,” says Wright. “So if you wanted even to see a guitar, Ron’s spots on the One o’Clock Gang were a must.”
Jim Mullen, the Glasgow-born guitarist who has worked with many of the top names in jazz (singer-poet Terry Callier calls Mullen “God”) and later played a significant role in Moore’s career, recalls watching his friend with envy. “Ron always had these marvellous arch top guitars from America that nobody else in Glasgow could lay hands on,” says Mullen. “But what I also admired about him was his melodic improvising style. It was very clean, nothing fancy harmonically, but he could often surprise you with the twists he took.”
The One o’clock Gang ran until December 1964, with Moore appearing alongside young emerging pop stars including Lulu, who later said that while hit records, national tours and playing prestigious venues gave her a thrill, she really felt that she’d made it when she appeared on the show. When the gang disbanded, Moore concentrated on teaching and playing gigs with his jazz trio. He also composed, both jazz tunes and classical pieces including his 1999 Clyde Suite, a series of four portraits of Scottish islands, which his former pupil, internationally renowned guitarist David Russell recorded on his acclaimed Message of the Sea album.
Also among Moore’s innumerable pupils were jazz guitarist Ian McHaffie, Gordon Sellar, who played with 1970s rock band Beggar’s Opera, and top session guitarist Hugh Burns, who acknowledges Moore’s crucial part in setting him on the right road as a professional guitarist and whose credits include the Jack Bruce Band and the distinctive guitar solo on Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street as well as George Michael’s Careless Whisper.
Moore himself didn’t record until, at the age of seventy-nine in 2003, he was lured into Cava studios in Glasgow by Jim Mullen to record their CD, La Ronde, the title track being one of Moore’s own compositions.
A warm, friendly character with a gentle, ego-deflating sense of humour, Moore continued to teach at his home until quite recently and it was there that friends such as Martin Taylor would drop in for a tune or to give Moore a preview of their latest recordings. Taylor, one of the world’s most revered jazz guitarists, refused to release a record without Moore’s approval and such was the value he placed on Moore’s opinion that he consequently returned to the recording studio many times to change something or to make improvements on Moore’s advice.
“Once you were in that music room, it was difficult to get out again,” says Jim Mullen. “Because Ron never lost this fantastic enthusiasm that he had all the time I knew him. That’s what I’ll remember him for above all, his sheer love of the guitar and his reluctance to put it down once he’d picked it up.”
Ron Moore is survived by his daughter Karen, his wife, Margaret, and daughter Amber having predeceased him.
Ron Moore, guitarist, born June 16, 1923; died December 17, 2009.
From The Herald, January 2, 2010.