published Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

Moore's Animal Band struck chord with kids

Jim Moore

Hometown: South Pittsburg.

Age: 58.

Married: Wife, Rhonda; daughter, Amber Brown; son, Charlton.

Work: Voluntary benefits specialist at Unum, founder of The Animal Band.

Favorites

Movie: "Old Yeller," "My Life As A House."

Book: "Shadow of the Wind," "Doing Well While Doing Good."

Play or musical: "Nunsense."

Song: "Fire and Rain" by James Taylor.

Lyricist: James Taylor.

Performers: Kings of Leon.

Saying: "Life is a patchwork of memories and my quilt is pretty full."

A phone call from a third-grade teacher asking what time he would be at the school to perform for the kids launched a music career that Jim Moore never saw coming.

His daughter, who often volunteered Moore and his wife for things without telling them, had told the school her dad would do a whole concert.

Moore hung up the phone and got to work tuning his guitar and running through the songs he used to perform with his high school bandmates. When he was done with "House of the Rising Sun," his wife told him she didn't think the kids would appreciate his material.

A couple of hours later, he came up with a concept for a one-minute, 48-second song called "The All Animal Band." It contains the lines: "Willie the squirrel plays lead guitar and Ollie the owl plays bass. Slick the snake doesn't have any hands, so he beats the drums with his face."

"It's the line that put my kids through college," Moore said.

The gig went well, and the students seemed to really like his new material. The show reignited a passion in Moore, and he started writing songs again, traveling to Nashville every couple of weeks to do open mikes at The Bluebird Cafe. He was performing and writing grown-up songs and sharing the stage with up-and-comers like Vince Gill and Pam Tillis. Most of the songs were sad, and one day Moore played "The All Animal Band." Again, it was a hit and drew the attention of a bigwig at Arista Records who encouraged Moore to write more.

For two decades, The Animal Band was one of the most popular family entertainment concepts in the country. Since it was so different, traditional labels never showed much interest and Moore figured out that he could market the toys, T-shirts and cassette tapes he and his band produced himself.

Moore has written songs that have become theme songs for a number of organizations. Bicycle safety groups have adopted "Better Wear a Helmet," and "I Like Reading a Book" drew the attention of Barbara Bush and got Moore and the band invited to the White House. Environmental groups use "Recycle Everyday" still in radio spots around the country.

And then there is "911." Around 1990, Amy Boyd invited the band to be a part of a kids show she was putting together at WTCI-TV 45 here in Chattanooga. It went well and helped launch the band.

A few years later, Boyd's 4-year-old son dialed 911 to report that his father was very ill. When reporters asked the boy how he knew how to get help for his father, he said, "from my Animal Band tape."

Moore was later honored as the recipient of the prestigious Media & Entertainment Excellence Award presented by members of the U.S. Congress for his work.

"Isn't that amazing?" Moore said. "I just never could have imagined."

The Animal Band has played everything from day cares to the Grand Ole Opry, which it sold out for five consecutive shows.

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6354.

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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