Ironing Board Sam

A brilliant showman often compared to Little Richard, Screamin Jay Hawkins and Ray Charles, Ironing Board Sam is one of the unsung heroes of the American Rhythm and Blues scene, that, after World War II, gave birth to what was to become Rock and Roll. Born Sam Moore in 1939 in Rock Hill, South Carolina, he learned playing organ at a tender age doing Boogie-woogie and Gospel before adopting the Blues and forming his own group in 1954. His stage name came when once on stage, he strapped his leggless keyboard on top of an ironing board. In 1962, Sam hired the young Billy Cox as his bass player; he also headlined a club date in town with a young Jimi Hendrix for a year.

In the segregated America of the times, most back musicians found work only in the so called “chitlin’ circuit” (chitlins being the name of a soul food item made out of pork intestines], clubs of sort for black audiences, urban version of the “juke joints” and spread in the Southern and Eastern United States. A tough school, badly paid, sometimes dangerous but where Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday, John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, Otis Redding, Little Richard, Ike and Tina Rurner and of course Ironing Board Sam, to name but a few, started their career.

During that period Sam seldom recorded [a few singles for Atlantic and some demos in order to find work] but those lucky enough to see him on stage or on the TV show Night Train (some can be seen on YouTube) remember him as a terrific performer. In the middle of the seventies he moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, and no doubts inspired by local legend Ernie K Doe self coronated "Emperor of the world", Sam dubbed himself “Ninth wonder of the musical world”. In the grand excentric tradition of streets musicians there, Ironing board Sam used all kinds of antics such a putting fire to his drums set, playing backed by a a toy monkey rigged to play in synchronisation with a drum machine or playing on the sidewalks of the French Quarter inside a 8 foot tall juke box of his invention and performing only when passers by would put coins in the slot.

Despite all his efforts he was less and less in demand and was half forgotten when in 2005, hurricane Katrina forced him to move back to South Carolina where he expected to find work in the clubs of his youth. But all the clubs had long been gone. His saviour took the form of Tim Duffy, head of the Music Maker Foundation who put him back on the saddle, and made him record again.