Daniel Moore says he has built himself a “dribbling empire.”
The phrase is a bit incomprehensible until you realize what he does for a living. He is a singer/songwriter who gets a few cents each time one of his songs plays on a radio station anywhere in the world. The money dribbles in.
Since Moore has written about 300 songs, including some big hits, there’s a lot of dribbling going on. The Athena native created songs recorded by the likes of The Everly Brothers, Toby Keith, Kenny Rogers, Bonnie Raitt, Waylon Jennings, Kim Carnes and Joe Cocker.
“My Maria,” sung by Brooks & Dunn, has had more than eight million radio plays all by itself.
Moore showed up back in Athena this week to be inducted tonight into the Weston-McEwen Hall of Fame. Black-and-white photos of Moore and 20 others in McEwen High School’s Class of 1959 hang above some bright red lockers in the school hallway. Moore sports a neatly knotted tie and a half grin.
On Friday, the 71-year-old smiled broadly, an acoustic guitar hanging from his neck as he mesmerized Weston-McEwen music students and played excerpts from some of his hit songs, including “Shambala,” made famous by Three Dog Night.
Moore, who now lives in Santa Paula, Calif., started performing as a young boy in Athena. He remembers putting on blackface and singing “Shortbread” in a local minstrel show at age 6. Such shows, where performers donned black face paint and sang spirituals, disappeared eventually because of racial overtones, but the shows flourished in those days.
‘I had bright red hair,” he said. “They had to cover it up with a derby.”
During his boyhood, Moore played saxophone in the school band and a jazz quartet of teenage friends called the Moonglow Four. He sang in his church choir and learned guitar from one of his six brothers.
“My mom played piano in church,” he said. “My dad was a preacher. We had a lot of music going on.”
The idea of a music career took hold in a Sun Valley, Idaho, coffee house where he sang during an open-microphone night.
“I got up the nerve to borrow a guitar and I stood up on a chair and sang,” Moore said.
The manager offered him a job on the spot. The $25 a night outweighed the $125 a month he made at his summer farming job, so he grabbed it. Months later, he ditched University of Oregon in his third year, bought a bus ticket and headed to Los Angeles to make a go of it in the music world.
He snagged his first record contract in short order and soon added songwriter and producer to his skill set. His musical preferences shifted regularly. He sang backup for Joe Cocker, Kim Carnes, B.W. Stevenson and Richie Havens. He co-wrote “Fire in the Hole,” featured in the 1997 Steven Seagal movie “Fire Down Below.”
Bonnie Raitt’s manager introduced Moore to Ginny Snow (who became his second wife) about 25 years ago. Snow, a retired elementary school teacher, soon found herself smitten. It didn’t hurt, she said, that Moore had written one of her favorite songs — Raitt’s “Sweet Forgiveness.”
Snow said she constantly marvels at her husband.
“Music is his whole life,” she said. “He has a passion and a genius for it.”
“I can hear the melodies in my head,” Moore said. “I make the lyrics fit the mood of the music.”
Snow said her husband can hear five-part harmony in his brain. She knows when to engage her husband and when to leave him alone as if he’s wearing a “do not disturb” sign.
“You can talk to him, but he’s drifting — he’s in that space,” she said.
She doesn’t take it personally, she said. The payoff comes when she and everyone else get to hear his creations.
“He has a way of writing songs that sound like you’ve known them all your life.”
Contact Kathy Aney at email@example.com or 541-966-0810.
This story originally appeared in East Oregonian.