PHOTO CREDIT: Kat Armendariz
2 FLOD SPOTLIGHT | 2019 WINTER ISSUE | FIRSTLADIESOFDISCOSHOW.COM
The Southern Charm of
By James Arena
The year was 1976—a time when classic disco music was dominating radio airwaves and exploding out
of the clubs. A background singer then exploring solo opportunities, Dorothy Moore had no idea her
recently released single, a gentle ballad called “Misty Blue,” which had been languishing on the shelves
of Malaco Records for years, would sidestep pop’s then current flavor and vault up the national music
surveys. Reportedly, the track started out as a B-side but was quickly flipped after a buzz began to build for it.
Produced by Tom Couch (who founded Malaco in 1967) and James Stroud and written by Bob Montgomery,
the song reached number three on Billboard’s pop chart, number two on the magazine’s R&B survey and enjoyed
tremendous success across Europe.
The Jackson, Mississippi, native was soon thrust into the spotlight and eventually netted a Grammy nomination
for her vocal performance of the track (as well as for her successful follow-up single, “I Believe In You”). Inspired
by the divine sounds of luminaries such as Mahalia Jackson, Aretha Franklin and Etta James, Ms. Moore made her
own indelible mark on the music industry with a song that was broadly embraced by pop, R&B, country and even
disco fans of the period. She continues to enjoy a busy performance schedule today, saying, “I am so blessed to still
be receiving so much love from my audiences when I perform ‘Misty Blue.’”
PHOTO CREDIT: Kat Armendariz
It’s wonderful to be speaking with you, Dorothy. I
purchased your single “Misty Blue” back in the day,
and the song has stayed with me all these years. To
begin our conversation, would you tell me a little
about your early years and when you discovered your
Why thank you so much!
I was raised by my great grandmother. I was born in her house.
Back then, my mother—black people—didn’t have much access to
hospitals and all that. So they had a midwife to deliver babies. My
mother was living with my great grandmother and that’s where I
was born. My great grandmother raised me, and I stayed with her
until I got married. My mother discovered my talent for singing.
She was a singer too. She used to sing in her school choir. At the age
of three, she noticed I had a vibrato. I started singing for the church
I attended at the age of five. I grew up near the railroad tracks and
learned how to compose music listening to the clicky clack of the
tracks when the trains would go by.
They used to have a talent show at a local movie theater every
Wednesday night. It was called the Alamo Theater. The deejay at
WOKJ radio hosted it. I was on that. I started singing for a paying
audience by the time I was 12. I would sing the blues—I didn’t
know what the blues was, but I knew the audience loved it. I heard
the blues songs of that time at a local cafe and on the radio. I also
started singing Etta James songs and sang at talent shows at my
In the mid-’60s you were signed to Epic Records and
became part of a girl group called The Poppies. Tell
me about these early days in your professional career.
I got discovered by a man named Bob McCree. He came to our
house looking for a girl who had been singing around town—
that was me. He had just started a studio (an old movie theater
he had remodeled into a studio) and he wanted to record me for
backgrounds for other stars. Two other young ladies were also
background singers. We’d harmonize, and that led to the producer
wanting to record us as a group—The Poppies—and I was the lead
singer. It was fun. We were only together for a couple of years. We
recorded an album called Lullaby of Love. We went to Nashville to
record it with a producer named Billy Sherrill. He also produced
Tammy Wynette. Our album went to #58—something like that—it
was a totally pop album. We toured with Joe Tex, Billy Stewart,
Wilson Pickett—just a host of them. We were in awe of these stars
and having the opportunity to open for them, singing on these big
stages. It was an honor for me. We stayed together for two years.
The other girls didn’t really want to be professional singers—it was
more of a hobby for them. But it became a profession for me. It was
something for me to do—that’s the way it was for me. I didn’t think
I was ever going to become a star.
Were those good times for you?
Oh, yes. Singing came to me like drinking water. In those days, it
was simple, we had fun, would laugh and joke around. I just did the
jobs they brought me. And when stars came in, our mouths would
hang wide open. I did the background vocals on Jean Knight’s
(1971) hit “Mr. Big Stuff.” If you listen real good, you can hear me
singing “oooh, yeah.” She was a big star at the time, and I was like,
“Oh wow.” I’m on a lot of records from back then.
You mentioned Jean Knight, one of the key stars on
Mississippi’s Malaco Records, an important indie
label in the ’70s. Your biggest hits would be recorded
with this company, who you were signed with for
several years. The most popular and successful of
these hits was the 1976 ballad “Misty Blue.” I’d love
to know how this emotional and stirring classic came
FLOD SPOTLIGHT | 2019 WINTER | FIRSTLADIESOFDISCOSHOW.COM 3
My producer at the time was Tommy Couch, Sr., the man who
signed me with the Malaco Records label. He called me one day
and wanted me to come to the studio to hear a song to see if I liked
it, to record. I liked it. I recorded the song that day. Tommy always
had a rhythm section there in case someone came to the studio and
they wanted to lay down some tracks. They were always prepared.
