The man of 1,000 concerts
First, let me apologize for a slightly misleading headline. Hugh Moore has actually attended closer to two thousand concerts. That just sounded snazzier to me.
Hugh is a Chattanooga attorney who graduated from the McCallie School, Vanderbilt University, and Yale Law School. His personal music resume’ includes playing clarinet in the McCallie band. He has practiced law for almost fifty years. He is 75, has been married to Jean for 47 years, and they have raised two adult daughters. Jean, he says, has attended “about ninety percent of the concerts with me.”
Even with that impressive resume, Hugh’s crowning achievement is his devotion to live entertainment. As Johnny Cash would say, “He’s been everywhere man, he’s been everywhere.” Of course, that includes several Johnny Cash concerts.
Growing up in Chattanooga, Hugh’s mom would take him to community symphony concerts at the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Auditorium. That began a lifetime love affair with musical performances of every genre. You name it, he’s seen it. He finally began keeping a list of shows he attended in 1984, so he can only estimate the number he attended in the quarter-century prior to that. His best guess is around fifteen-hundred total, and many of those were at festivals with multiple acts and stages, like the Riverbend Festival.
He remembers the 1950s, when black and white artists could not perform together on the same stage in southern cities like Chattanooga, Birmingham, and Memphis. He recalls a 1957 show at Chattanooga’s auditorium when Fats Domino, Chuck Berry and the Drifters were allowed to appear, while Paul Anka, Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers had to sit It out.
He said, “I remember sitting in a car outside the Auditorium one hot night in the late 50s with my parents and brother, listening to The Olympics sing “Western Movies” and seeing Fats Domino walk from his bus into the Auditorium. You could hear everything outside then because the large windows were all open, pre-air conditioning.”
As a ninth-grader in the late 1950s, he got to see Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong, the legendary bandleader and trumpeter, at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. “This was really a treat because he led a racially mixed band, and they were not allowed to play in Chattanooga,” Hugh said.
Much like today, the Chattanooga concert scene was not limited to only the Auditorium and the Tivoli Theater. In 1960, he saw the folk group the Brothers Four (“Greenfields”) at the old Chattanooga High School on 3rd Street, now the Chattanooga School for Arts and Sciences.
Later in the 1960s, he spent summers and school breaks as a reporter for the Chattanooga News Free Press. He was assigned to cover and review several concerts for the paper, including an appearance by the Beatles at the new Atlanta Stadium on August 18, 1965. He attended the press conference that afternoon, even managing to squeeze into a photo with the Fab Four and Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allen.
Longtime WTVC Chattanooga news anchor Bob Johnson was also there, reporting for the University of Georgia school newspaper. Decades later, he gave Hugh an audio tape of the event. “You can hear me asking them questions!” he said.
While working for the newspaper, he also interviewed stars like Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits, and Peter and Gordon, among others. He also covered multi-star shows like the Motortown Revue, starring Marvin Gaye.
In recent decades, he and his wife have travelled thousands of miles to attend concerts, checking almost every big name off his list. Leonard Bernstein? Yep. The Rolling Stones? “Several times.” Elvis? “Sure did, in Murfreesboro. We left about the time they announced Elvis has left the building. We were heading to our car, and we see this big limousine, and there’s Elvis, in the back seat, waving at us.”
He considers Paul McCartney the best performer he has ever seen. “I’ve seen five or six of his shows,” Hugh said, “and he never disappoints. He plays for about three hours, with no intermission, and the entire audience knows every single song.”
There are so many indelible memories, of music stars at their best, and worst. He saw the Mamas and the Papas at the north Georgia amusement park Lake Winnie. “They had this look on their face, like, who booked us here?” he said with a laugh.
There was Eddie Money, who refused to perform his big hit, “Baby Hold On.” Hugh recalls, “That was about the only one of his songs anyone knew, so that was weird.” The same thing happened with the O’Jays in Chattanooga. “Everybody came to hear Love Train, and they didn’t sing it.”
He remembers Waylon Jennings performing with his back turned to the audience. There was the night fellow “outlaw” singer Jerry Jeff Walker was supposed to open for Willie Nelson, but didn’t show. Willie’s band came out early to fill the time, and Jerry Jeff finally wandered on stage in the middle of Willie’s set. “He was obviously drunk, waving his backpack around, and getting on Willie’s nerves. A few minutes later, two big guys dragged him off the stage. Willie was not pleased.”
He has seen “both” Bob Dylans. He said, “I’ve seen him on various Chattanooga stages, inside and outside, plus in Dalton too. You never know what you’re going to get. Sometimes he just hangs his head and mumbles, but other times, he puts on a great show. That’s just Bob.”
However, most of his concert experiences have been well worth the price of admission. “I saw Peter Frampton a few weeks ago at the Tivoli in Chattanooga,” Hugh said. “He played like there was no place in the world he would rather be.”
“I’ve seen the Beach Boys, in their various incarnations, about fourteen times from 1965 to last year,” he said. “I would happily go again.”
He also has high praise for some of the lesser known names on his list. “Delbert McClinton puts on a great show,” he said. “He’s coming back to the Walker Theater later this year, and I’ll probably see that one. The Old Crow Medicine Show, and John Prine, they’re not necessarily superstars, but they are great live performers,” he said.
When time permits, Hugh and Jean will hop on a plane to see a show, but it has to be special. “We’ve seen the reunion of Cream, and the reunion of the Rascals, both in New York City,” he said.
He missed out on a few shows, and still has regrets. “Otis Redding and Joe Tex played Chattanooga in 1965, and for some reason or other I didn’t go. Otis died two years later, and now Joe is gone too. I never did get to see them,” he said.
One classic act on his “still to be seen” list is the Kinks. “I keep hearing those brothers (Ray and Dave Davies) may reunite for a show, and if they do, I sure would like to add them to the list,” he said.
He does have one pet peeve about attending live music shows, and it doesn’t involve any of the performers. “It’s these people who pay good money for a concert, and then they’ll sit there and talk throughout the show, like they’re watching TV,” he said. “I don’t understand that.”
“I just love live music, all kinds of it, from concerts to plays,” Hugh said. “I admire the creativity, and the energy.”
With a smile, he recalls a performance of “King Lear” at the Tivoli Theater with Sir Michael Redgrave. He said, “He was getting up in years, and at one point he obviously forgot his lines. He paused for a few seconds, and totally in character he said, “I know not what to say.” Eventually someone prompted him, and he went on, but he never went out of character.”
Hugh and Jean almost never miss a Chattanooga Symphony and Opera performance, but they’re just as likely to be seen in the audience for Neko Case, ZZ Top, or Train.
He concluded, “Sometimes younger people look at my wife and me, like aren’t y’all too old to be here? We just laugh about it. We’re still looking for more great shows. It has been time well spent.”
What’s your Chattanooga concerts story? I may use it in my next book. Send your story to firstname.lastname@example.org