Hugh Moore – making music during the pandemic

Hugh Moore, an accomplished banjo picker from Raleigh, NC, learned how to utilize modern technology, to pick with friends, and share their collaborative music with others while doing it all safely and tastefully during the midst of a global pandemic. 

“I wanted to play music, but like everyone, we were serious about social distancing so we made it work,” stated the retired portfolio manager.

First, he developed a plan. “I decided if I’m going to do recordings and videos, I need to have people with their own in-home recording studios. I wanted the videos to look good, but most importantly, the audio needed to be as good as our studio recordings.”

So the 62-year-old reached out to his musical cronies across the continent to meet that requirement.

“My first project was Never Ending Love for You, a popular 1970’s hit by Delaney and Bonnie. I started out with a click to establish the timing track. I then played scratch guitar and vocal to the click track, and left spaces for the breaks as I worked out the musical format of the song.”

Next, Moore contacted Chris Sharp (John Hartford String Band) from Durham, to be guitarist, and Canadian Ray Legere (Tony Rice Unit) to play fiddle. Then he petitioned Raleigh resident, Allyn Love ( Steve Wariner Band), to play pedal steel, and Billy Troy, Josh Graves’ son, who lives in Nebraska, to sing the lead vocals. As the song began to come together, Moore had an epiphany.

“I was talking to Bobby Osborne and said I had this crazy idea that I wanted him to sing high tenor. He said he’d love to do it. I had learned that his son, Boj, had a studio, and I knew he could play upright bass on the project.”

Moore elected to pick the five-string to complete the on-line ensemble. “I didn’t want to promote me, but I wanted to be involved in it.”

His brainchild took two months to come to fruition. He released it on his OMS Records YouTube channel in April 2020.

“There was, of course, no profit motive for this or any of the other videos. That’s not what it’s about. It was about making good music with friends,” the creative picker stressed.

Since that first project, there have been numerous others. 

“I did one, I Still Miss Someone, with my nephew, Joseph Terrell, of Mipsoas as the lead singer. Billy Troy was featured on Someone Took My Place With You. I did a black and white video which features a re-creation of the August 29, 1953 recording by Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. Probably the most popular videos have been: I Can’t Stop Loving You with Bobby Osborne, Ronnie Reno, and Glen Duncan, with over 300,000 views on Facebook, and I’ll Go Stepping Too, with over 50,000 views on Youtube.

The latter is a good example of the enterprising business man and his associates gradually becoming higher tech. Moore, Legere, Sharp, and Troy acquired green screens and began to utilize the magic of technology so that even though the musicians recorded in separate locations, they appeared to be together on the screen.

Troy expressed, “I love what we’re doing. We did these videos because of COVID,” but their friendship spans decades. “My dad (Josh Graves) hooked me up with Hugh in 1999.”

Graves’ son had been recording remotely, including producing audio files with Moore. “We got to talking. I give Hugh a lot of credit. He took the pieces and put it together.”

Another musician on the video was bassist, Zack Mondry, a longtime friend and former bandmate of Moore. “Around 2009, we formed the classic bluegrass band, Rye Mountain Boys. That was a fun band that really studied the sounds of Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs, and the Stanleys, and audiences seemed to appreciate that.”

“When Hugh asked if I wanted to play on some of his COVID sessions, I had just been listening to some recordings of Ray Legere, and was excited to get to play with him virtually! He sounds absolutely fabulous on I’ll Go Steppin Too and Someone Took My Place With You, as does Hugh and the rest of the pickers and singers. Leave it to Hugh Moore to dream up and create something cool and fun out of the pandemic lockdown!”

As Moore gradually became more a techno nerd, the Raleigh native decided to tackle a creative exploit with the green screen, which allows objects or actors in a video to be removed from the backdrop, using his own dock as the background with just himself, singing all the parts and playing all the instruments.

“I videoed about three minutes of my dock to use as the background. Then I sat in front of a microphone in my studio, using Pro Tools for the audio, and started with the guitar and sang the lead. I’d say, ‘banjo break here’ while the click track was going, then mandolin break here. I added the bass and harmonies.”

Under spotlights, the married father of two performed in front of the camera on his iPhone, wearing ear buds, and gradually recorded each segment. Using an Apple product, Final Cut, he formulated his own one man band. The end product was a 2 minute, 11 second version of Jonathan Edwards How Long Have I Been Waiting For You featuring Moore playing guitar, banjo, mandolin, and bass, and singing three part harmony on his own dock.

