As one of 13 children born to a classical pianist, Deacon John Moore has been performing for family, friends and audiences starting from a very young age. The bandleader has captured hearts throughout New Orleans and across the country at weddings, debutante balls, carnival balls and even the White House; and of the 50 years of New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Deacon John has played at every single one.
The New Orleans native is one of the most diverse performers in the area, with a music line-up consisting of everything from rhythm and blues to gospel to rock ‘n’ roll and jazz. In addition to performing with his band, Deacon John & The Ivories, you may have also seen him starring in national commercials, movies or on TV, with a notable role in HBO’s series, Treme.
With a smile that can charm any crowd, Deacon John will once again bring his unique energy to the stage at this year’s Jazz Fest, for an irresistible performance that has become part of the soundtrack of New Orleans.
Q: How have you seen Jazz Fest change since the first one 50 years ago? I have witnessed the growth of Jazz Fest because I have performed at every one since the first one in Congo Square. The growth of the Jazz Fest concurred with my growth as a musician and performance artist through the years: from low-cost admission, bring your wagons, coolers, food and beverage to celebrate the indigenous music and culture; to an expansion of stages to accommodate the burgeoning genres of local, regional, national and international artists accompanied by select grandstand seating and greater selection of food, crafts and art, more artists’ interviews and storytelling, and more activities and performances for children. I have seen it all, but just when you think you have, there’s always something new.
Q: What is your favorite memory or performance from Jazz Fest? When I performed at Jazz Fest after Hurricane Katrina with my 17-piece jump blues orchestra to premiere my “Deacon John’s Jump Blues” CD and DVD. This was my initial performance with a big band, and it was such a memorable, musical experience, that it’s been that way ever since. I especially love singing my signature song, “Many Rivers to Cross,” the story of my life, touching the hearts and souls of my many fans who have supported me through the years—for without that support there would be no Deacon John.
Q: What is your favorite stage at Jazz Fest? What’s your favorite stage that you’ve performed on? The Gentilly Stage; not too big and not too small to see it all. My favorite that I’ve performed on is the Blues Tent, as it affords me the opportunity to perform for a seated audience and easily facilitates the many costume changes that help me to put on the best show possible.
Q: You’ve performed for presidents, governors and regular Joes. Who has been a favorite audience member? My favorite audience member at Jazz Fest has always been my primary care physician, Dr. Leonard Glade, who has given me expert care, love and support through most of my adult life.
Q: What’s on your record player right now? On my CD player right now is my new CD single, “Crowded Shotgun House,” available via iTunes, Amazon, CDBaby and at the Louisiana Music Factory.
Q: Who inspires your music? There are many people that inspire my music. They come from the many eclectic genres of music that have influenced me through the years. It’s hard to name one, so I’ll name some: Sam Cooke, Little Jimmy Scott, Dionne Warwick, Ray Charles, Elmore James, Wes Montgomery, John Coltrane, Jimi Hendrix, Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Satchmo, Allen Toussaint and my mentor, Dave Bartholomew.
AT A GLANCE
Born: At home in New Orleans’ 8th Ward
Family: Large, African-American creole Catholic family
Education: Corpus Christi Elementary School, St. Augustine High School, Southern University of New Orleans (B.S, Business Administration)
Favorite New Orleans restaurant: Dooky Chase
Favorite musician today: John Boutté
Favorite food at Jazz Fest: Trout Baquet
Favorite live music venue: Little Gem Saloon
Favorite book: “The Fire Next Time,” by James Baldwin
True Confession: I’m a thrift store junkie!