Originally appeared in 1994 on Ichiban Soul Classics (SCL 2502)
While the Sixties produced a strong contingent of ladies who qualified as bona fide Southern soul sisters—including Irma Thomas, Betty Wright, Candi Staton, Betty Harris, Barbara Lynn, and Carla Thomas—the Seventies only spawned a couple of true singin’ divas from below the Mason-Dixon line. Foremost in that league is Jackie Moore, whose fourteen sides for Atlantic Records established her as a popular performer and hitmaker in the R&B marketplace over a three-year period from 1970-73. This sumptuous collection includes all of Jackie’s work for the label which has been unavailable since its original ‘70’s release and has never been assembled in one compilation before.
While no biographical information substantiates that Jackie (a native of Jacksonville, Florida) sang in church, one listen to her emotive vocal style suggests that, like so many other Southern soul singers, she was first inspired to share her musical talents through gospel. What we do know is that her cousin (producer) Dave Crawford—who was to play a vital role in her recording career at Atlantic—was an early inspiration and that she spent some of her formative years singing with him.
It was after Jackie moved to Philadelphia in 1968 in her late teens that her singing career began to gain some momentum. She teamed up with popular Philly radio personality Jimmy Bishop to write the song "Dear John": Bishop produced the tune and took it to Shout Records in New York City (a independent label owned by producer Bert Berns, whose roster included Aretha Franklin’s sister Erma, and R&B hitmaker Freddie Scott). It made little impact so Bishop cut a couple more sides with Jackie, with Shout releasing one more single ("Call On Me") and a third track ("Loser Again") going to Scepter Records.
Temporarily disillusioned, Jackie returned to Florida where she hooked back up with cousin Crawford, who had started achieving notoriety working out of Miami’s Criteria Studios with Atlantic Records’ artists like Wilson Pickett and (Dionne’s sister) Dee Dee Warwick. Crawford brought Jackie to the attention of Atlantic executives who bought Jackie’s contract from Jimmy Bishop and signed her to the label.
Jackie and Dave entered the Miami studios in April 1970 to record her first two memorable sides for the label, Crawford’s own Willpower, and a song the two cousins wrote together which was destined to get Jackie’s career at Atlantic off to a flying start.
Now an R&B classic, Precious, Precious might never have made any ‘noise’ if it hadn’t been for an anonymous Florida radio disc jockey! Atlantic had decided to release the funky, uptempo "Willpower" as the topside for Jackie’s first single but it elicited only lukewarm reaction. Said d.j. was apparently rummaging through a pile of singles some months after "Willpower" came out (in the summer of 1970) and heard "Precious, Precious," a true Southern slab of storytellin’ soul which featured the famous Memphis Horns augmenting the sizzling Miami rhythm section who played on the session.
The local reaction was instantaneous and the record took fire: as the year ended and 1971 begun, Jackie Moore found herself with a million-selling hit (No. 12 R&B, No. 30 pop). Recalling that period in an interview with this writer in Britain’s "Blues & Soul" in 1979, Jackie noted, "the success of "Precious, Precious" couldn’t help but go to my head. Here I was a million seller and I had never even seen a $100 bill! What did I do? Just went out and spent all the money—until it ran out and then I went out and earned some more and spent it all over again!"
For whatever reason, Atlantic didn’t chose to follow up Jackie’s initial success with a customary album. Instead, she began a series of sessions that produced an array of singles over the ensuing two years. As "Precious, Precious" continued its chart climb, Jackie went back into Criteria Studios towards the end of 1970 with the same basic rhythm section she’d worked with on her hit to record a total of four songs including Cover Me, a version of a 1967 Percy Sledge hit and Wonderful, Marvelous, which ended up as the flipside to Jackie’s follow up to "Precious, Precious," an R&B gem entitled Sometimes It’s Got To Rain (In Your Life).
Recorded with a Miami rhythm section known collectively as The Dixie Flyers, "Sometimes It’s Got To Rain" edged its way into the R&B Top 20 but remains one of Jackie’s finest sides, curiously never included in her one Atlantic LP ("Sweet Charlie Babe," a hotch-potch collection released towards the end of her stay with the label in 1973).
