Ansley Moses, Dismembered Tennesseans co-founder, dies at 92

Staff file photo / Laura Walker, right, the bass player of the Dismembered Tennesseans, stands next to bandmates Ansley Moses, center, and Doc Cullis after they accepted plaques at the Chattanooga History Center's Chattanooga History Makers awards in 2014 at the Convention Center. The band was recognized for their dedication to and dissemination of bluegrass music in the area.

Ed "Doc" Cullis said being a member of the Dismembered Tennesseans was about more than the music. It was about the shows and the fellowship among band members -- fellowship that included time spent together on the road.

"Driving to and from the gigs was always the best part of the gig," Cullis said.

The band -- Cullis, Frank McDonald, Fletcher Bright and Ansley Moses -- formed in the 1940s when a group of current and former McCallie School students got together to play bluegrass.

McDonald died in 2000, while Fletcher Bright died in 2017. Moses died this past weekend at age 92. Cullis remembers Moses as "the nicest, sweetest man ever.

"He was just always pleasant and so nice," Cullis said by phone. "He was just wonderful."

Cullis said McDonald and Moses had graduated from McCallie and were in college in 1948. The three older students had been playing together as a group playing the "new" bluegrass sound.

  photo  Contributed Photo / Ansley Moses

Bright was a senior at the time and had apparently been told that Cullis, a seventh grader, could play a little.

"He'd just gotten a new Gibson banjo, and he let me take it home overnight to play," Cullis said. "I thought that was the nicest thing."

The four became the Dismembered Tennesseans. They remained a band for almost 50 years and played around the nation at festivals and special events.

Cullis said McDonald had a wicked sense of humor and only Bright had the "wit and intelligence to stay with him," but those trips were always memorable.

"We didn't have to know but three songs per set because Frank would talk so much and be so funny," Cullis said.

Depending on who is telling the story, Moses was often teased on stage by either Bright or McDonald for his hearing. Cullis said it was McDonald who often teased him.

"He'd say, 'Ansley is deaf in one ear and can't hardly hear in the other. We just figure out what rhythm he is playing and go with it,'" Cullis said.

Cindy Pinion, a well-known bluegrass fan and co-founder of the Boxcar Pinion Forever Bluegrass Festival, has known the band for many years and said in a text that it was Bright delivering the line.

"They were always teasing each other and trying to one-up each other's tall tales or relentlessly teasing about one's shortcomings," Pinion said. "One story in particular that Fletcher loved to tell on Ansley (of course, everyone who knew, knew that Ansley was losing his hearing. And had been retired from the band) was that Fletcher would say, 'He is the only legally deaf bass player on the scene today.' He said he called up Ansley in the later years to get him out of retirement. He asked Ansley, was he up for singing the 'Wabash Cannonball' one more time? And you know what he said? ... 'What did you say?' And Fletcher would burst out in the most heartfelt laughter."

Fletcher's son, George Bright, has vivid memories of being awakened as a child by the sounds of his father and the rest of the Dismembered Tennesseans coming home from a gig or a party.

"It was fairly common, and even then there was just something magical about bluegrass music and listening to them," Bright said by phone.

The New Dismembered Tennesseans continue today with Cullis, Tom Morley, Eleanor Bright, Laura Walker, Don Cassell and Bobby Burns.

George Bright said he had known Moses since the day he was born and would listen as the longtime bandmates would play music and constantly tease each other.

"Oh Lord, they needled each other all the time," Bright said. "I would sit in the kitchen and watch and be on the floor laughing."

Walker said by phone of Moses, "It breaks my heart to hear he is gone. He is going to be sorely missed, and there was not a more pleasant gentleman in all the world. I never heard an unpleasant word from him or about him from anybody else.

"He was always very upbeat and happy and enthusiastic, and he could make you feel like he was so happy to be there," Walker said.

The band practiced at Bright's home and kept their instruments and band equipment in a music closet there. Bright said he remembers seeing a picture of the band with bluegrass legend Bill Monroe.

"I don't remember this, but apparently Ansley bought some expensive harmonicas for Mick (McDonald) while he was in the service overseas, and I got hold of them and filled all the holes with chewing gum," Bright said.

Moses was a lifelong resident of Lookout Mountain and was born July 25, 1930. He grew up next door to Fletcher Bright.

Moses was elected as a commissioner for the town of Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, in 1988 and served the town as mayor from 1990 until 1996. He sang in the church choir for more than 30 years and played the mandolin, the five-string banjo and the bass fiddle.

Contact Barry Courter at or 423-757-6354.

  photo  Contributed Photo / Ansley Moses, third from the left, performs with the Dismembered Tennesseans. Moses died last weekend at the age of 92.