His comments on the YouTube production, posted on April 30 of this year include: “Hugh Moore (me) on all instruments and vocals, utilizing lots of modern technology. Personally, it’s too much me, even for me. This is just a fun experiment by me as I hone my pandemic video skills. Again, it’s too much me for me, but I hope you enjoy it in the context it is presented.”

The North Carolina musician was not born into a musical family. In his mid-teens, he heard Earl Scruggs on a banjo compilation record, A Bushel of Banjos, and was smitten.

“I told my parents that I wanted a banjo. I took lessons from Tom Garren in Cary. He did tablature in a really different way,” but Moore soaked it up like a sponge. 

Moore and Linda, his wife of 34 years, started their own independently-owned and operated recording production company, OMS Records, with a studio in their Raleigh home. The acronym derives from the “Original Music Showcase” concert series that Moore started in Durham. It began with audio productions and recently expanded to video projects.

“I got into recording through Benny Martin,” the CEO of OMS Records explained. “I became friends with him through the concert series. He had a speech disorder, spasmodic dysphonia. I learned about his disease and took him to the Vanderbilt speech clinic to get him Botox treatment for his voice. It helped him. Linda and I started OMS Records and recorded 18 releases over 20 years. Two of the first were Benny’s: Big Tiger Roars Again (Parts 1 and 2).”

With an impressive stable of national artists, OMS has produced and released a portfolio of creative acoustic and classic country music. His company sports recordings by country and bluegrass music greats such as Vassar Clements, Buddy Spicher, Josh Graves, Bobby Osborne, Jeannie Seely, Glen Duncan, Johnny Russell, Benny Martin, Jesse McReynolds, Pam Gadd, and Billy Troy. Guests included people like Dolly Parton, Earl Scruggs, Ricky Skaggs, Vince Gill, Tom T. Hall, Béla Fleck, Alison Krauss, Buck Owens, Rhonda Vincent, and many others.

“One song I had a lot of fun with was the 2000 OMS recording of Act Naturally with Johnny Russell (who wrote the song) singing with Buck Owens, and Marty Stuart on mandolin, Benny Martin on fiddle, and Earl Scruggs on banjo. Those were all personal heroes.” The full CD, Actin’ Naturally, had an impressive line-up of well-known artists that also included Parton, Crystal Gayle, Bobby Bare, and the Whites.

“We more or less stopped releasing new CD in about 2006. With the changing of the industry towards streaming, it just wasn’t sustainable or profitable. Some of the artists who were on our roster didn’t do much touring since they were late in their careers. Benny Martin, Kenny Baker, Vassar Clements, Johnny Russell, Josh Graves, and Jesse McReynolds had all slowed down a lot. Bobby Osborne and some of the others were still touring.”

After living on Wild Goose, their sailboat, for four years and traveling the world visiting 28 countries, Hugh and Linda returned to their Raleigh residence, their home since 1990. Just as they were learning to be landlubbers again, COVID-19 hit. With their recording studio being dormant, the pandemic seemed the perfect time to resume production. Through the aid of modern technology and the accessibility to social media, a whole new world of music recording opened up for the Moores.

“There’s no deadline. That’s the beauty of it. There isn’t a rush and we all just wanted to make music and prove the remote concept. All I did was post it on Facebook and Youtube.”

As the world reopens and life returns to normal, Hugh and Linda are enjoying retired life and becoming grandparents for the first time. They welcomed a granddaughter, Georgia Everett, into the Moore fold on June 20, but that doesn’t mean the music or the creative projects will cease.

“We’ve probably just scratched the surface,” he readily admitted.

The musical entrepreneur concluded, “I wasn’t trying to make any kind of big splash. I was just trying to find a way to continue to play music through the pandemic, and it has been a lot of fun.”

To learn more about his projects, visit the web site or subscribe to his YouTube channels: OMS Records (collaborative sessions) and Hugh M (all him).

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About the Author

Sandy Hatley

Sandy Chrisco Hatley is a free lance writer for several NC newspapers and Bluegrass Unlimited magazine. As a teenager, she picked banjo with an all girl band called the Happy Hollow String Band. Today, she plays dobro with her husband's band, the Hatley Family.