Wild Bill Moore, born William M. Moore on June 13, 1918, in Houston, Texas, was an influential tenor saxophonist, originally starting his musical journey as an alto player. Not just a musician, Moore was also a boxing enthusiast, winning the title of Michigan’s amateur Golden Gloves light heavyweight champion in 1937. However, his passion for music prevailed, and by 1945 he was recording on tenor sax with the Slim Gaillard Orchestra, marking the start of a significant career in the music industry.
Moore’s major breakthrough came in 1948 when he scored a hit on the R&B charts with the energetic number “We’re Gonna Rock, We’re Gonna Roll,” which was one of the earliest songs to fuse the words “Rock” and “Roll” in its title, defining a new era of popular music. The year 1949 saw Moore recording an updated version of his hit for Modern Records of Los Angeles, aptly naming it “Rock and Roll.”
The early 1940s saw Moore being influenced by the legendary Chu Berry, which led him to switch from alto to tenor saxophone. His reputation grew significantly from 1945 to 1947, when he relocated to Los Angeles and started recording with big names such as Jack McVea, Big Joe Turner, Duke Henderson, Shifty Henry, Dexter Gordon, and Wardell Gray.
In the late 1940s, Moore moved to Detroit and worked with notable musicians such as Paul Williams and King Porter. He continued to make his mark in the music industry by recording under his name in 1945, for the Apollo label, creating many of his recordings with session men from the Paul “Hucklebuck” Williams band. His career in Detroit also included working on the sessions of other artists, particularly Marvin Gaye’s Motown recordings, including the 1971 masterpiece “What’s Going On.”
During the 1960s, Moore made a few jazz albums notably “Wild Bill’s Beat” and “Bottom Groove,” for Jazzland. These albums showcased Moore’s extroverted tenor, and were marked by the solid bass-drums-conga team of Joe Benjamin, Ben Riley, and Ray Barretto. They were combined in a 2002 reissue of “Bottom Groove.”
In the mid-1970s, Moore returned to Los Angeles, where he continued to work with Big Joe Turner and spent the rest of his days. He passed away in August 1983, leaving behind a legacy of musical innovation and inspiration for future generations of saxophonists. His life and work serve as a testament to his dedication to the art of saxophone playing and his contribution to popular music. As a saxophonist, his powerful and somewhat lavish tenor playing continues to inspire and influence musicians and lovers of jazz and R&B.
Page last updated 5/21/2023.