Trying for another hit, Jackie and producer Crawford (with colleague Brad Shapiro) made one of the singer’s finest recordings in August 1971. A sizzling standout, Time featured an all-star rhythm section that included the likes of Dr. John (Mac Rebennack) on keyboards, guitarist Dennis Coffey on guitar, and The Memphis Horns, featuring Andrew Love and Wayne Jackson.
Also cut at the session was Something In A Look, a lyrically non-descript side that ended up as the flipside to Jackie’s version of Darling Baby, which had been a hit for Motown group The Elgins in 1966. A midsized (No. 22) R&B charter released in the spring of 1972, "Darling Baby" saw a change of recording venue for Jackie, Crawford & Shapiro, having been cut at Malaco Studios in Jackson, Mississippi, home to hits for King Floyd ("Groove Me") and Jean Knight ("Mr. Big Stuff").
Still searching for material that would emulate her early Atlantic success, Jackie cut two strong sides, It Ain’t Who You Know and They Tell Me Of An Uncloudy Day in July 1972, released as a single that year by the label but vanishing into obscurity until its inclusion in this great collection.
A change in chart fortune was finally on the horizon for Jackie: Atlantic executives decided to send Jackie to Philadelphia, initially in May for an abortive session and later in November of ‘72 for a recording date that proved very productive.
Working at Sigma Sound studios (which had just begun to become the home to hits for a slew of artists including The Spinners, The Stylistics and The O’Jays), Jackie teamed up known as "The Young Professionals" whose members included Philly radio man LeBaron Taylor and songwriter Phil Hurtt. Recording artist in his own right Bunny Sigler was also a part of the aggregation and he co-penned the pop-flavored Sweet Charlie Babe with Hurtt.
With a decidedly different, more polished feel than the ‘Southern’ work she had done in Florida and Mississippi, the record became a hit for Jackie in the summer of 1973 (No. 15 R&B, No. 30 pop) and was followed by the zesty Both Ends Against The Middle, co-written by Hurtt and Tony Bell (the guitar-playing younger brother of hitmaking producer Thom Bell) who also co-produced the upbeat side with fellow "Young Professionals" Taylor and Hurtt.
Regrettably, the dance-flavored "Both Ends" was Jackie’s last chart entry for Atlantic (scoring a modest No. 25 on the R&B listings towards the end of 1973 and beginning of ‘74): the flipside, Clean Up Your Own Yard was one of the last recordings Jackie made in Philly for Atlantic as was If, a particularly strong song with a social message that had also been produced by "The Young Professionals."
A couple more sessions produced material that was never released and after her Atlantic contract lapsed, Jackie signed with Kayvette Records, a label owned by producer Brad Shapiro and Henry Stone, head of T.K. Records which also distributed Kayvette. She zoomed back into the R&B Top 10 in 1975 with "Make Me Feel Like A Woman," a strong Southern R&B side which turned out to be her biggest hit during her association with the label. In 1978, Jackie switched to Columbia Records and scored a big disco hit with a cover of an O’Jays cut, "This Time Baby," which marked a return to her recording in Philly.
Since that time, Jackie has been relatively inactive as a recording artist (making a single in 1985 for the independent Sunnyview label) but this collection is a soulful reminder of the excellent—indeed, ‘precious’ - work she recorded for Atlantic Records.
About the Writer
David Nathan is the founder and CEO of SoulMusic.com and began his writing career in 1965; beginning in 1967, he was a regular contributor to Blues & Soul magazine in London before relocating to the U.S. in 1975 where he served as U.S. editor for the publication for several decades and began being known as 'The British Ambassador Of Soul.' From 1988 to 2004, he wrote prolifically for Billboard, has penned bios, produced and written liner notes for box sets and reissue CDs for over a thousand projects. He returned to London in 2009 where he has helped create SoulMusic.com Records as a leading reissue label.