We got my key, and I recorded “Misty Blue” in one day. It was a
simple song, and I just put my thing to it.
But they didn’t release it right away. He put it on the shelf for two
years because we had other songs he was [more focused on at the
time]. “Misty Blue” was a slow song and, at the time, uptempo
songs were happening. After the two years passed (I did other
things during that time—backgrounds and such), I got a call from
the producer again. He was getting ready to release “Misty Blue.” I
had a copy of the original recording (I always made sure I kept a
copy of my work), and I told him to wait. I had something I wanted
to add to it before it went out. I went out to the studio and told
him to put the track on and let me record what I was adding. He’d
know I was done adding when I signaled with my finger across my
throat. I added that humming you hear at the intro of the song.
The intro was so long, and it needed something there. And that’s
what I added. Some other touches were also added to make the
I was working at a company called School Pictures (student
photographs for yearbooks, annuals and such) at the time it was
released. I worked there every fall season for two or three months.
Tommy asked me if I was ready to go on the road. He said, “I think
we have a hit, Dorothy.” I asked the photography company to keep
PHOTO CREDIT: Kat Armendariz
4 FLOD SPOTLIGHT | 2019 WINTER ISSUE | FIRSTLADIESOFDISCOSHOW.COM
my name in their files in case this wasn’t really a hit. I didn’t want to
lose my job. But I never had to go back to work again.
It must have been an incredible experience becoming
a pop star. You bucked the disco trend of the period
with this soft and dreamy hit as well.
It was very exciting at that time—I was a size six back then.
I would go on tour and I’d hear “Misty Blue” being played with
all these other hits, like [Johnny Taylor’s] “Disco Lady,” K.C. and
The Sunshine Band—all those people. Yes, “Misty Blue” came out
during the disco boom. I don’t know how the song made it then—
everything was disco. “Misty Blue” was the only ballad that was
really happening. I used to do some drops (quick track shows) at
the clubs and bars, and the song ended up becoming one of the
songs they played in the discos. It started out on the R&B charts,
then pop, then country, then disco. I was on the TV show Disco ’77,
The Midnight Special, The Dinah Shore Show, American Bandstand,
on and on. I got a Grammy nomination—the song and the vocal.
(I also got a double Grammy nomination for the follow-up song,
“I Believe In You.”)
I didn’t focus on disco during that time, but I did release some
disco singles. “Let The Music Play”—a 12-inch single, or 20-inch,
whatever it was! [She laughs.] “Another Broken Heart” was played
in the clubs [in the ’80s]. I was prepared to do anything. There were
so many genres that I could sing. I could yodel if necessary.
After having such great success with “Misty Blue,” did
you feel any pressure to come up with more hit songs?
I wasn’t feeling any pressure, but I was concerned that my label
Malaco wasn’t known to push their artists and songs. That’s what
we needed back in the ’70s. Today, you need [technology platforms]
and videos. Back then, it was the people at radio that made me. The
deejays. We didn’t have to worry about anything else. Whatever
I recorded after “Misty Blue,” I just made sure it was something
everybody could listen to. That was the only concern I had—that
the lyrics were right and that I liked it. That’s the way I approached
things. I didn’t worry. I just wanted to know the song was good.
Many artists of the period have unpleasant memories
of their financial relationships with record labels. Did
you experience difficulties?
With Malaco, we all loved one another at the time, but when money
comes into it, you then start to have to call to make an appointment
to see people. We used to just walk in and go in the studio. But
things changed. Ego problems. You know. I didn’t get treated fairly,
no—and it’s still like that in some ways. I’m one of those artists who
didn’t get everything they were supposed to get. It’s still going on.
I’ve been through so many different attorneys, it’s crazy. A person
like me just wants to sing. We didn’t worry about the business—
and we should have. Nowadays, young people are aware, and I’m so
happy that they are. I have my own label now, just for me. It’s called
Farish Street Records of Mississippi. Whenever I want to record, I
Your career in recording seemed to slow down in the
decades that followed. What were you feeling about
I wasn’t as visible in the ’80s and ’90s. I was really disappointed by
the business. It wasn’t the happy experience it once was, especially
as far as studio recording. I was still performing on the stage,
though. (Thank God I had “Misty Blue” and a couple of hits under
You still enjoy performing today?
Oh, yes, and [the audience] always wants to hear that ol’ “Misty
Blue.” I still am touring around—I have a couple of dates coming up
on shows with old school artists like The Whispers, The Dramatics,
GQ and just a whole bunch of others. I usually do shows with five
or 10 other artists and one orchestra that plays for all of us. We sing
our hits, and so I guess I’ve sung “Misty Blue” more times now than I
can possibly count! I always love when I’m on that stage and love my
audiences. I always try to give them 150 percent of my heart.
Do you sense any differences in today’s audiences
compared to the ’70s?
Wow, that’s funny. Good question. Well, one thing is today my
audience has gotten whiter and younger! [She laughs.] My race still
comes to the show, though. And the audience is much bigger. There
can be thousands of people there. And I perform with really great
artists. Like Martha Wash! I have always been a fan of hers, and when
I met her, I was like, “Oh my Lord!” She’s just incredible. That voice!
“I was prepared to do
anything. There were so many
genres that I could sing.
I could yodel if
PHOTO CREDIT: Marcia Weaver
How do you feel about the music industry in the 21st
I would say today, Lord, you have to know how to do so many
things. It might be easy for younger people today, you know, but it
isn’t for me. As for the quality of today’s music—well, there’s some
things they are doing today that I wouldn’t do. I like a full band, live
musicians playing the instruments on a recording—that doesn’t
happen often today. Today’s music just sounds different to me. I’ve
tried it a few times, but I didn’t like it. Singing with electronics—the
drums just sound like a rubber band hitting on something. To me,
it doesn’t have that oomph a real drum would give you. Keyboards,
too. Back in my day there was a real piano in there. In my day, they
had the piano, the horns, the violins, the background singers. They
have rappers now. But they do have good dancers today, I’ll say
Shifting gears a bit, I know you’ve witnessed most of
the major events in the struggle for black rights and
empowerment. What is your impression of where the
country is today?
Ummm—well, it seems like it’s going back to the way it was in
the ’40s or ’50s. It seems that way, and it’s scary. I believe in God,
and back in my day I prayed for [the safety of] my family and
friends and the congregation. Today, I’m praying for the world, the
president and our country—for everybody. I ask God to help us. In
some ways, things are better, a little bit. But it still feels messed up
to me. But thank God we have people that won’t let it go back to
the way it was.
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What has kept you in Mississippi all these years?
My daughter, son (well, he’s in Tennessee), grandchildren—they
are all here. You know, I think I can just get the same things here I
could get in, say, Hollywood. If I want to go get something I don’t
have here in Mississippi, I can get on a plane and do that. And my
church is here. (I’m not Dorothy Moore the “star” in church.) That’s
why I stay. I’m very happy here.
Do you have some goals you want to acheive?
I’d love to do a duet with another star. Maybe some jazz—I know
how to scat. I did one gospel album (Giving It Straight To You in
1986); I’d like to do another.
For aspiring artists who may be lucky enough to
one day have the kind of hits and career you have
enjoyed—what advice would you give them?
Oh, Lord. Wow. Don’t let the music change you—or success. Try
not to develop an ego problem if you are successful. Stay close
to your family and friends. And as far as entertainment goes, be
smart—have an entertainment lawyer, not the record label’s lawyer.
Have an attorney you can trust that is looking out for you.
Would you share with me the single best thing that’s
come from your music career?
Single best thing—that’s tough. Well, I guess, overall, that I am able
to do what I want to do, go where I want to go. I’m not rich, but I’m
not broke. I don’t do drugs—never have. I only have a drink when
I am toasting the new year. I’m just so thankful for what God has
given me. I have “Misty Blue,” and that keeps me working, if I want
to. And I can say no, too—I don’t have to say yes. That’s a great way
to be. I am doing fine, and I’m happy about life—I guess that’s the
best thing to have happened to me.
In addition to being a beloved vocalist,
Ms. Moore is highly respected for her culinary skills.
We asked her to share her kitchen with us.
Single most important kitchen gadget or appliance?
A black skillet that works! You can fry, bake and boil in it. Get
yourself a nice black skillet—that’s good!
The secret to being a successful cook?
I don’t measure anything. Measuring cups, one-third teaspoon of
this or that. You know. I just use my eyes, and I just taste whatever
I’m cooking. If it tastes the way I like it, it’s good.
I love vegetables! Red beans, cabbage. I also love chicken wings and
barbecue chicken. Corn bread. Sometimes I like a good steak with
gravy and onions and rice, too.
You are making me so hungry!
Come on over sometime! I’ll make you catfish, anything you want!
When you’re not cooking up a storm, what’s your
Well, I like to go to Red Lobster! I love that place. I like Olive
Garden, too. But every now and then, I’ll go somewhere where they
make a really good t-bone steak. I admit I like to be served and
pampered every now and then!
“I asked the photography company to keep my name in their
files in case this wasn’t really a hit…
but I never had to go back to
PHOTO CREDIT: Kat Armendariz
FLOD SPOTLIGHT | 2019 WINTER | FIRSTLADIESOFDISCOSHOW.COM 7